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Kerala University walks a Tightrope on Seat Raise

Kerala University walks a Tightrope on Seat Raise

Marginal increase subject to ceiling on number of seats.

To ensure more seats in colleges in semi - urban areas.

System creates disparity between colleges.

The University of Kerala has walked a tightrope between populist pulls and academic imperatives in sanctioning marginal increase in seats for degree courses in affiliated colleges while placing a cap on the number of seats in each college after such an increase.

Applications invited

The university on Wednesday invited applications from colleges for 'additional marginal increase' of seats for degree courses.

For all science subjects except Mathematics and Statistics, the increase will be 5 per cent subject to a maximum of 55 seats and for other courses, 10 per cent subject to a maximum of 65 seats each course.

Each college has a 'sanctioned strength' for a course. Marginal increase is the additional admissions that the university has authorised the college to make, mostly based on its infrastructural facilities.

Earlier in the year, the university sanctioned a 'marginal increase' of 20 per cent for the first category of courses and 25 per cent for the second.

In 2009, the corresponding figure was 25 per cent and 50 per cent respectively.

Protests

The reduction in marginal increase had triggered protests by students' unions. During a demonstration recently in front of the office of the Vice - Chancellor, Students Federation of India (SFI) activists reportedly damaged furniture in the adjacent visitors' room. The additional marginal increase was announced shortly after this incident.

More admissions

The case for marginal increase is that it allows arts and science colleges in semi - urban areas to admit more students - mostly those hailing from poor families. Most of these students may have otherwise missed out on college education.

"Many students in my college hail from families where the parents are labourers. They cannot afford to go anywhere else," pointed out K.L. Vivekanandan, a former member of the University Syndicate and teacher at S.N. College Chempazhanthi. "These days those who can raise money will try for a seat in a professional college. It is the rest who come to us."

The downside of marginal increase over the years is that it has created a situation where the university has colleges with 90 or more seats for some degree courses while some others - mainly government colleges - have less than half this number. Each year, the marginal increase only accentuates this disparity.

Credit and semester

Now that the University has shifted to the choice-based credit and semester system for degree courses, the number of students in a class is one of the hinge factors that decide quality levels in an institution.

The shift in instructional methods means that even a class of 50 could be unmanageable and blunt the effectiveness of seminars, assignments or projects.

Vice - Chancellor A. Jayakrishnan admitted that large classes would adversely impact the effectiveness of the credit and semester system. He pointed out, however, that the increase in seats sanctioned by the university was less compared to other universities in the State and less than what was given in 2009.

"The 55 and 65 - seat cap put in place by the university, though unprecedented, is not the result of any scientific study.

"Yes, this is not conducive to the new credit and semester system. But the pressure on the university to keep increasing seats is unbearable," a senior university official said here.

The crucial question is will the university hold on to this 'cap' on seat increase in the face of "unbearable" pressure.

Kerala University walks a Tightrope on Seat Raise

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