Here, students can choose and learn

Here, students can choose and learn

They are encouraged to actively participate in academic decision-making

Here, students can choose and learn

 Deccan Herald, through a new weekly series “BOARDROOM TO CLASSROOM” offers a platform or the students to peak out. The prevailing nomination model to academic bodies might well have educed the student voice to nothing more than constant bleating. But has the rise in deemed varsities and autonomous institutions led to a
re-invention of student expression and politics to suit the new paradigm? 

The dingy old classrooms with heavy wooden desks intricately carved by termites in part, and in equal part by notorious back-benchers, have given way to modern classrooms complete with cushioned individual seats, over-head projectors and even air-conditioning.
Students drive their points home Dh Photo by Anand Bakshi
But, the changes at a modern institution such as Jain University (JU), run deeper than mere hybrid desks and writing boards. The conventional student union too has been replaced by a student council. This council is more likely to participate in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities and manage cultural festivals than go on a hunger strike outside the Principal’s office.

Does this mean that active participation of students has been reduced to mere cosmetics with no real participation in policies that affect them? No, say the students and faculty at JU.

Vibhushree, a final year student in Business Management at JU, says that student feedback is constantly sought and acted upon.

“Our syllabus and curriculum is constantly revised and made industry-friendly based on our feedback. We ask for industry visits and there is an immediate response,” she says.

Prakash Katariya, a master’s student in mass communication at the university, who did his under graduation under the Bangalore University, seconds Vibhushree's opinion. “The student participation in syllabus design is relatively higher and the greater flexibility in a deemed university system also allows for the incorporation of student’s opinion,” he says.

Meanwhile Geetha Goud, a faculty at the varsity, says that the university does a poll on a regular basis and students vote on a series of parameters. “The Principal of each Jain institution interacts with the students. The students are given voting pads and they vote on a variety of issues and the results are immediately shown on a screen,” she says.

Students who make use of the University's residential facility too say that their needs and feedback are always received and there is always a person to go to. Rashi Aggarwal, a mass communication student who resides in the hostel, says:
“We have a counsellor who is our first point of contact for all redressal. We had requested for Wi-Fi facility in our hostel and although it took six months, the problem was addressed.” Students also say that unlike a conventional student union, where often the dominant opinion is passed off as student participation, the smaller size of a deemed university allows for the meritorious opinions to come through.

Fee regulation

While participation in an autonomous institution evidently works in the areas of syllabus and pedagogy, fee regulation is an issue which students feel is a different argument. Both students and faculty agree that in the current set-up, only a section of society can afford it. But they also add that it is for the regulators to ensure that scholarships are incorporated into the system.

S Madhavan, the head of the department of communication, says that there is complete transparency about where the students’ money is spent. “We tell the students where and what their money is spent on. Further, we have not hiked our fees and we have flexibility in loan payment,” he says.

Pavithra, a master’s student in Mass Communication, says, “Though the fee structure is high, it gives the student a sense of authority to question any change.”