The Beauty of Autonomy lies in the Governance
Dr. Varun K. Tripathi | Dean | Faculty Of Humanities and Social Sciences Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, J&K - The Knowledge Review

Autonomy – an oft-chanted idea and a political cry – as a value and as propaganda, has been misconstrued in different ways and for different reasons. Without going into its theoretical jargon, we need to understand first that our context here is to value autonomy as an instrument for assurance of purposive governance; a fairly equitable governance in academic institutions. Both, autonomy and governance have instrumental values as they are supposed to deliver certain services, ensure equity, equal access to opportunities, gender justice, and to put in organized efforts for capacity building, skill development and so on.  To realize all these, which have become values in themselves today, autonomy serves as a necessary condition. Through autonomy, the academic institutions and their governance must aspire for and create an environment in which the academic freedom of the stakeholders should not go haywire, but channelized to deliver a culture of performance and yield excellent human capital.

If autonomy is seen as an instrument, it has its greater role in providing a broad schema for governance, i.e., ensures mobility of the organizational structure in a desired direction. A governance structure and hierarchy of functionaries should be laid in a fashion that the role of every superior in the chain is to supervise the chores of subordinates and ensure delivery of services, obtaining desired goals and realization of values. With the change of time, the meaning of autonomy also changes. Autonomy is not a state-construction or mere self-determination claim. Today, service is the key – a key not only to achieve the mission and objectives of the institution, but also a key to justify autonomy itself. Without service and performance, autonomy itself will always be in question, rather factually non-existent. Autonomy is not an idea, it exist in its function only.

In the actual play of day-to-day administration, autonomy facilitates conflict resolution, self-governance, apt decision making, and interim settlements, addresses malpractices, clears bottle-necks, and eradicates the usual lackadaisical character of offices, and what not. In more practical sense, its worth lies in academic flexibility – it may be related to updating syllabi, attuning the curriculum with employability and ensuring creation of skill-sets. It is an awareness towards time and society, and towards the change in the industry and corporate. Autonomy leads, in no way, to authoritarianism. Rather, autonomy is exercised in decentralization to ensure the higher governance values, as through decentralization an institution can utilize multiple skills and expertise of people to achieve targets in an organized way. Decentralization and delegation of authority psychologically involves the stakeholders in achieving goals, and in turn, engender sense of responsibility among them.

Autonomy has a larger role in integration. Integration is the value that reveals the beauty of autonomy. Integration is the core value that generates prudence for managing diversity and equity of the campus populace. The reason why autonomy is a requisite for managing diversity is that autonomy enables the organization to choose principles and parameters for suitable diverse treatments and justified discrimination, which otherwise is not possible through blind principles of equality and mere adherence to rules. Autonomy goes beyond rules; it transcends principles and creates new bases. The transcendence is no denial of principles, but a process of acquiring greater rationality that can encompass the needs of the time. This is the beauty of autonomy. It leads to transformation of governance. The transformation is inevitable because the context, scenario and the time in terms of educational goals and market requisites are continuously changing. If the time factor is not kept in mind, the autonomy is spent in struggles for adjustment with situations, in resisting them and develops impasse in the path of progress.

Indian philosophy defines beauty with novelty – novelty is beauty. The right function of autonomy spins off incessant novelty. In resonance with the time, autonomy becomes creative, innovative and inclusive.  The beauty here is not a mere precept; it reveals and embodies in form of services, performance, and realization of vision and mission of the institution. The beauty of autonomy defines the acceptability of the leadership. Thus, autonomy embellished with the aforesaid beauty is the key to transform governance, which can’t be achieved through mere control-measures. Daniel H. Pink has rightly observed, ‘control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.’ Our question today is meaningful engagement, not mere compliance.


Dr. Varun K. Tripathi

Dean, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, J&K

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