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Kerala University of Health Sciences still struggling

Thrissur (DC): As the Kerala University of Health Sciences is preparing to admit its second batch of students, DC takes a look at how far the institution has been able to give a qualitative boost to medical education

The state government set up a medical university in December 2010 in a bid to end the confusion caused by multicommand over affiliated institutions.

One year after its inception, the Kerala University of Health Sciences (KUHS) is still struggling to find its feet. And the process of affiliating a large number of institutions has not helped matters at all.

If one gauges the success of the university by the pass percentage of its first year batch, then 27 per cent pass in the 50 odd results published in different study programmes may give a dismal picture.

But some have attributed this to the strengthening of the evaluation system with the introduction of the online question paper system.

The online system prevented self-financing colleges from helping students with the questions in advance.

“By incorporating the new method, we could ensure the smooth conduct of exams,” says Mr K. Mohandas, vice-chancellor, KUHS.

He says efforts to reform the sector have been limited because of “anomalies that we inherited through the affiliation of a very large number of medical education institutions across the state.”

In March 2011, KUHS published the results of the first year B Sc Nursing examination where only eight per cent of the 4,000 students passed.

Though the VC explained that the poor results owed to the deterioration of educational standards, some university officials confided that there was a technical error.

“The varsity has about 250 exams every year and each exam has different regulations. One software application cannot be used for tallying the marks of another course.

This led to the bungle which we corrected later,” said an official in the IT department. (Many students who were declared passed were later given the marks list showing them as having failed.)

Another important experiment that came in for sharp criticism was the doing away of revaluation and adoption of marks re-totalling instead.

It has been alleged that the move has affected the winning prospects of students by reducing the chances of re-assessment.

Even the student community does not appear to be convinced of the impact of such never ending experiments.

“While the University has been effective so far in ensuring the smooth conduct of exams, we have doubts about the credentials of the triple-valuation system it has adopted,” said Mr Philips J. Philipson, students’ union chairman of the Government Medical College, Thrissur.

However, students of the Government Nursing College, which operates inside the same campus, are more concerned about the inability of the KUHS to regulate the sector.

“The KUHS has done little to check the private self-financing college that function without sufficient infrastructure,” says Dominic, the college union chairman.

These confusions notwithstanding, the association of private self-financing colleges holds the view that the KUHS has been able to make strides in the sector.

“The KUHS has so far been efficient in their operations despite the initial hiccups. It should be supported with enough funds and strength for the smooth execution of future operations,” said a representative of the private self-financing medical colleges.

While the reforms introduced by KUHS have evoked mixed reactions among the industry stake holders, the institution appears adamant on continuing the process.

To put it in the words of the VC, “With each step, a message goes down to the students that they have to improve their standards.”

KUHS to promote new research centres

In an attempt to promote frontline area research in medicine, the Kerala University of Health Sciences will soon establish new research centers in the state.

“We have identified four new areas of research that will enhance the societal engagement of medical science,” said K. Mohandas, Vice-Chancellor, KUHS.

As per the proposal, a School of Health Policy and Planning will be established in Thiruvananthapuram, in addition to a research school on ayurveda on the Tripunithura Government Ayurveda College campus.

Further, a center for interdisciplinary studies in aging will be set up on a property adjacent to the Priyaram medical college, in addition to a School of Epidemiology and Public Health in Nooranad.

A blueprint of the proposal will soon be prepared and submitted to the state and Union governments for the purpose of obtaining funds.

The varsity, to which about 230 professional institutes have been affiliated, also proposes to launch a training academy for resource persons under its colleges.

“A proposal in this regard has been accorded approval by the KUHS governing body and the academy is slated to be operational by the next academic year itself,” the VC said.

As part of improving the social commitment of the medical institutions in the state, the KUHS is also toying with a proposal of adopting population clusters consisting 1,000 families each.

“We will be asking the colleges to adopt one cluster each and provide health care services by linking up the different grades of service varying from nursing, pharmacy, physician-aided diagnosis, etc as per the requirement,” said Mr Mohandas.

A preliminary meeting in this regard with the heads of allopathy, ayurveda and dental colleges was held recently and is set to be followed with a meeting of all the 110 nursing colleges affiliated to the university.

“A final draft of the proposal is expected to be rolled out within six months and the project will be initiated thereafter,” he added.

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