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UGC underlines the Academic Freedom to Colleges

05:30 AM Jul 01, 2024 IST | dr qudsia gani
ugc underlines the academic freedom to colleges

There are a total of 3310 Government Colleges in India as of April 20, 2024. Bulk of them are affiliated to Universities and some are autonomous. Some others constitute the Cluster Universities in their respective states and union territories.


In the affiliated colleges, all the academic policies for curriculum designing, academic calendar, teaching and learning mechanism, examination & evaluation pattern and award of degrees are completely governed by the affiliating University.


The matters related to administration, recruitment, placements, promotions and transfers are directly controlled by the state/UT Higher Education Department. Similarly, the academic and administrative matters of the constituent colleges are looked by the concerned Cluster University.


The third category of colleges that has emerged out of affiliating system enjoy complete academic autonomy and are identified as autonomous colleges.  The necessity of autonomous colleges was felt during the XIth plan period of (1964-66).


The then education commission had pointed out that exercise of academic freedom by teachers is crucial for the development of intellectual environment of the country. As a result, it was decided to delink some of the colleges from the affiliating structure, so as to give them academic and operative freedom for improving their performance with more credibility.


By now, the total number of approved autonomous colleges across India is 872, spread across 21 states and union territories. An autonomous college is free to start diploma (undergraduate and postgraduate) or certificate courses without the prior approval of the university. Diplomas and certificates shall be issued under the seal of the college.


The autonomous colleges are free to determine, prescribe, restructure and redesign its own courses of study and syllabi suitable to local needs. They can prescribe rules and eligibility criteria for admissions in consonance with the government reservation policy. They have a self designed policy of methods of assessment of student’s performance, the conduct of examination; and declaration of results.


Autonomous colleges have to adopt semester pattern of study and go for continuous internal assessment and credit grading system. There is a proper mechanism for retrieving student feedback and self -appraisal by teachers, which are also among the key indicators for NAAC assessment and accreditation. All of this is aimed to promote research culture in the college and achieve higher standards and greater creativity while also using modern tools and methods of educational technology.

Autonomy to colleges is granted with an aim to promote healthy practices like; community service, extension activities and projects for the benefit of the society in general and for the neighboring areas in particular.

In the erstwhile state of J&K, the Islamia College of Science and Commerce or ICSC in downtown Srinagar, was the first institution of higher education to which fresh autonomous status was granted by the University Grants Commission in the year 2014. There were some hurdles in the process due to non-provision of autonomy in the Jammu and Kashmir universities act, as a result, the case was shelved for few years.

Soon after taking over the charge of Principal of the college, Prof. (Dr.) Mohammad Aslam Baba, took up the matter in the board meeting held on 08-10-2013 and then pursued the case till its logical end. The main impediment in the execution was removed when the Kashmir and Jammu Universities Act no. XX IV of 1969 was amended by the government in the year 2014 to pave way for autonomous colleges.

Pursuant to conferment of fresh autonomous status by the UGC vide Letter No. F22-1/2014 (AC) dated: 03-08-2014 and the university council resolution adopted by it at its meeting held on 08-09-2011 vis-a-vis the consent communicated by the government of Jammu and Kashmir vide notification no.01 of 2014 dated: 01-07-2014, Islamia College of Science and Commerce, (ICSC), Srinagar was declared as an autonomous college of the university under section 2(b-a) of the Jammu and Kashmir universities Act No. XX IV of1969 (as amended in 2014) for a period of six years w.e.f  2014-15 to 2019-20, in terms of the guidelines notified by the UGC for this purpose. Subsequently, another college from Jammu, Government College for Women, Parade was granted autonomous status by the UGC. Presently we have five (05) Autonomous Colleges; (03) in Jammu and (02) in Kashmir division.

Prior to the endorsement of application of the college to UGC and also before granting autonomy, the parent affiliating university will ensure that the management structure of the concerned college is adequately participatory and provides ample opportunities for staff to make a creative contribution. Parent university will also verify the eligibility criteria for granting autonomy to colleges though, the act and statutes of the universities can also be amended to provide or grant autonomy to affiliated colleges.

According to the revised UGC guidelines, all colleges under section 2(f) of the UGC Act whether aided, partially aided and unaided are eligible to apply for autonomous status. The period of functioning should not be less than 10 years.

The college must have been accredited with Grade A in the NAAC assessment.  A College which is accredited with 3.25 and above in a 4 point scale of NAAC in two consecutive cycles and gets similar grade in the third cycle shall be conferred with the autonomous status without onsite visit by the UGC expert committee provided it also adheres to University Grants Commission's regulations on minimum qualifications for appointment of teachers and other staff and maintenance of standards in higher education -2010 as amended from time to time.

The number of contractual staff should not be more than 10% of the total faculty. Financial resources provided by the management/ state government for the development of the institution, academic reputation, previous performance, research aptitude, adequacy of infrastructure and above all the motivation and involvement of faculty in the promotion of innovative reforms are essential criteria for granting autonomy to colleges.

The respective State or UT governments are also important stakeholders in the entire process.

After receipt of the review committee report of UGC, the government has to issue no objection to the college for its fresh/continuous autonomous status. Except for need-based transfers, state government shall avoid the transfer of teachers who are actually involved in the reforms. The state government shall depute nominees to all the statutory bodies such as, governing body; academic council; board of studies; and finance committee, as per the UGC guidelines.

The structure and power of all these bodies/committees is laid down in the UGC guidelines. For government or aided colleges; as per the UGC guidelines (clause 14), the financial assistance to autonomous colleges is provided mainly for academic reforms and for some identified areas. In other words the autonomy is mainly for academic innovations and reforms. The major administrative decisions are taken by the funding agency/ administrative department.

There has to be a symbolic relationship between the parent university, state government and the autonomous college to make better contributions in academics and research.

BY Prof. (Dr.) Mohammad Aslam Baba and  Qudsia Gani

Prof. (Dr.) Mohammad Aslam Baba is former Degree College Principal and Dean, School of Engineering and Technology Cluster University Srinagar.

Qudsia Gani is head, Department of Physics, GDC Pattan- Baramulla