Autonomy will not lead to a change in fees formula for central varsities: Prakash Javadekar
A day after announcing autonomy for 60 institutions, human resource development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday laid out the government’s thinking behind the move. He also said it won’t lead to a hike in fees and emphasised that he doesn’t control universities through vice-chancellors. Excerpts:
What was the idea behind giving autonomy to higher education institutions?
Autonomy is the theme of the Modi government; we believe in good institutes and we want to promote quality institutes. We want to give them freedom to expand and excel more. And to that end we have taken three major decisions: one is the Indian Institute of Management Bill, which was unanimously passed by both Houses of Parliament. This is the first time the government is putting in money but still giving all control to the institute, be it the appointment of the chairman or the board of governors. Second was the institutes of eminence where 20 institutes are being selected and given full freedom so that they achieve world class standards within a decade. The third idea was graded autonomy, which was my idea. I thought we generally have one regulation for all that doesn’t work for everyone. We started on the concept of graded autonomy and yesterday (Tuesday) it was fulfilled when 52 (eight colleges were also on the list) universities were granted greater autonomy.
Does autonomy mean a change in the fee structure?
This is certainly not going to be the case for central universities. Even states decide on their fees so there won’t be any hike there, too. Private institutes decide fee structure on their own and they will continue to. So autonomy will not lead to a change in fees formula.
There are critics, for instance in JNU, who claim that while you have given autonomy to the institutes, you are running the university through a vice-chancellor?
This is unfair. This critique is unfair because there is the central government’s role in appointments because we are funding them. JNU and central universities must discuss this — the poor are paying Rs 2.5 lakh per student per year. Somebody suggested to me to ask the students of JNU or any student of a central university what they were paying in Class 11-12, and they can at least pay that. They are paying Rs 15 per month or maybe Rs 500- Rs 600 per month. It is free education essentially. And students come in cars, some are poor — they are not charged at all. When one learns from central universities and spends five-six years here, they should pay back to society... I want society to discuss that too.
The government has been focusing on digital initiatives in the education sector. How much progress has been made?
We have already launched (digital education platform) SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active — Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) , which is doing pretty well. So far 600 courses are being offered. We are now framing online learning courses. We will transform education by providing 15 lakh digital blackboards from Class 9 to the undergraduate level. The idea is to make learning interactive. The classroom will become a flipped class and students will be able to pose tough questions to teachers.