State flays Centre’s higher education policy

Incompatibility of perspectives, absence of a consultative method of policy-making and non-recognition of Kerala’s emphasis on growth with equity and access are preventing the State from garnering Central funds for higher education, the Kerala State Higher Education Council (KSHEC) has pointed out to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

This sharp criticism of the Central policies, contained in a note submitted by the council to the Rashtriya Uchchathar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) as part of the State Higher Education Plan, was accessed by The Hindu a few days after the meeting of the Project Approval Board (PAB) of RUSA, where Kerala “lost out” crores of rupees to other States due to “last minute shifting of goal posts” by RUSA. The State’s approach to financial support in the higher education sector has been “horizontal, with a strong sense of distributive justice.”

This is incompatible with the exclusivist approach of competitive selection and vertical privileging at the national level.

First State

The fact that Kerala was the first State to implement all the University Grants Commission-stipulated academic measures such as semester system, choice-based credit system, curriculum development, admission procedures, and examination reforms were not seen as ‘positives’ by RUSA when allocating funds. Similar was the plight of Kerala’s schemes of “social preparation and academic quality assurance” including the Erudite scholar-in-residence programme involving Nobel laureates and other academics of comparable eminence.

The council has also argued that the MHRD is placing an “over emphasis” on quality assessment of institutions through accreditation by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council. A recent study of the NAAC grading practice by the UGC itself has called into question the objectivity of the processes involved. At the PAB meeting, Kerala could not qualify for funds under many RUSA components because institutions in the State did not have the stipulated NAAC rating.

Strong points

At the same time Kerala’s ‘strong points’ such as above-national-level Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of 35.4%, educational institutions with heritage value, high levels of enrolment of women, the presence the SC/ST communities in higher education, and the larger allocation of budget share for education and higher level of GSDP to higher education were never taken into account while devolving funds.

In violation of the spirit of ‘cooperative federalism’ States were not consulted prior to the formulation of Central legislations and UGC regulations, including those relating to autonomous colleges and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), the note added.

Note: News shared for public awareness with reference from the information provided at online news portals.

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