Autonomy or hegemony?

It’s a well known fact that the University authorities in India have an attitude of hegemony over their affiliated colleges.  Though universities are supposed to concentrate on higher learning and research, the fact of the matter is that most of the universities are embroiled in ‘governing’ their affiliated colleges. They draw all their ‘strength’ and ‘importance’ from this system. The affiliating system which is deeply entrenched in our country has given the universities some kind of divine status - the exclusive privilege to grant or withhold favours. Obviously, they seem to revel in this ‘celestial’ status.

The psychological warfare that they are waging against colleges is not very difficult to understand. First of all, the university authorities do not appreciate this ‘autonomous’ status given to select colleges at all. Autonomy is anathema to them. They have accepted it, half-heartedly, because of UGC insistence. Tamil Nadu has had autonomous colleges for more than two decades now, and they are functioning quite smoothly and effectively.
How come in Karnataka ‘autonomy’ evokes such a negative perception in the minds of the university authorities? The answer is obvious - there is a palpable unwillingness and even antipathy on the part of the authorities to the concept of ‘autonomy’.

If there are creases to be ironed out in the working of autonomy, the authorities concerned have to initiate such processes instead of taking a line of confrontation and conflict. A university should show enough maturity and understanding when dealing with academic issues of this nature. Compelling students and teachers to come on to the streets should never have happened. It’s a shame on a cultured society.

The colleges concerned also should understand the university’s ‘hegemonic mind-set’ and avoid treading on their highly sensitive toes. Given the stranglehold universities enjoyed over the affiliated colleges, it is surely difficult for them to let go of the colleges. So some careful handling of the situation is called for. Let not colleges ‘flaunt’ their new-found status and appear to be ignoring the university.

The most important issue here is the future of the students. They should not get caught in this crossfire. Both the university and the colleges concerned should sort out the issues amicably and very quickly. It’s wrong on anyone’s part to stand on false prestige, at the cost of the students’ future. The Governor who is the Chancellor of the University should intervene immediately and ask the university to take the initiative and sort out the issues once and for all. Higher education should be run on high ideals, and must rise above minor technicalities and squabbles.

Prof Mathew C Ninan
Director, Little Rock Institute for Educational Leadership, Brahmavar.

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