It augurs well that the University Grants Commission (UGC) has granted autonomy to 25 universities, including Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jadavpur University and University of Hyderabad, so that they can start off-campus centres without seeking the regulator’s approval. Another welcome move is that the UGC has allowed limited autonomy to another 27 universities that will eble them to begin new departments, pay higher salaries to attract the best talent, and increase their seats by 20 per cent to admit foreign students. The 25 universities that have been granted full autonomy also enjoy the limited-autonomy relaxations. What might go a long way in changing the higher education scerio in the country is that these 52 fully and partially autonomous universities can now launch new courses with new mes as well as self-fincing programmes. HRD Minister Prakash Javedkar has informed the media that the institutions granted full autonomy “will not be required to seek UGC approval” to start new courses, open off-campus centres, and put in place a variable pay scale. This means these varsities will now be at liberty to iugurate new, modern and interesting courses, be it in the humanities or in the sciences, by way of inter-discipliry studies and research, which forms one of the hallmarks of higher education in world-class universities in the West as well as in the East such as in Singapore, one of whose universities is ranked 27th in the latest QS World Universities Ranking. Indian universities, including the otherwise intertiolly famous Indian Institute of Science at Bengaluru, have fared very badly in that ranking, with none even within the top 150 list. This cuts a very sorry figure at a time when we are talking of a knowledge society in the making here.
Is there any chance of the oldest university of Northeast India – Gauhati University – going fully autonomous one fine day? In the first place, it must prove its academic and research merit to qualify so. Unfortutely, this seems difficult given the lack of ingenuity in its research output, which is so very important in the science faculties, as also lack of academic innovation in terms of new, modern and pragmatic teaching and learning methodologies. When will its time come?