The Kerala State Higher education Council has drawn up a scheme for setting up clusters of colleges in the state with a view to improving the quality of higher education imparted in the arts& Science colleges. To begin with, it has been decided to set up three clusters at Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulum and Kozhikode.
The cluster of colleges is not a new idea. The Kothari commission has mooted the idea of establishing clusters of advanced centers as one of the possible means for extension of excellence from the centre to the periphery. The UGC has also been pursuing the project of clustering higher education institutions with the objective of optimum utilization of the existing facilities for the expansion of higher education. The National knowledge Commission (NKC) has recommended that autonomous status be given to some clusters of colleges, as a part of restructuring undergraduate education.
The Scheme of Cluster of Colleges
In order to promote co-operation among the neighboring colleges with a view to improving both access and quality of higher education imparted on the state, The Kerala State Higher Education Council has formulated a scheme named cluster of colleges .The council decided to set up three clusters at Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulum and Kozhikode.
The Kerala State Higher Education Council conducted discussions with the managers and Principals of the prospective partnering colleges, teacher representatives and student representatives. Govt. have approved the scheme of cluster colleges and accorded administrative sanction for the implementation of the scheme .Accordingly Principals, representatives of management signed the MoU on 19/3/09 and thus the cluster of college scheme came into existence at Thiruvananthapuram and Ernakulum .The higher education Council transferred a grant-in-aid of Rs.1crore for each cluster of colleges on the basis of the MoU. The first meetings of the Governing body, Executive body and finance committee of the clusters were held on 19/3/20009.The following colleges have identified as prospective partners in the cluster of colleges.
1. University College, Tvm
2. Govt. College for women
3. Govt. Arts College, Thiruvananthapuram
4. Sanskrit College Thiruvananthapuram
5. Govt. College, Kariavattom
3.Govt.Sanskrit college, Thripunithara
4.Al Ameen College, Edathala
5.Cochin College, Cochin
Kozhikode cluster of College scheme is in progress
Concepts and Practices
Concept of Independence and Interdependence
Sharing of resources and developmental opportunities
Each cluster would be a voluntary association of partnering colleges
Shared vision in the broad objectives
National goals of access, equity and quality
Co operation in Teaching learning, Research and Extension
Benefits for each institution should be larger than the energy each institution expends
Principles of Governance
Equal status – irrespective of the infrastructural differences all partnering colleges have equal status
Collective decision making – all decisions in the cluster would be taken collectively through democratic process
Autonomy and accountability – certain degree of autonomy and provisions for social accountability
Equal status – irrespective of the infrastructural differences all partnering colleges have equal status
Independence and Interdependence – Partnering colleges will have a dual identity, as independent colleges and as partners in the cluster
Physical proximity – Sharing of resources would be possible only if the partnering colleges belong to the same locality
Optimum size – Clusters of five to ten colleges would be ideal for combining the advantages of bigness and smallness
Partnership of Public funded institutions for ensuring social justice
Localized implementation – local needs and aspirations of the partnering colleges would be taken into account in the decisions
Regulating role for the University – affiliating university would continue to regulate the partnering colleges. But the clusters would be free to design their own programmes.
Role of the Government – to facilitate setting up of clusters through grants and encourage joint ventures by financial assistance
Memorandum of Understanding – the partnering colleges in each should enter into a MoU Functions and Responsibilities /Sharing of Resources (Library, lab etc)
Faculty exchange programmes
Common research facilities
Introduction of integrated programmes
Training programmes for teachers and staff
E Learning and networking
Networking of libraries
Introduction of add on courses
Common examinations and evaluation systems
Common sports events
Common extension activities
Common research publications
Conduct of extension lectures
Three tier system of governance
The Governing Body
The governing body will be responsible for taking policy decisions on behalf of the cluster and for approving the annual budget and audited statement of expenditure and for initiating all new schemes. It shall consist of the following members:
Principals of partnering colleges
Management representative of each college
Elected teacher representatives from colleges
Elected college union representatives
State Government nominee
District Panchayath representative
Representative from University Syndicate
Two nominated educationists
The Executive Body shall be responsible for carrying out the decisions of the Governing Body and for preparing the budget and annual statement of expenditure for the approval of the Governing Body. It shall consist of all the principals of the partnering colleges. The Chairperson of the Governing Body shall preside over the meetings of the Executive Body and the Member Secretary of the Governing Body shall be the Member Secretary of the Executive Body as well. The executive Body meets at least once in two months. The administration of the college cluster shall be vested in the Executive Body
The Academic committee shall be constituted as decided by the Governing Body, observing the principle of equal representation to all partnering colleges and rotation of headship. The functions and responsibilities of the Academic committee would be as decided by the Governing Body. Sub-committees of the Academic committee may also be constituted by the Governing Body for the performance of various functions, as and when required Funds;- The funds of the college cluster shall include all funds received from the government, UGC and similar funding agencies as also funds collected by the cluster and donations /endowments received.
