The ‘New Education Policy-2016’ proposed by the Higher Education Department of Odisha has not done correct assessment while selecting/proposing new affiliated universities across State. To be particular, it has neglected the KBK region.
The draft proposal should have considered quality of the colleges during selection procedure. Colleges having dubious record in the past for malpractice are given priority than college like Government Autonomous College Bhawanipatna (GACB), which has always kept high standard of education practice.
This is well reflected from the fact that GACB was among the first 52 colleges in India to receive Potential Center of Excellence (PCE) by University Grant Commission (UGC), the first three colleges in Odisha to get PCE status by UGC and the first college in KBK region to get PCE recognition.
Among the first three PCE colleges of Odisha, other two colleges (GM College and Khallikote College) have already been made Unitary/Cluster Universities by the State Government.
Because of GACB’s good standard, the same Higher Education Department of Odisha had recommended in 2014-15 for upgrading GACB to a university under RUSHA scheme of Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. Unfortunately, the GACB could not fulfill RUSHA requirements due to lack of sufficient number of lecturers and other infrastructure facilities for which State Government is largely responsible. Thus, present suggestion for affiliated universities by ignoring GACB contradicts earlier recommendation.
In addition, the proposal also contradicts recommendation made by earlier Higher Education Task Force headed by Prof Pradhan, which had recommended to upgrade GACB to an affiliated university for Kalahandi and Nuapda region in the name of South Western Odisha University. Recommendation of GACB to a university was even prior to conversion of GM College and Khallikote College to universities by the same Task Force.
In 2008, the Sambalpur University had also proposed a branch campus in Bhawanipatna and a UGC team had inspected the proposal, the fate of which is hanging.
The current education policy suggests affiliating universities in Jeypore, Balangir, Rourkela, Angul and Puri. That means the concentration of new universities will continue to be again within 100 km radius of Bhubaneswar.
Cuttack-Bhubaneswar-Khordha region has already multiple number of national and State institutions including IIT, NISER, IIIT, AIIMS, five State Government universities, three private universities etc, whereas Brahmapur has multiple numbers of State Government institutions and two State Universities. NIT at Rourkela and IIM in Sambalpur boost a number of national institutions in Sambalpur-Rourkela region. This region has three State Government universities. North Odisha has also two State universities, one in Baleswar and another in Baripada.
In comparison, the KBK region comprising 30 per cent of Odisha’s geography and 20 per cent of its population has only one Central University of Orissa (CUO) at Koraput. There is no State Government university for the affiliated colleges in the region due to political bias.
This region needs special consideration to have more national institutions and State universities, especially to develop as a higher education corridor.
(Dr Patra, who hails from Kalahandi, is a faculty member in the Chemistry Department of the American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon)