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State varsity affiliation move draws flak

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, June 3: Several political parties, including the United Democratic Party, are sceptical about the state government’s decision to ask government and government-aided colleges to affiliate with the Captain Williamson Sangma State University.
The UDP is a constituent of the National People’s Party-led MDA 2.0 coalition government.
Congress Legislature Party leader, Ronnie V Lyngdoh told The Shillong Times on Monday that the colleges should be given an option to either affiliate with the state university or to remain with the North-Eastern Hill University. “Most of the educational institutions in Meghalaya are run by private organisations. The government can impose it if they are colleges funded by it,” he said, pointing out that the state government provides financial support to these colleges for salaries.
“A majority of the prestigious institutions in the state are run by the minority organisations and imposing affiliation on them is not a wise decision. I am not sure how functional the state university is and whether it has the required manpower and expertise,” Lyngdoh said.
He said letting the colleges choose between the state university and NEHU would help the government compare their performances.
The Voice of the People Party spokesperson, Batskhem Myrboh said the government decided in a hurry without thinking about the implications and factoring in the ground reality.
He said the government should have first held consultations with the stakeholders before taking the decision.
“Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma and Education Minister Rakkam A. Sangma, who have no experience of teaching in a university like some senior IAS officers, are empty vessels and will have to eat their words sooner or later,” he said.
Reminding the CM of his claim three years ago that Meghalaya would be the first state to implement the New Education Policy of 2020, Myrboh said the Chief Minister has now realised implementing the policy would not be easy.
“The CM in 2022 said the government decided to implement the CUET but later realised the state is not ready and has been seeking exemption from the Centre,” he said.
Myrboh also said the MDA government brought an ordinance to convert the technical university into a general university without framing an Act.
“The government normally comes up with an ordinance if there is an urgency. The question is whether the university is ready to run the campuses,” he said.
He sought to know whether the government would implement the state reservation policy to recruit associate professors, assistant professors, and professors of the state university.
“I do not think it is going to be easy to attract people with experience since you need to provide a package equivalent to that of a central university,” Myrboh said.
Pointing out that the Act to set up the Captain Williamson Sangma Technical University was passed in 2011, he said the government took more than a decade to make it functional and this itself explains everything.
“We need to learn from states like Tripura and Manipur. They had to convert their state university into a central university. It is not easy to run the state university,” he added.
UDP general secretary, Jemino Mawthoh said the creation of a state university is a welcome step but it needs to be run properly with the academic and administrative set-up in place.
“Permission and attachment are not the only issues surrounding affiliation. It also involves meeting certain prerequisites and requirements. Is it possible for the state university to establish different disciplines within the Arts, Science, and Commerce streams at this juncture? The creation of distinct departments within each stream ought to align with the offerings of the colleges. Colleges cannot be partially affiliated and cannot have dual affiliation,” he said.
Stating that affiliation will have financial ramifications, Mawthoh said adequate faculty members and infrastructure are needed to establish different departments. The teachers will need UGC scales too, he said.
“Besides, how will the academic and official bodies be constituted? What about the conduct of examinations right from syllabus preparation, paper setting, moderation, and evaluation? What about library access?” he asked.
Accessibility will also be an issue, he said. “Compared to Garo Hills, Khasi and Jaintia Hills have more colleges. These are some pertinent questions that come to mind,” he said.
Mawthoh cited the state Education Department as stating that the first academic session of the state university will start from the 2025-26 fiscal.
“The board of governors has been constituted. Already 100 posts, including that of the Vice Chancellor and Registrar have been sanctioned. The financial implication for this is Rs 45.7 crore annually and the total cost of construction of infrastructure for the university is Rs 16.96 crore. The running cost will also be substantial,” he said.
Mawthoh suggested that the issue of affiliation of colleges to the state university needs to be thought of carefully.
The government colleges and those that receive aid from the state will have to shift their affiliation from the central NEHU to the new state varsity.
Commissioner and Secretary of the Education Department, Syed Md A. Razi said the state government has written to the University Grants Commission to start the process of recognising the state university through a 2F notification.
Razi told reporters the CM is following up on the matter with the UGC and Union Education Minister and the notification should be received “very soon”.
He said the shift in affiliation will begin after the notification is received. While government and government-aided colleges will have no choice in the matter, private colleges will be able to choose whether to remain affiliated with NEHU or move to the state university.
However, Razi said it would be better to have all the students of Meghalaya under the same system.

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