Autonomy For Educational Institutions Can Be Win-Win For All Stakeholders

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Bhubaneswar: Autonomy for educational institutions can prove to be a win-win for all stakeholders—students, educational institutions and the country, Prof Sandeep Sancheti, President of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), said on Sunday.

“To a student it gives flexibility of classes, ample time for developing skills required for the market as also getting involved in entrepreneurship and innovation, to an institution sufficient time to focus on ways to maximize excellence and get within striking distance of global rankings,” Prof  Sancheti, vice-chancellor of SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Chennai, said.

Institutional excellence would also mean larger number of young minds would opt to stay in the country, he said while addressing the three-day annual meet of the AIU being held at the SOA Deemed to be University here.

A national seminar on ‘Autonomy for Excellence in Higher Education’ is also being held alongside the AIU annual meet.

Sancheti said the common argument in favour of autonomy for educational institutions had been that the centres of learning could function and flourish only if they had freedom to choose and act. “Freedom does not necessarily have to be absolute; but in this realization  that this freedom will come with a review, both internal and external, including from agencies that will reflect on the relevance to societal good and development,” he said.

“The bottom line realization has been that autonomy means the involvement of all stakeholders in a decentralized environment in which outside forces or government agencies do not breathe down the neck of educators and senior academic functionaries for day-to-day affairs,” Prof Sancheti said.

The AIU president said the government had decided in 2018 to grant autonomy to some of the educational institutions, including many in the private sector, setting off a debate among academics and educators in the country. It happened after vice chancellors, senior administrators and educationists had made the point that ‘greater degree of autonomy is pivotal to promote and institutionalize excellence in higher education,’ he said.

“I believe the recent new initiatives are a breath of fresh air and would make our institutions more fertile for academic and research excellence,” Prof  Sancheti said adding “there is also the fundamental agreement amongst educators that excellence can be achieved only if autonomy is exercised responsibly and with proper accountability.”

In the Indian context, it was also not as if there had been no autonomy at all or that autonomy had always been abused leading to a crackdown by governmental and functional agencies, he said.

“The truth of the matter is that autonomy has been there all along but not properly assumed and in some cases, there have been gross misuse of autonomy forcing regulators to come down hard,” Prof. Sancheti said.

It was a matter of concern that the country, seen globally as a knowledge powerhouse and having more than 950 universities and 40,000 colleges did not have a handful of institutions at the top 100, 200 or 300 globally, and yet small countries in the Asia Pacific like Singapore had accomplished this task, he said.

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