Lib­er­alise Ed­u­ca­tion

Au­ton­omy should be given to pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties. That will help in pro­vid­ing top- class ed­u­ca­tion.

India Today - - NATION - As told to Son­ali Acharjee

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.”

Gviswanathan

The writer is founder and chan­cel­lor of VIT Univer­sity

VEL­LORE IN­STI­TUTE OFTECH­NOL­OGY

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