The finance committee is constituted as decided by the Governing body observing the principle of equal representation and rotation of headship. Its functions and responsibilities would be decided by the Governing body. Administration of the funds shall be vested in the Finance committee which will be responsible to the Governing body
Thiruvananthapuram cluster of Colleges
The governing body of Thiruvananthapuram cluster of colleges constituted an academic committee with all the principals and two teachers from each college as members. As per the decision of the academic committee, member colleges were instructed to conduct college level seminar for creating awareness of cluster of colleges scheme and for inviting proposals for considering under cluster colleges scheme .It was also decided to conduct a combined seminar at Govt. Women’s college for detailed discussion of the proposals and to give a final shape. Accordingly college level seminars and combined seminar were conducted as planned. The shortlisted proposals were given to academic committee for assessing the feasibility of the proposals. After detailed discussion, evaluation study and inspection of the facilities available at the member colleges, the Academic committee recommended the following three proposals for implementation for the year 2009
1. Consortium of college libraries: The proposed consortium envisages the pooling of the available resources like the collection of books, periodicals and other information sources. A network of libraries consisting of the five academic libraries will be constituted in the cluster. The functions of the network are:
i) Access to all students and faculty to any library in the cluster
ii) Purchase of books in consultation with each other libraries so as to avoid maximum duplication of titles
iii) Collective subscription to periodicals and journals
iv) Circulation of current contents of the journals among the constituent libraries
v) Provision of photocopies of journal articles on request
vi) E-mail reference services on request
We have also a plan to introduce a common library membership for all the students of member college, for availing library facility from among member colleges irrespective of the college, where the student is studying.
2. Common Research facility: Currently research scholars and post graduate level students, who wish to do experiments and test results, depend on outside labs. Such centres charge high user fees and are beyond the reach of the average student/researcher. The proposed Instrumentation centre intends to change this scenario and make lab facilities available to all students, irrespective of their social/economic background, by charging only a nominal fee. The Centre will have lab and testing facilities for fields that have relevance across multiple science streams and wouldn’t be limited to any particular subject or discipline. The centre will act as a common facility for a cluster of colleges. Students and research scholars from all colleges and streams in the cluster will have access to this centre at nominal rates
3. Yoga Courses: A recent survey showed that 70-90% of people feel stressed at work and outside. Today’s fast paced lifestyle is putting a toll on public. Unless we learn to manage stress, we will get sick. There are steps to manage stress. Sanskrit and Yoga course is a best method for stress management. After the completion Sanskrit Yoga Course one will learn how to detect symptoms of stress, recognize diseases that are often mistaken for stress and to prevent the stress.
For the smooth functioning of the Thiruvananthapuram cluster, an office started functioning at the college of the Chairperson .An office assistant is also appointed and sufficient office furniture and equipments procured for the use of cluster office. Now we have started the work by inviting tenders for implementing the proposals, we are hopeful that once the purchase is complete, the scheme of cluster of colleges will become a reality. The government have agreed to give one crore each for the clusters during the year 2010 also.
Though we could form 3 clusters in the state, the scheme is still in its take off stage, the success of the scheme depends upon the sharing mind and co-operation of the principals, teachers and students of the member colleges in sharing the facilities.