Saturday, February 19, 2011

UGC focus on community-run colleges

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has decided to provide reform grants to additional 43 community colleges apart from already existing 47 ones. The grant amount the colleges are set to receive range from $ 80,000 to 2.5 million.The UGC decision comes in the face of its failure to transform six large public colleges into autonomous ones by the end of 2013.

Under the multi-million dollar Second Higher Education Project (SHEP), funded solely by the World Bank (WB), the UGC had envisioned to give autonomy to six public colleges with a potential to develop into separate universities in future. However, with the college autonomy project becoming a non-starter and community-run colleges that receive reform grants performing relatively well, the UGC has decided to divert a large chunk of the fund, essentially allocated for making public colleges autonomous, to community colleges.

"Now, a total of 90 community colleges will receive grant," Hriday Ratna Bajracharya, technical advisor to the UGC for the SHEP, said. "We will try to ensure at least one college in each district receives grant."
The UGC plans to provide reform grants under three schemes. Under the first scheme, colleges will receive a maximum of $ 2.5 million. Similarly, under the second and third schemes, colleges will get up to $ 400,000 and $ 80,000 respectively. To be eligible for the grant, community colleges will have to meet a set of standards, ranging from a minimum of 25 per cent pass outs to producing at least 20 graduates every year.
"The WB has already given its nod to the UGC decision to support more community colleges," said Bajracharya. "However, the UGC has not yet asked colleges to submit proposals. Once the government appoints the chairman and the member secretary to the UGC, we will make an announcement." The UGC has been facing leadership crisis for over the last seven months.

College autonomy program fails

Three years after the SHEP kicked off, only one college, Mahendra Ratna Campus of Ilam district, has succeeded to become autonomous. Worse, the UGC officials see no chance of any more colleges developing into autonomous educational institutions in near future. "At the outset, every one seemed excited about making their colleges autonomous," Bajracharya told Republica. "However, a sense of discord grew soon with teachers and college students divided over autonomy project."

As in the case of school handover campaign, the main reason behind the failure of the college autonomy program is that many teachers believe that the government will stop funding their salaries once the colleges become autonomous."This is a wrong notion," Bajracharya said. "The rationale behind this project is devolution of power and giving greater freedom to colleges to let them cater to local people´s requirements."