Every time a world university ranking comes out, we look for the possibility of our state universities on the list in much the same way that a student scans the list of names when exam results are announced.

Our public institutions, however, never make it to these rankings, or appear behind universities elsewhere in the world.

This time though, Maharashtra’s Higher and Technical Education (HTE) department is working towards a better grade.

In December, the State Legislative Assembly passed the Maharashtra Public Universities Act 2016 to bring state universities up to par with the times and with top universities in India.

The Act introduces several reforms in the functioning of 11 institutions currently governed by the Maharashtra Public Universities Act.

It proposes the idea of a Cluster University (a clutch of empowered autonomous institutes), a committee to fix fees, a digital university and a choice-based credit system with transferable credit points.  It also plans to reintroduce student elections and establish centres in foreign countries.

The Bill has got the signature from the Chancellor (Governor) and has got status of an Act that may be effective from March this year.

It is based on the recommendations of three committees set up in 2010-11 to suggest long-term strategies that might improve the management of the 11 state universities and the 3774 colleges affiliated to them.

Here are some of the major features of the Act and how they have been received within the community.

Aimed at Students

The Act is designed to be more student-friendly.  Clauses include appointing the previous year’s topper in a particular stream (Arts, Science or Commerce) as a member of that faculty’s board of studies.

It recommends nominating the president of a university students’ council as an invitee member of the management council. It also proposes special exams for students who miss them because they are participating in sports and cultural events.

It takes the existing Credit system a step ahead by proposing a choice-based credit system, which will allow students to choose a subject from any stream of education (academic, technology, professional and social, and personality and cultural development) and transfer credits smoothly.  This will ease the movement of students between universities and colleges.  Semester exam timetables will be released a year before the exams start.

Seeing the Other Side 

To free universities from vested interests, the Act proposes to create the Maharashtra State Council for Higher Education and Development (MAHED). The umbrella body will plan, shape, coordinate, supervise, devise use of technology and raise finances for higher education. It will be headed by the chief minister and run by academicians, scientists, technocrats, and industry and financial experts.

The Act claims to have a far reaching vision, making progressive strides in Maharashtra’s higher education.

It proposes to create a comprehensive digital university framework for e-learning and administrative services.

The Act’s other additions include cultivating research parks, technology incubators and other entities to help university research reach the commercial domain and allow faculty groups from several disciplines to collaborate on projects. It also hopes to establish centers or institutions in foreign countries with the permission of the Central and the State Government.

Its offer of empowered autonomy for groups of better-graded colleges has had a mixed response.

Source: Hindustan Times