Autonomous colleges: bane or boon?

Published Jan 9, 2014, 7:57 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 5:34 am IST
DC debates on whether Autonomous colleges are a bane or boon.

Autonomy cuts through conventional hassles

E T Mohammed Basheer, Muslim League MP and former Education Minister


The concept of autonomy to colleges is not new. It was first formulated in the National Education Policy of 1992 and later developed by the Jnanam committee, appointed by the UGC. 

There are 441 autonomous colleges in the country. Only India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are stuck with large affiliating universities while most other countries have smaller universities.

Autonomy to colleges is the first step towards developing small universities. A cluster can be developed around an autonomous college, which could later evolve into a university.

A disadvantage of the large university system is their structural deficiencies slowing down decision-making. Every decision needs to go through layers of administrative setups like board of studies and other such bodies.


Autonomous colleges could themselves develop courses in accordance with global employability, conduct their own tests and publish results in time.

The announcement of results in large universities is time-consuming. Teachers will become accountable as they have to develop their own curriculum and teaching regime.

Chances of colleges manipulating results are remote lest it should damage their prospects in a global job market in a knowledge-driven economy.

In Kerala, colleges selected for autonomy have been those with sound credentials, with over 10 years of experience and National Assessment and Accreditation Council 'A’ grade certificate. The Government is committed to maintaining direct payment agreement, protecting salaries.


The order also mandates autonomous colleges to honour reservation norms. UGC stipulates autonomy for an initial six years, after which it will be re-evaluated.

Re-evaluation in Tamil Nadu has proved that colleges with proven record emerged as centres of excellence, with innovative courses, ensuring good job prospects globally. Colleges that failed to cope were stripped of autonomy.

It’s no cure-all, will hit poor students

Dr B Ekbal, Former Kerala University Vice Chancellor

Autonomy means academic autonomy. However, the State Government grants financial and administrative autonomy to selected aided and Government colleges.


This implies autonomous colleges following a model similar to self-financing colleges. They will have powers to fix fee, appoint teachers and fix admission criteria.

Autonomy is not the answer to solution to the decay in the university sector. If we do not reform the university education system, no amount of reform in colleges will yield results. 

The N. R. Madhava Menon committee gives autonomous colleges the freedom to design courses, develop curriculum, conduct examinations, evaluate and announce results.

Autonomous colleges will have governing and academic councils, a board of studies and a financial committee but the problem is they all will be nominated.


This gives managements powers to nominate members of their own choice. As per guidelines, these bodies should have members nominated by both the state government and the University Grants Commission. However, they would not have any voice as these bodies would be dominated by management nominees.

Students from the lower strata of society usually depend on arts and science colleges. If they are given autonomy there are chances that they would become out of reach to these students because fees would go up.

Recent studies show autonomous colleges on a tailspin.


The historic Madras Christian College, alma mater of eminent personalities, relegated conventional courses and adopted two shifts; morning shift offers traditional subjects and the evening shift course more commercial ones in nature. Recently, teachers at St Stephen’s Delhi opposed converting the college into autonomous on the basis of the experience elsewhere.

Location: Kerala