Shrinking universities

Shrinking universities

The carving of specialised universities out of the composite universities has resulted in fragmentation of education, writes B S Sherigarara . 

Higher education matrix of Karnataka is rich and diverse.  Going by the history of Universities in Karnataka, the first University to be established was University of Mysore(1916) followed by Karnataka University (1949) and then Bangalore University (1964). They were all conventional multi-faculty, multidisciplinary Universities.

 Eventually Mangalore (1980), Gulbarga (1980), Kuvempu (Shimoga 1987), Tumkur (2004), Davangere (2009), Ranichannamma (Belgaum2010) and Vijayanagara Srikrishnadevaraya ( Bellary 2010) Universities, were all carved out of the respective parent Universities as composite and affiliating entities. Two other important additions to the list of multi-faculty Universities were, Karnataka State Open University (Mysore 1996) for those who could not pursue regular university courses, and Karnataka State Women’s University (Bijapur 2003) dedicated  exclusively for women in Karnataka.
Specialised Universities

The first specialized University formed was University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore (1964). With growing impetus given by the  Government for the agricultural sector, two more Universities of Agricultural Sciences were established at Dharwad (1989) and Raichur (1999. To provide better autonomy to the veterinary education and research in the state, the Veterinary and Animal sciences faculties were detached from  the parent Agricultural Universities and placed under the single University - Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University (2004) with its headquarters in Bidar. The University of Horticultural Sciences Bagalkot (2010) and University of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences Shimoga (2013) were established by taking away couple of faculties from the respective parent Universities.All the colleges related to health science and engineering affiliated to various Composite Universities in the state were brought under the fold of newly formed Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (1994) and Visvesvaraya Technological University (1998) respectively. The Karnataka State Law University was formed (2009) by shifting all the Law Colleges to its fold from other Conventional Universities of the state.
Art, cultural universities          
                              Four more universities were established to preserve and promote of local cultures, arts and languages: Kannada University Hampi (1991), Karnataka Sanskrit University Bangalore (2010),  Dr Gangubai Hangar Music and Performing Arts University Mysore (2010), and Janapada University Shigoan (2011).  The concerned departments from other Universities were not taken away by these new Universities because of their Unitary structure.

The credit of being a nascent specialized University ever in Karnataka would go to Rural Development and Panchayat Raj University (RDPR) for which a committee has been set up to prepare a detailed report on curriculum and infrastructure requirements, by emulating the successful modules from other states.

Deemed universities A number of Deemed Universities, Central Institutes, Research Organizations established in Karnataka have expanded the base of Higher Education in Karnataka. They are, Indian Institute of Science, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research , National Institute for Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Indian Institute of Information Technology, MAHE University, JSS University, KLE University,Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandana Samsthana, NITTE University, Christ University, Jain University, Sri Devaraj Urs University,  BLDE University, Sri Siddharth University,  Yenepoya University.  Central University  of  Karnataka Gulbarga, National Law School of India University Bangalore, and National Institute of Technology Surathkal,  Raman Research Institute, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore , Central Food Technological Research Institute, Institute of Socio-Economic Change.

As of now,  there are six private Universities  namely, Alliance University, Azim Premji University, PES University, Reva University, Presidency University, M S Ramaiah University of Applied Science, all of which  contribute to the Higher Education sector of the State. Many more are in the offing.

Most of the Deemed Universities, Private Universities and other Organizations mentioned above are either Specialized Institutions or Research Institutions and   few like, MAHE,  Jain University, Christ University, M S Ramaiah University of Applied Sciences are multi-faculty Universities.
Continuing trend

As the trend continues, the idea of formation of Universities for, Education, Management-Commerce, Sports, IT, etc., is being speculated, the realization of which might affect not only the conventional Universities, but also the Specialized Universities. One can think of a situation wherein IT or Management components  being taken away   from the concerned  Universities  by an upcoming IT or Management  University, and chances of disciplines like, Dental, Nursing,  Ayurveda, Pharmacy, Homeopathy etc., getting separated possibly as independent Universities from their parent Health University. The situation can get much narrower still in the near future with possibility of a prospective Floriculture or Fisheries University getting severed from the respective specialized Universities. As the deprivations continue the situation becomes more and more intricate. Ultimately what would be left with the traditional Universities might be just only shrunken skeleton of basic courses! 
Defining a university

The question often asked is, what makes a university a university?   If we recall the evolution of the concept of ‘university’, by its very nature University is the abode that houses multi disciplines. A university (Latin: "universitas", "a whole") is an institution of higher education and research which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. 

It is opined that, the present system of carving specialized universities out of the composite Universities has resulted in fragmentation and compartmentalization of education at a time when inter-disciplinary approach and networking is increasingly in vogue.

Much acclaimed Choice-Based Credit System, and Cafeteria approach   introduced in our Higher Education is more compatible to Multi-faculty Universities but does not go well with Specialized Institutions.

With the rapid progress in the area of medical sciences and its relevance to Biology, Physics and Chemistry, the establishment of a School of Medical Sciences in the conventional universities has become all the more important than before. 

There is also a pressing need for commencing School of Engineering Sciences & Technology in the conventional Universities, with the objective of providing an environment to pursue cross-disciplinary research in engineering sciences and technology by taking advantage of the facilities and expertise available with schools of study at the University, particularly Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Computer/Information Sciences and Life Sciences. 
Lopsided emphasis

It is more important to strengthen the social sciences in the existing Universities. The lopsided emphasis on technology and management is already affecting the quality of teaching and research in the social sciences. There should be concerted effort to rejuvenate and reinvigorate disciplines like, humanities, social science, languages, literature, and arts by integrating them with skill related areas.

Yashpal Committee Report says, “Substantial damage has been done to Universities and Institutions of professional education by their separation from each other. All professional institutions must be part of a comprehensive University in a complete administrative and academic sense.”

There are many leading Universities in the country which have sustained their composite structure, offering programmes on all  the disciplines with full autonomy and  without any kind of restrictions. 

 While Deemed Universities and  Private Universities are permitted to offer courses on all the disciplines respectively  under the UGC Act and State Enactments, the Conventional State Universities in Karnataka are not entitle  to have faculties like Engineering, Medicine, Law, etc which is nothing but a blatantly  discriminatory situation.

Thus, there is an urgent need to bring in necessary changes in the concerned State Universities Acts to set right the prevailing anomalies and to redeem the State Universities their original full-fledged structure. This is precisely what is advocated by National Knowledge Commission and also UGC. 

Therefore the conventional Universities should be allowed to have all the faculties like, Arts, Science, Law, Engineering, Medicine, Pharmacy, etc., for its holistic outlook and universalization of knowledge.

 Restoring composite character of Universities appears to be difficult   in the prevailing scenario. 

However adopting a dual system comprising, Conventional Universities in its full-fledged multi- faculty form, and Mono-faculty Unitary non -affiliating Universities as Centers of Excellence, seems to be the best way of resolving the issue of redeeming the lost glory of Universities.
(The writer is a Member, Karnataka Knowledge Commission and former Vice-Chancellor of Kuvempu University)

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