India’s most established colleges and research centres may soon have the power to award degrees on their own, without depending on larger universities they are currently affiliated to.
St. Stephen’s in Delhi and St. Xavier’s in Calcutta are among likely beneficiaries of the human resource development ministry plan to allow top colleges degree-awarding power without granting them full-fledged university status, government sources said. “These institutions will receive the limited power to award degrees. Colleges will get the power to award undergraduate degrees while research centres will get the power to award postgraduate degrees,” a senior government official said.
The proposal, if implemented, will mean that these colleges will also conduct their own examinations. But the move may also trigger comparisons with the concept of deemed universities -- created precisely to facilitate greater autonomy for institutions, including allowing them to award degrees – sources accepted. Many of India’s deemed varsities were found unfit for the tag by a central review panel last year.
Only universities, institutions recognised as deemed universities under the University Grants Commission Act, and institutions set up under Acts of Parliament or state legislatures can at present award degrees. All other institutions – colleges or research centres – must affiliate themselves to universities for their students to receive degrees.
The new proposal will need amendments to the UGC Act and possibly an additional new legislation, sources said. The immediate trigger for the move is a recommendation for greater autonomy to top colleges, proposed by a panel of experts headed by NR Madhava Menon, one of the country’s foremost legal education experts.
But some states have already moved towards greater autonomy to colleges and several central committees, including the Professor Yash Pal panel on reforming higher education, have suggested upgrading top colleges into universities. St. Xavier’s in Mumbai is today an autonomous college with the power to award undergraduate degrees, while the West Bengal Assembly voted to transform Presidency College into a full-fledged university.
“If we choose the universities to be given this autonomy carefully, this is a positive move. In fact, I would say that top institutions could be given more than just degree-awarding power,” Yash Pal, a former UGC chairman, told HT.Beneficiary colleges are likely to be picked on a combination of age and quality – measured in terms of their accreditation rating, student performance and other similar parameters.