TN Move To Offload Higher Education Faces Hurdles

Chennai: | Updated: Aug 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
The Tamil Nadu governments plan to reduce its financial commitment of about Rs 1,800 crore in the education sector beginning with government colleges on which it spends Rs 280 crore is facing stiff resistance. Teachers and students of 67 government colleges are on indefinite strike.

The government passed the Tamil Nadu Universities (Amendment) Act 2002 as part of a larger sectoral reform outlined in the budget for 2002-03. It is awaiting Presidential nod. The Act aims to convert government colleges into constituents of universities to which they are affiliated.

The 2,500 teachers, led by the Tamil Nadu Government Collegiate Teachers Association (TNGCTA) and Tamil Nadu College Teachers Manram, and the 3,500 non-teaching staff of government colleges fear losing some privileges. Students too are on the streets fearing fee hikes.

Highlighting the benefits of conversion of colleges as constituents of universities, chief minister J Jayalalithaa said: If they (government colleges) are converted as constituent bodies of the universities, they will be provided with all facilities by getting financial assistance from the University Grants Commission and other central government and international agencies.... She said students would also benefit with improved and latest equipment and infrastructural facilities.

However, both the teachers and students are not convinced. TNGCTA officials told FE: The government proposal...is only wishful thinking. The universities will not be able to compete with other more powerful institutions like IITs and IIScs for the few consultancies and projects that will be available.

Educationists and independent observers say there is truth in the views of all the parties. The government with its meagre resources should not be expected to subsidise higher education endlessly, they say. However, none of the perceived avenues of funds for the universities will be dependable and substantial. It is obvious that in the long-run students will have to pay more, say experts.

They feel the government should have held wider consultations and taken efforts to carry teachers and students along with the reform agenda.