UGC should understand 'university'

Setting up specialised universities is like growing commercial crops in plantations

debate: Secretary general of AIU A D N Bajpai, director of IISc P Balaram, vice-chancellor of University of Mysore V G Talawar and professor Syed Akheel Ahmed at the valedictory function of the South Zone Vice-Chancellors’ Conference in Mysore on Saturday. DH Photo

Delivering his valedictory address at the South Zone Vice-Chancellors Conference at the Ashoka Hall at the Infosys campus here on Saturday, Balaram said the term ‘innovation’ was being misused by academicians. He said it was only damaging academics.

The two-day conference organised by the University of Mysore and the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), which focused on ‘Diversity in Higher Education Institutions: Future Challenges’ concluded on Saturday. He said we should stop using terms like ‘world class’ and ‘innovative’ and first understand the meaning of the word ‘university’.

Stating that action was a problem in higher education, Balaram said numerous commissions have been constituted since independence for reforming education, which have submitted their recommendations to the respective governments. “The recommendations are repetitive because the governments have not taken any action on any of them since independence. If the government had taken action on the recommendations by the first commission — the Kothari Commission — there would have been no need to constitute any of the later commissions,” he added.

Pointing out that restructuring and reforms were the two terms often quoted in academics, he linked it to the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago the same day. However, he said universities have to be handled very gently.

Talking about specialised universities, Balaram said it had become like growing commercial crops in plantations. Separation of medicine from science is retarding research in medicine because medicine cannot operate independently. Medicine needs humanities, pure sciences, bio-medicine and also law.

“Universities are being established without anything. They are being created without land, without infrastructure, without faculty, and even without money. There are teams for cricket, protest, etc. But there is no team in academics. There is no concerted effort in higher education. At the Centre the finance ministry never becomes part of higher education,” he said.

Stressing on the need for research even at the post-graduate and undergraduate levels, he said the faculty have no contact with the students at the undergraduate level. Most of the research is repetitive. Among the published research materials, not even a small fraction gets noticed, he said.

Balaram said universities are not there to create wealth, but to produce people like N R Narayanamurthy (NRN) who can create wealth.

Speaking about autonomy of institutions, he said it was academicians who sacrifice autonomy. Autonomy is not given, it is what you take. Academicians lose it due to their nexus with politicians, he added.

NRN’s birthday

Vice-chancellor of the University of Mysore V G Talawar extended greetings to Infosys founder N R Narayanamurthy on his birthday through the manager of NRN Centre of Excellence and presented a memento and a bouquet. Secretary general of AIU A D N Bajpai presided over the function. Syed Akheel Ahmed presented a report of the sessions held during two days. Vice-chancellor of the Central University of Tamil Nadu Sanjay spoke on behalf of the participants.

Registrar of the University of Mysore P S Naik and coordinator of the conference David Sampson were also present.

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