The much hyped initiative of opening up of new Government Degree Colleges (GDC) has turned out a flop show as the institutions receive a lukewarm response from the students for their admissions.
The J&K government last year announced establishment of new 102 degree colleges in two phases – 52 in phase I and 50 in phase II. Soon after making an announcement for making these colleges functional, the J&K administration decided to put on hold the operationalization of new degree colleges announced in phase II, citing lack of resources.
The government asked the Higher Education Department (HED) to focus on those new 52 colleges which were approved in the first phase by the erstwhile State Administrative Council (SAC).
However, the student response for admission in new colleges in the valley is poor due to which the government has directed the concerned heads of these colleges to shift the students to already existing colleges.
Recently a meeting of HED was convened in Srinagar to review the Capex budget expenditure level and the concerned executing agencies were also directed to speed up the construction work of new colleges.
In the meeting, the operationalisation of new GDCs was discussed wherein the college officials stated that there was no availability of the land for construction of new colleges. Also, it was informed that in some colleges, the enrollment was not more than five to 10 students.
On this, the official chairing the meeting directed the concerned college principals to shift the students to nearby already existing colleges. It reminded of the government decision taken in 2015 to merge the SSA schools owing to meager enrollment of students. Given the slim enrolment of new degree colleges, it seems that these institutions may meet the same fate as that of SSA schools.
The government has given a green signal to the principals managing new degree colleges to shift the students to nearby colleges wherever there is no land available for construction of permanent buildings or if the enrolment of students is less.
With this the government has hinted that they cannot afford to pay the rent of the buildings hired to run the new colleges for few students or give salary to the staff as well.
The opening of the new 102 degree colleges was seen as a flawed decision as the conditions of the majority of existing colleges was not up to the mark in terms of the permanent faculty and the enrolment. Over the years, the enrolment of students in colleges has witnessed a downward trend.
From the beginning, the government’s decision to establish new degree colleges had come under criticism as the existing colleges in J&K were faced with infrastructural deficit.
The opening of new degree colleges was also seen as a politically motivated decision. The government announced establishment of new colleges like schools without following the requisite parameters. Due to this the decision has now bounced back on the government forcing it to close the colleges.
The decision to establish new colleges by administration took everybody by surprise particularly when the same administration had in 2018 stonewalled establishment of 26 new colleges which were sanctioned by the previous PDP-led coalition government.
And within a gap of a few months the administration sanctioned the new colleges with directions for making them functional within two years and the colleges are to be fully funded by a cash starved J&K government which could not complete the construction of the permanent campus for those colleges announced almost a decade ago under various schemes.
The matter of fact is that the first college was established in 1905 in J&K and till 2018 successive regimes were able to set up around 96 degree colleges in 114 years. But in one year, the administration gave approval for the establishment of 102 new colleges.
After making an announcement for establishment of new colleges, there will be five to six colleges within a radius of five to six kilometers which is a gross violation of set norms for setting up of a degree college. The first criterion to establish a degree college is that it should have five to six feeding higher secondary schools and should be set up at a distance of 20 kilometers from the existing college.
Relaxation of rules can be justified in case of border areas keeping in view the terrains but out of the 52 colleges (announced in Phase I) only four to five colleges have been announced for remote areas. Government has announced new colleges at Aloochibagh, Hyderpora in Srinagar while as in Jammu a college will be setup at Bathindi and Sidra.
Before announcing new degree colleges, the government should have formulated a proper road map keeping in view the interest of the students. Stress should have been given on introduction of those courses which are not offered in existing colleges.
Also, before announcing new colleges the J&K government should have taken up the matter with the Union education ministry to get benefits of PMSSS for degree colleges within J&K. The move would have stopped the brain drain and also given an impetus to the colleges in terms of finance as well as enrollment of students.
Every year around 5000 students from Valley shift in outside college to pursue their higher educational courses as the degree is sponsored by the government. But the benefit is given to the colleges outside. It would have been if the PMSSS would extend to colleges in the Valley. The move will be beneficial in terms of revenue generation and will also increase the student population.
Recently the government signed MoUs with different organizations and institutes to introduce skilled courses for students. But again, the existing colleges were considered for it leaving new colleges unattended.
The government should wake up to the crises before it is too late and prepare a proper roadmap for operationalisation of new colleges besides strengthening existing colleges. Under the present circumstances, the government will be forced to close new colleges one by one given the lukewarm response of students.