The Hindu | Education Plus » Colleges | August 8, 2015 |
Anil D. Sahasrabudhe, chairman of the AICTE, talks about the way ahead for the Council.
During his first public meeting after taking over as chairman of the All India Council of Technical Education, Anil D. Sahasrabudhe dwelt largely on improving faculty and autonomy for all colleges. A former director of College of Engineering, Pune, he was involved in improving the college’s administration and transforming it. He is expected to initiate sweeping changes in the AICTE also.
What is your plan for the next three years?
We need to concentrate on the faculty development programme. They need to be trained right from the time of their induction and during their service. We need to empower them, provide support to help them consider autonomy and change their mindset, work ethics and culture. These are all big challenges that have to be addressed.
You mentioned about a forum for colleges and teachers in the AICTE portal…
I was saying that teachers, institutes and administrations, who had evolved good practices that had improved their college’s performances, could share their best practices and other colleges could start adopting it. Every good thing that is happening in one place could be adopted in hundred other places. The idea is, we may not have invented something but we could make use of an invention.
What do you expect will change if colleges are given autonomy?
The review committee report on AICTE envisages sweeping changes in our functioning. The report has suggested that all colleges in the country be given autonomy. Accordingly, instead of the university syllabus, each college can formulate its own curriculum based on the immediate requirement. Employability is a challenge because universities have a common syllabus for all the 500 – 600 colleges. Instead if colleges opt to cater to certain segments they would have specialised content which would cater to the needs of the society and the industry.
When autonomy is given, there is a lot of responsibility on the part of the institute as well. Though the committee has suggested autonomy, the change can be implemented in a phased manner, allowing good performers to consider autonomy. When poor-performing colleges see the change autonomy has brought about they will follow in the footsteps of successful colleges and may be two or five years down the line, become autonomous. Gradually in about 10 – 15 years, all colleges could become autonomous. Even training of principals and faculty on making use of autonomy effectively may help. One of the case studies is the College of Engineering in Pune. The nine years of transformation showed the kind of lab and governance structure that could be attained. These can be adopted and tweaked as per requirements.
When engineering colleges are owned by politicians or politically influential persons, can these changes be implemented?
When well-performing institutions come into existence, students will start moving there. And then automatically poor-performing colleges will have to learn a lesson from that and follow good practices or they will have to close down. There is no other alternative. It is not a question of who is running the colleges. Since the data about colleges are available and there is absolute transparency it is only a matter of time before non-performing colleges are weeded out since students will not opt for them. If colleges are not committed to improving quality they will die a natural death.
Economically weak students in rural Tamil Nadu who are enrolled in engineering colleges for a nominal fee, later find out that the college has neither good infrastructure nor faculty. They come to Anna University with complaints of lack of facilities, infrastructure…
If there are formal, official complaints, we can act. We have an online portal for lodging complaints. We assume that there is honesty and integrity when colleges upload data. Based on that data we close the branch or reduce the intake. If the data given is incorrect, we have no way of checking it directly. We don’t send teams physically to check if all 3,800 colleges in the country have the facilities. But if there are specific complaints that a college is making claims when they don’t have the facilities, we do send our teams to inspect the colleges and take action.
Have you come across people complaining about colleges?
Students do complain. In the last ten days itself, I have received at least three or four emails making such complaints. When we get anonymous complaints we do not act on them as someone could be acting out of vendetta. We believe that formal official complaints contain truth. As a regulatory agency, we have to verify if the complaint about a college is genuine. When teams are sent to the college to conduct a physical check, whatever the outcome, we have to act on it.
Do affiliating universities have the authority to act against colleges when complaints are made?
Universities also have a role to play as they are the affiliating body, ultimately. AICTE might have given approval for starting a course. If the courses are not run properly it is equally the responsibility of the university and if they propose that the courses are not being run properly, AICTE must also come into the picture. We cannot shirk responsibility.
There are reports of faculty being transferred between colleges in one group or being terminated without any prior notice. How will AICTE address this?
Some amount of dropout is expected. This is the norm even in industries, especially with high-paying jobs, as people keep changing their jobs. If the dropout is not within the limit of 10-15 per cent, something is wrong. This has to be identified and necessary action taken. Probably that has not happened so far, going by the magnitude and quantum of complaints.
But do you get complaints from teachers that they have been terminated?
No, no. So far we have not received complaints from teachers but students often write on the portal that the quality of teaching is not good. There are fewer teachers. Many a time, faculty say that they have not received their salary on time. I have just taken over recently and such complaints may come in, but I have not received any so far.
The faculty of university-run and affiliated colleges feel that their students need to be spoon-fed unlike the IITs…
Student intake is qualitatively different between the IITs and university-run colleges. When they enter, they are probably at the same level or a little better but there is not much difference. By the time they graduate the difference becomes conspicuous. Many colleges are not providing enough opportunities to channelise students’ energies. IITs are residential institutions where students are constantly interacting with each other even after class hours — be it in the mess or in the playground.
The kind of interaction and ambience that happens makes them smarter. Universities could make some changes to empower students — like keeping the libraries and laboratories open till late in the evening. The day scholars will then remain on campus longer and the time they interact with each other will be longer. There are many competitions such as the BAHA Society of Automotive Engineers, satellite programmes, robotics and Intel competitions, for student empowerment. To participate in these activities, students need time beyond class hours. If labs and classrooms are made available beyond the class hours, students will have the opportunity to come up with wonderful ideas and do better than even IIT students. – Courtesy