The State Legislative Assembly Thursday passed the new Maharashtra Public Universities Act 2016, paving the way for wide-ranging fundamental reforms in the functioning of public universities. The Council too passed the Bill unanimously. Based on the recommendations of three different committees headed by Anil Kakodkar, Arun Nigvekar and Ram Takwale set up in 2010-11, the Bill was tabled by Higher and Technical Education Minister Vinod Tawde after incorporating recommendations and changes by a 21-member scrutiny panel headed by Tawde himself. The Bill proposes to usher in far-reaching changes in various areas of university activities, putting students’ interests at the centre, as also to lend greater autonomy of functioning and eliminate rampant commercialisation of education.
Among the many new ideas sought to be implemented are setting up of students’ development councils (SDCs), choice-based credit system, special emphasis on skill development, reintroduction of university elections, cutting down of political appointments through nomination of experts, increasing social reservations in various university bodies, uniform regulatory regimen for all universities and introduction of modern accounting system. To increase the say of students in university affairs, the Bill proposes to appoint previous year’s topper in a particular faculty as a member of that faculty’s board of studies, nominating the president of university students’ council as invitee member of the management council, special exams for students required to participate in inter-university, national, international sports and cultural events, National Service Scheme and Rashtriya Chatrasena programmes etc. Among the major new suggestion is re-introduction of college and university election from the next academic session.
The Bill ushers in choice-based credit system, which will enable the students to chose any subject of their liking. There will be credit/gradation system in performance evaluation to allow students to study combination of subjects of their own choice. This will also facilitate their seamless shift from one university to another.
The Bill proposes to nominate eight experts from nationally important institutes into academic councils. Similarly, academic faculties and board of studies will also have five and four nominated experts respectively, from industries and national research and educational institutes in order to the quality of curriculum. Another important provision in the Bill is to increase social reservation in various bodies to give a greater say to various sections of the society in the university’s decision-making process. Reservation in senate has been increased from nine seats to 14 and in management council from one to four. In academic council, positions of principal, professor and lecturer have also been provided with social reservation.
The Bill lays major stress on entrepreneurship development through skill development. For this, the Bill has introduced the idea of board of innovation, incubation and enterprise and board of national and international linkages. The boards will strive to bring in the latest in global entrepreneur skills to the universities. A senior manager from the lead bank of the university will be part of the innovation board. The Bill has introduced “new concepts”, autonomous colleges, empowered autonomous colleges, empowered group institutions, private skills education institutions and cluster university. To leverage the advantages of information technology, the Bill incorporates the A-3 society (anyone, anytime, anywhere) concept suggested by Anil Kakodkar. A new Board of Information Technology will be introduced at the university level to leverage advantages of information technology for teaching, studying and research.
A new Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies to facilitate interdisciplinary studies will also be introduced. To minimize the undue interference of groups of individuals, institutions and organizations in the election process of various university bodies, the Bill proposes to replace election of deans of faculties with quality-based nomination. However, principals, teachers, institutional heads and graduate members of senate will be elected. A new Maharashtra Authority of Higher Education (MAHED) is proposed to be set up to coordinate and direct the long-term higher education policies’ implementation. The Bill proposes to establish internal quality assurance boards as a precondition for quality assessment by NAAC and university grants commission.
For grant of permission to new colleges, the new system will offer a letter of intent for the first year during which the colleges will have to complete infrastructure building and creation of facilities. After due scrutiny of the facilities, the university will then grant permission to run such colleges. The Bill stresses on quick and proper redressal of students’ complaints, setting up of equal opportunity cell for divyang students and setting up of a Vishakha cell to redress complaints of sexual harassment of women. Another important proposal is to make compulsory mercantile (double entry) accounting system to bring transparency. To prevent profiteering by unaided institutions affiliated to universities, the Bill proposes to set up special committee to determine fees and a regulatory mechanism at the state-level.
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