Autonomy should be given to private universities. That will help in providing top- class education.
Education should be kept away from politics. Wherever you have more regulations, you will also have more corruption. That is why private universities were propagated in the first place; to build an environment away from the trifling matters faced in public colleges. But the little autonomy private universities enjoyed is gradually being eroded. The set of New Regulations introduced by UGC in 2010 is a perfect example of this. Five years ago, private universities petitioned the Government to receive the status of ‘ university’ instead of ‘ deemed university’. No other country recognises the term ‘ deemed university’ and it led to unnecessary misconceptions when applying for funds or collaborations. Arjun Singh, the then human resource development minister, set up the Tandon Committee to look into this. The committee recommended that private universities should be allowed to use the label of ‘ university’ while mentioning that the status was granted under Section 3 of the UGC Act. UGC’S New Regulations now state the label will revert to ‘ deemed university’. It also states that the chairman of the university trust cannot be a chancellor. It abolishes the post of prochancellor and for every new board member appointed or course added, it says permission needs to be taken from UGC. Education reforms and bills are usually about decreasing control; in India, it seems to work the other way around.
When Vellore Institute of Technology ( VIT) started in 1984, we aimed to be the best engineering university in terms of flexibility of courses, diversity of academic disciplines and quality of faculty. One of our first innovative ideas was to introduce a course called MA in Computer- aided Design ( CAD) and Computer- aided Manufacturing ( CAM). At that time, we were under University of Madras. When we sought approval for the course, the university recommended we call it MA in CAD and drop CAM. Then AICTE stepped in and asked us to call it MA in Mechanical Engineering instead. We waited almost six months for approval on just the name. Tell me then, why would any institution be motivated to enhance the quality of education?
If this country wants private universities, then we need to remove the stumbling blocks. In the US, private universities get free land and they are allowed to sell part of it to raise funds. In India, the Government gives over Rs 500 crore a year to IITS but no reward is given to private institutions. An educational institute that has succeeded in providing wholesome education should be rewarded. Only then will private universities be driven to enhance their overall quality.
Private universities are needed. Not every student is lucky enough to get past the intense competition faced at top government institutes. What options do these students have then? Or what about field scholars who don’t wish to be perturbed by policy hurdles each time they apply for funding? Private universities are the answer. This country needs to motivate, not hinder, the growth of these institutions. It’s time that education was liberalised in India, just like industry and business. elsewhere. And the third year exit makes it convenient for those wishing to study further in India or take up employment immediately. I wish it had been introduced before,” says Kirti Mathur, 25, who did her BA in English from Gargi College.
Projects, seminars and out- of- thebox research proposals are increasingly finding their way into the university’s agenda. These interactive exposures to the outside environment actually help strengthen the classroom experience. To this effect the university launched their ‘ Understanding India’ pilot project. The project will take 1,000 students on a train journey around the country, giving them the rare opportunity to study India as never before. “Dilli Vishwavidyalaya Gyanodaya Express or the ‘ Don of Knowledge’ will be the name of the train,” says Singh.
The entire train will be booked for the students and 30 faculty members. They will first travel to Mahatman Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram and Gujarat Vidyapeeth. Then they will travel on to visit INS Vikrant in Mumbai, the Goan naval docks, Indian Space Research Organisation in Bangalore and Gandhi’s ashram in Wardha. “It will be a cultural revelation. They will research on how trains function, help suggest improvements for various railway stations and experience diverse ways of life,” says Singh. The journey will take place during university vacations in July this year and has already evoked interest from foreign universities such as Princeton, Columbia and Maryland. The train is being provided by the Indian Railways and a grant has been set up by the university to fund it.
“Those were amazing days. Lazing around in the lush sprawling lawns. We had a serious and dedicated team of professors who were also our best friends,” says fashion designer Rohit Bal, 54, who graduated in history from St Stephen’s College in 1983. “But after classes came long sessions of intellectual trivia while stuffing our mouths with chai, gulab jamuns, mince and scrambled eggs. The best days of my life were spent at DU.”
The writer is founder and chancellor of VIT University
VELLORE INSTITUTE OFTECHNOLOGY