Circular to VCs raises debate on the question of autonomy


Higher Education Council has directed that universities keep their syllabus ‘more or less same’

Many professors in universities and those in autonomous colleges are worried about losing autonomy over the curriculum they prescribe for their students, thanks to repeated reminders from the Karnataka State Higher Education Council to keep the syllabus “more or less same in all universities”. Interestingly, a recently sent circular also asked universities to ensure that “controversial contents” are avoided.

Though the New National Education Policy (NEP) maintains that the universities will continue to have their say in finalising the syllabus, the council has asking them to keep it the same in tune with other universities.

B. Thimme Gowda, vice-chairman of the council, has sent reminders to vice-chancellors to ensure that the boards of studies of core subjects adhere to the framework offered by the council.

“We are receiving complaints that in some universities and autonomous colleges, general guidelines have not been adhered to. The Minister has asked us to ensure the curriculum contents are not diluted,” said Prof. Gowda in a communique to vice-chancellors recently. The council has stressed that any changes in the curriculum might affect the credit transfer among universities.

These instructions have not gone down well with many professors, who are on boards of studies. “The idea of different universities and autonomous colleges is to offer freedom for the teaching faculty and the boards of studies to design courses and frame curriculum of their own. If all universities should have a uniform curriculum, where is the need for universities and autonomous colleges? The idea of a uniform curriculum kills the very existence of universities,” pointed out a senior professor of a university.

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“The performances of universities are assessed regularly on the basis of courses offered and the syllabus framed. If every university has the same content and texts, how would that contribute to the uniqueness of the university? Ultimately, all universities will be like high schools or PU colleges, which function under one examination board with common syllabus,” said another professor.

A professor, who has a postgraduation degree from a U.S. university, said that the credit transfer among universities would not be a problem if the curriculum was different. “I got credit transferred decades ago, without much difficulty. Moreover, the number of students who might seek credit transfer would be negligible,” he opined. Another professor said that as per the NEP, the Higher Education Council had no role in finalising the syllabus.

Responding to this, Prof Gowda told The Hindu that the circular was issued to remind the boards of studies of a few universities to keep their syllabus updated and relevant. He also said that universities were asked to avoid controversial contents as he felt that “independence of one person should not hurt the sentiments of other people”.

C.N. Ashwathanarayan, Higher Education Minister, defended the council’s direction as he felt that universities had to follow a minimum standards so that the quality of education is not affected.

(With additional inputs by Tanu Kulkarni in Bengaluru)



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Sagar Biswas

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