In spite of the delayed publication of results leaving many to lose their hopes for higher education in this academic year, the discrepancies regarding the administration of Kerala university remain yet to be addressed.
A month after the A ++ NAAC accreditation came in hues, the Comptroller Auditor General’s report on the administration of the university (2016-2022) was submitted to the Kerala Government on 6 July 2022.
Though the response of the Government and the University in the report, blames the Covid and flood-affected academic years, the report states that the management of the university has only gone astray from an already off-track administrative scenario.
Since long back, improper measures of untimely appearance of examinations and publication of results have faced backlash from students and parents. The students who have entered an important turn in their education had to undergo stipulated time frames in learning the syllabus or preparing for regular and supplementary exams.
Despite the UGC regulation that the results have to be published within 45 days, the report finds a time lag of 200 to 300 days. As the third semester, CBCSS UG (2020-22) improvement examination results remain unannounced, many students also lost their chances of securing admission to postgraduate courses this academic year. Among these students are those who suffered the brunt of the pandemic and lockdowns and were unable to write the exams for either being Covid Positive or due to the death of a close relative.
Mismanagement of funds and the void of an unapproved master plan
Although a UGC fund of 15.6 crores was allocated to the university during the tenure of 2012-17 under the 12th Five-Year Plan, the reckless administration and improper development without a proper plan left behind 6.9 crores unused during the period. In addition to this, the Kerala Government did not initiate the University to take any measures to transfer the funds from the treasury to the SBI (an alternative depository choice) despite a tax surge in the treasury and a fall in the SBI. Which could have prevented the tax deductions from the funds received and a deduction of interest of 21 crores.
With no approved master plan, the syllabus revision, learning process, conduction of examinations and other strategic outcomes expected from a higher education institution are impeded. While the prescribed revision of the course syllabus has to take place every three years, 28 courses remain unrevised in three years and 5 other courses from eight to thirteen years.
Seventeen University Institutes of Technology are yet to start the procedures for NAAC accreditation and 108 teachers in the UITs have been appointed without qualifying NET. The report also finds that more than 23 % of faculty is appointed on a contract basis, contrary to the maximum of 10% under the UGC guidelines.
Undoubtedly the A++ Accreditation is an acknowledgement to a higher institution dated for more than eight decades which had contributed to Kerala’s brightest and other renowned personalities and the result of the hard work of its staff and faculty who have been working in and out to this historic moment.
The university departments managed under the CSS which comparably ensures proper management of exams and result publications and maintains higher academic and infrastructural development which is not yet achieved in the whole university have overshadowed the shortcomings of the University administration and other affiliated colleges.
Whatsoever, the accreditation bestowed upon the University not only invites responsible interventions in the higher education council, but it also adds to the need for fastidious remedial of student grievances.
With the NAAC accreditation, the question of funding is not subjected to further concerns. However, in the wake of the CAG report still unaddressed for three months in the legislative assembly, the government of Kerala is not yet ready to make an open statement acknowledging the mismanagement of the University or a master plan for educational development or any resolutions to the distress and student grievances.
The University also does not maintain proper communication with the Affiliated colleges and there is complete negligence of section 78 of the University Act, 1974, which requires all affiliated colleges to submit a report every four years to the Vice Chancellor. As a result, there is no systematic monitoring and outcome-based interventions to regulate the functioning of various provisions that can cater for the development of higher education in this 21st century.
Student Movements and the general public are mostly unaware of the report and no moves to keep the administration in line have yet come up against what has been normalised and unresolved for so long. Though the Fraternity Movement, a student organisation has brought this to public attention by organising a march to the University, the authorities still remain uninformed.
Diversity, expansion and wellbeing
The global scapes in various career realms and living standards are growing day by day. Navigating the outcomes of Higher Education (HE) in today’s fast-paced world, should not only be ensured, organised and regularly kept in check but also should be open, inclusive and diverse. Students reaching the crossroads at a significant time of their lives, where the formation of perspectives and the creation of diverse schemas are rampant are provided with incompetent means of education. Rushing to cover up the syllabus only to face the perils of exams and uncertainty of future endeavours has become a normalised convention of the university.
One of the students in the regular UG (2020-2023) batch says that they hardly got a month to complete their fourth semester. They had their third-semester exams in the month of June while the official calendar including the question paper marked it as ‘an examination conducted in March. With hardly a month in between, the students also had to appear for their fourth-semester exams in August.
The required interval of three months (90 working days) is not ensured between the semesters, leaving the students to carry multiple pressures in a very limited time frame. What one learns, or the evaluation of exams and the measuring of success in education remain an under-discussed topic in academic or public circles. This severely affected the mental well-being of students in addition to the distress caused by the recent floods and lockdowns in the state.
One of the students in the University College, Thiruvananthapuram said that back-to-back exams and the toll of learning in an unsystematic environment adds to their mental pressures. 400 km apart from her hometown in Kannur, she wanted to study at the University of Kerala for its academic excellence and exposure. However, the irregularities in the administration including the unavailability of sufficient hostels have impeded the purpose itself.
The report also points out the void of a disabled-friendly environment that restricts differently-abled students to access higher education institutions. The absence of lifts in multi-storeyed buildings, ramps/rails, and disabled-friendly toilets, has not only blocked the accessibility of the disabled to the University of Kerala but also to other universities.
With constant academic pressures on the runway to complete the portions and appear for the sake of exams, often students are left out with few choices in pursuing their educational aspirations without proper guidance and provisions from the colleges. The faculty and concerned authorities are also helpless during such a situation.
And while trying to communicate with the higher officials, it has been found that no further steps have been taken hitherto to inform the additional secretaries of the higher education council or the concerned authority of the University to resolve these issues.
The need for responsible academic and administrative responses to acknowledge the existence of distress and overcome the challenges in the higher education department is undebated for proper incorporation of a skill-based curriculum, implementation of blended learning and expansion of the department. A proper expansion in HE can bring forth funding, and innovations and increase public and government scrutiny.