The new title has significant implications for professors, administrators, educators and students of Mumbai University, setting a precedent for higher education in the region. 

When asked about the fundamental changes this new autonomous structure brings, there is consensus regarding the academic liberty it provides, according to professors interviewed by the News. 

The title of ‘empowered autonomous’ was granted to a total of 12 colleges affiliated with Mumbai University in July of 2023. This title is granted to colleges who have successfully exercised autonomy in the preceding ‘autonomous’ structure for a period of more than five years and achieved excellence as well as high-level status as colleges in doing so.

At Mumbai University, professors are required to follow the academic curriculum assigned to their college, but according to Pakzhan Fitter, head of the Department of French at Ramnarain Ruia Autonomous College, professors now have control over decisions regarding the syllabus as well as the pace of teaching.

“Professors had to quite literally rush everything before, but now I can divide my time, so the students can go slowly, I can go slowly, and there is more liberty regarding what pace to take the syllabus at when teaching,” Fitter said in an interview with the News. 

Professors under the empowered autonomy structure at Mumbai University now have the freedom to tailor the pace of learning based on students’ comprehensive abilities. This departure from a rigid schedule allows them to consider the level of challenge posed by the subject, ensuring a teaching pace that aligns with students’ understanding and comprehension. This flexible approach prioritizes effective learning over a predetermined timetable.

Professors will have the liberty to take into account their students’ demographic data. They can combine that data with research on trends in professions and the job market to devise more modern, skill-based examination methods. The different schools and branches of Mumbai University can now cater their teaching and learning processes depending on what specialties they teach. 

When asked about the financial implications that this ‘empowered autonomy’ entails, Principal of Ramnarain Ruia Autonomous College Anushree Lokur stated that “it is more of an academic autonomy.” 

Lokur further said that with the status of an empowered autonomy, courses and admissions fees can now be decided by officials handling college administration but “within some boundaries.” Colleges can decide the fees for certain courses, but they require approval from Mumbai University before proceeding with the same.

Lokur also said that professors will now face increased pressure to adapt to modern technologies in the classroom, especially with the rise of plagiarism due to artificial intelligence like ChatGPT. Professors, in addition to the responsibility that arises with the premise of complete academic autonomy and the usual responsibilities that being a professor, entails, now also have to keep up with the latest trends in technology in order to be one step ahead of their students.

When asked about challenges that have arisen under this structure, Sachchidanand Singh, head of Department of Philosophy at Mithibai College, expressed his concerns over the disappearance of the “the collectiveness of colleges that being under Mumbai University” once provided.

Singh talked about the empowered autonomous structure fostering more of a competitive environment with other empowered autonomous colleges for prestigious titles, with the spirit of collectiveness amongst colleges becoming more and more “reminiscent.”

As colleges affiliated with Mumbai University embrace empowered autonomy, the impact on professors is evident in enhanced academic liberty. This shift, while emphasizing greater control over curriculum decisions, also underscores the ongoing challenges for professors to adapt to evolving educational landscapes. In the wake of Mumbai University’s empowered autonomy, professors navigate a transformed academic landscape. This structure, heralding increased academic liberty, is redefining traditional roles and prompting a collective adaptation to a new era in higher education. As Mumbai University colleges transition to empowered autonomy, there is a subtle shift in collective culture. While some note changes, this evolution forms an integral part of the ongoing narrative, reflecting the delicate balance between autonomy and collective ethos.

These “empowered autonomous” colleges gained the preceding status of “autonomous” in the 2017-18 school year.