Karnataka cracks down on 8 universities as education quality gets diluted
Universities mushroomed under previous BJP govt's policies, and lack adequate staff and infrastructure
Amid an unprecedented mushrooming of universities in Karnataka, the new Congress government is planning to axe the permission given to open eight new universities.
Educationists admit that most of the whopping 89 universities in the state have affected the quality of education. These include government-run, private, deemed and central universities.
Of these, the previous BJP government opened eight just before the announcement of the May Assembly elections that brought the Congress to power. Officials and experts say most universities opened in the last two decades in Karnataka are ailing due to the lack of adequate staff and infrastructure. The race to set up universities almost like colleges got kickstarted after the earlier BJP government floated the idea that each district should have a university.
Congress govt move
After assuming power, the Congress government has been trying to 'nullify' the saffron touch to culture and education given by its predecessor. The Siddaramaiah government has decided to replace the National Education Policy (NEP) of the earlier government with a new State Education Policy (SEP). The Union cabinet had approved NEP-2020 bringing major reforms in higher education including a target of 50 per cent Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) by 2035.
The BJP government wanted to become the first state to implement NEP and got the support of the Governor too. As part of a master plan, the BJP decided to establish universities in eight districts - Chikkamagaluru, Kodagu, Hassan, Koppal, Bidar, Haveri, Bagalkot, Chamarajanagar and Mandy. Each university was allocated Rs 2 crore. But as Assembly elections neared, the government did not release the funds.
Writer, educationist and filmmaker Kesari Harvoo terms the decision to open university after university a “politically motivated pseudoscientific approach to push its grand agenda”.
Niranjan Vanalli, Vice Chancellor of Bengaluru North University, says more universities can only be justified if the government makes sufficient financial allocation. But the budgetary allocation, which was 6 per cent of the total budget size in 2013, plummeted to 3.7 per cent in 2019 and 1.7 per cent in 2023.
Also, according to official sources, around 170 educationists applied for the positions of Vice Chancellors. “The number of professors competing for the top is more than 300. Everyone tapped the doors of Raj Bhavan to realise their dream of becoming a Vice Chancellor,” a former Vice Chancellor told The Federal.
Former education minister AH Vishwanath said: “Announcing new Universities for political gains will not serve any purpose.” Dr CN Ashwathanarayana, the Minister for Higher Education in the BJP government, had claimed that new universities will bring more global talent.
His Congress successor Dr. MC Sudhakar, discounted the argument. “In this digital era, we don’t want multiple universities. We will be compromising on the standard of education. Because of this trend, now every big college wants a university tag. This idea of opening a university in each district is not rational and unviable," he said.
Almost proving him right, most new universities in Karnataka lack infrastructure and face shortage of teaching and non-teaching staff. All these has derailed the quality of education. Siddaramaiah recently convened a meeting of educationists as well as former and sitting Vice Chancellors in Karnataka to set right the situation.Most people did favour having one university in each district provided the government allocates the much-needed funds and creates infrastructure.
Siddaramaiah has promised to increase allocation in the next budget.