The Karnataka Assembly on Wednesday passed a Bill to constitute new universities in seven districts and to upgrade Unitary University in Mandya, as Higher Education Minister C N Ashwath Narayan promised to bring in new laws to ensure reforms in the functioning of such institutions in the state.
The Karnataka State Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2022 was passed after it was thoroughly discussed by the House, during which legislators from across party lines, including the Chair expressed concerns about the quality and functioning of universities in the state and rampant irregularities in many of them.
The Bill in its financial memorandum states that with regard to the establishment of new universities there will be an approximate expenditure of ₹14 crore per annum towards the annual recurring expenditure at ₹2 crore for each varsity.
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Narayan, piloting the Bill, said: “It is the demand and aspiration that there should be a university in all the districts and in this direction as a step the government is opening new universities in seven districts — Kodagu, Chamarajanagar, Hassan, Haveri, Bidar, Koppal and Bagalkote, and in Mandya district we will be expanding the existing university.”
According to the National Education Policy, there should be at least one university in every district to fulfill the educational and skill needs of the youth there, he said. It has also been a long-standing demand and hence the Chief Minister had made an announcement in the budget for certain districts and the same will be considered for other districts in the days ahead, the minister added.
As per the Knowledge Commission, UGC and National Education Policy, there should not be more than 100 colleges under one university, he further said, adding that now the aspiration is that every college has to be developed to a status of degree-awarding autonomous university by 2035.
Intervening, Speaker Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri expressed concern about the quality and the condition of existing universities, while adding that the government should also focus on improving their quality and infrastructure. Pointing out that thousands of students go to countries like Canada from the state to pursue their higher education, he said: “Then what is the quality of our universities here…improving the quality of universities and education provided there should be of highest priority.”
Addressing the concerns expressed by the Chair and several legislators regarding the quality and other issues in universities, the minister said allocations have been considerably enhanced to universities upgrade them.
Noting that it has been nearly 22 years since the Karnataka State Universities Act came into existence, he said new legislations have to be enacted for bringing in accountability and reforms to address the current challenges. “We are taking steps to bring in new legislation, committee has been formed, which has submitted report and public opinion has been sought, aimed at addressing all issues concerning recruitment, administration, ensuring transparency, accountability, quality education, skill development and integration,” he said, adding the laws will be separate for public and private universities.
Earlier, Congress Deputy Leader in the Assembly U T Khader advised that the government should frame rules to maintain the quality and standards in varsities, pointing out that Mangaluru University has come down from A-grade to B-grade and may even further come down to C-grade.
Several legislators like JD(S)’ A T Ramaswamy said that those who are genuinely concerned about higher education and the future of the student community should be appointed as Vice Chancellors and to university syndicates, as they lamented about legislators and politicians making recommendations for unworthy people.
They also pointed at malpractices for good results at deemed universities. Congress MLAs Eshwar Khandre and P T Parameshwar Naik pointing out lack of basic infrastructure, facilities and faculty at various existing universities, said, “when such is the state, announcing new universities will be only like applying ghee to the lips.”
BJP MLA Arvind Bellad suggested that the building construction and recruitment powers should be withdrawn from universities, so that they can focus only on academic activities. Also, there should be a common exam system instead of each private university having their own exams, he said.
Pointing at there are currently 27 universities in the state and most of them lack facilities and qualities, Congress MLA Krishna Byre Gowda said, to set up each university it will cost ₹100-150 crore and there will be annual costs on top of that, so eight new universities will lead to spending hundreds of crores.
“Without looking into the quality of existing university, establishing new ones, seems to be aimed at only appeasement with election approaching,” the legislator said, as he also pointed at earlier CAG reports on rampant irregularities in recruitment and activities at various universities in violation of laws.