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Pune Speak Up: Higher education poised for a turnaround

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 - 8:17am IST | Place: Pune | Agency: dna

With increasing unemployment in the country, the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) approval of setting up of 98 community colleges across India seems to have come at the right time. With Maharashtra topping the list with 16 colleges—five of them being affiliated with the Pune University—these skilled-based courses aim to offer advance diplomas within a duration of six months to two years. However, the real question is, will these community colleges change the face of higher education in India?
  • With increasing unemployment in the country, the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) approval of setting up of 98 community colleges across India seems to have come at the right time.However, the real question is, will these community colleges change the face of higher education in India? DNA finds out... Shutterstock dna

Community colleges should follow a regionalised approach
Only time will tell if these community colleges would be able to change the face of higher education in India. The move, however, will definitely open an alternative educational stream in the country. It will provide a good platform to the students who find it difficult to get opportunities to develop their skills. These community colleges will definitely have an impact on the level of higher education in India. The government has provided a pattern to bring community colleges and the skilled-based courses into mainstream. It is important that the community colleges follow a regionalised approach and cater to the needs of the local community. The idea of a community college spins around the fact that you can pursue a single course and also associate yourself with a vocational degree at the same time. What is being offered under these community colleges is very important—a well-defined path for vocational education and ladderization, which is the ability to move from one level to another vocational stream, must be a choice given to students. 
—Swati Mujumdar, Director, Symbiosis Centre for Distance Learning 

The community colleges will need industry support
The community colleges have got UGC approval and are being brought under the university affiliation. This step will need help from the industry if these community colleges have to fulfill their goals. To strengthen the training part in these soft skill colleges, industry experts will have to be invited to give lectures and undertake training so that the skills of the students are at par with what is really happening at the industry level. If there is no support from the industry, the courses within these community colleges, no matter how good they are, will be unable to generate employment opportunities. These community colleges will not only need academic inputs but also industry tie-ups and support. This format of community colleges already exists down south, hence it is not new to India. However, now UGC will be backing the initiative. It is very important that these colleges do not work only on academic inputs, they also need to bring in self-employment, capital and placement support. The concept of community colleges is directed towards the students who drop out after completing XII or discontinue their higher education. The move will also turn out to be a good value addition for those who are pursuing B.Com and B.A. programmes.
NS Umarani, principal, Garware College of Commerce 

The move will ease placement
Setting up of university affiliated community colleges will bring in professionalism in the skill-based sector and more employment opportunities for the aspirants. The new path will lead to change in the syllabus, giving a scientific approach to the various course modules. Standardisation of these colleges will usher in a new look to the skill-based courses in India and set specific goals. The move will not only provide good career opportunities to the students who wish to pursue such courses but with the academia-industry connection, it will also ease the placement process. In these skill-based training courses, it is often seen that students face failure at initial stages of their career as their certificates hold no recognition. Therefore, recognition from a good university is essential. These community colleges will definitely change the face of higher education in India. 
Balasaheb Mahajan, assistant project director, Cooperative Training and Research Centre 

Higher education is reaching out to the masses
Today, higher education in India is expanding and progressing. It is no more class-based and meant only for a handful of people who can afford getting trained. Now, we are talking about mass education, which is impossible without proper training. We have to work in tandem with the changes happening in the technology sector. Today, higher education is reaching out to the masses. The concept of community colleges have been purposefully linked to on-job training, technology based skills and knowledge content. It is important that any skill-based job has a knowledge backing. The community colleges are an expansion of the existing higher education, with an added relevance and is also backed by technological advances. It is a good innovation. 
Ram Takwale, former vice-chancellor, University of Pune

The step will produce industry ready students
Today, the quality of higher education in India is questionable. How many students do actually find employment after studying from such institutes? The UGC, however, has addressed this question by introducing the NVEQF framework that includes schemes such as community colleges, vocational courses and degree. They have introduced this concept from class VII and aligned it with the existing educational framework. This proactive step by the UGC will help produce skilled and industry ready students who will ultimately contribute to the productivity of the nation. The main aim to bring in this type of education is to address the issue of employment of students who pass from such institutes. However, another question is, will these courses at the community colleges be considered a part of higher education? 
Prachee Javadekar, Director, Javadekar Education Consultancy Services

Numbers worth knowing
98 community colleges are approved by UGC across India
16 of them are from Maharashtra
1 community college affiliated to Mumbai University
5 colleges affiliated to University of Pune
3 from the Nagpur University
2 community colleges from Marathwada University
3 from the Shivaji University (Kolhapur)
2 from the Sant Gadge Baba University (Amravati)
320 proposals for community colleges were received by the UGC from across India
6 months to 2 years will be the duration of the skilled-based courses on offer
Curricula to be prepared by varsities and UGC

Some of the courses on offer are
- automobile management
- food processing 
- horticulture
- healthcare
- cast iron foundry
- hospitality
- tourism
- power plant
- chemistry
- information technology


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