Professor Murali Manickam, Principal of the autonomous Presidency College, Chennai, tells EDU how an autonomous status can help
Curriculum can be modified to suit local needs
Affiliated colleges suffer from being mandated to toe the line of some person sitting miles away, who usually lacks a clear understanding of localised needs. Why should the Academic Council and the Board of Studies of the concerned University based in a city, decide what students in the smaller towns of the region/state will learn? The native situation must reflect in the education syllabi and this is only possible with autonomy. Centralising these aspects of education ignores local resources and requirements.
Innovations in syllabus becomes easier
The need of the hour is for the higher education sector to respond rapidly to industry and society. Swift change calls for a measure of freedom that comes with autonomy. University dependence precludes a college from introducing innovations in terms of syllabi design. College professors have neither the space nor the authority to realise their ideas for the betterment of the education programme.
In taking the lead in introducing innovative methods, autonomous colleges essentially give competition to the university in every aspect of academics and examination systems. In time, the university has to live up to these changes. Thus, the autonomous colleges raise the bar for education across affiliated colleges.
Students and teachers stand to gain
Other but no less important issues are also better addressed with autonomy. Student rights are best protected in autonomous colleges since grievances can be swiftly addressed and sorted out. Also, autonomous colleges can encourage faculty to take up research and directly approach research organisations such as the DRDO, DST and so on for grants.
It is not as though autonomous colleges become a law unto themselves. We are mandated to follow the University-prescribed norms. For instance the University of Madras outlined 11 mark-sheet security features last year and ordered autonomous colleges to follow at least 5 of these. We have introduced six of these new security features in our examination system to make the process more authentic. These measures covered the system of selecting examiners, the print quality of the question paper, incorporating photo impression on the mark-sheet etc.