Change in university name signals sharper city focus

Change in Bengaluru university name signals sharper city focus

Bengaluru Central University is now Bengaluru City University. This year, it joins the league of 27 elite city universities in the world

From the next academic year, Bengaluru Central University will be known as Bengaluru City University.

The decision came after a long debate over the use of the word ‘Central’ in the name, which many thought was a misnomer since it is a Karnataka state-run autonomous institution.

Prof S Japhet, who spearheaded the move, retired as vice-chancellor on Tuesday. He shared the implications of the change with Metrolife.  Talk about renaming began back in 2015 when Bangalore University was divided into three: Bengaluru University Jnana Bharathi, Bengaluru University Central, and Bengaluru University North.

Japhet was appointed vice-chancellor of the Bengaluru Central University (BCU) in 2017, making him its first.

“I realised that this was the only university in the county that was urban-based,” he says. A conversation with the joint secretary of the University Grants Commission (UGC) also played a role in this move. The confusing nature of the nomenclature, the joint secretary agreed, had to be changed.

At Japhet’s request, the UGC wrote to the government. His vision caught the imagination of the education minister and other officials, which eventually led to the name change.  

What does it mean?

Universities use the name of the region or city they are located in, such as Kolkata University and Delhi University. However, none of them is a city university.

There are only 27 such city universities in the world today, with BCU being the first in India.

The step ushers BCU into the league of the City University of London, City University of New York, and City University of Hong Kong, to name a few. 

To become a city university, it must fulfil a few key characteristics. Apart from being located in the heart of the city, it should have a commitment to the local community and have a long-standing relationship with the city. “It is also about becoming the heart of the city,” Japhet says. 

What future holds

The idea of repositioning this university calls for many changes, with emphasis on research that addresses the city’s problems, such as transportation, water, energy, waste management, and migration. 

This should be done through innovation, teaching, research, and outreach.

He cites the example of how universities across the country are working towards creating a vaccine against the coronavirus to explain the kind of involvement universities should have with the community. 

Collaboration need

The BCU only had seven departments and 18 faculty members when the college started. It now has 24 departments and is looking to expand the faculty to 160 members. “We don’t have the luxury of allowing each science to exist in its own silo. A collaborative spirit is essential,” he explains. 

Bengaluru is home to 65,000 IT companies and 70,000 startups and 60,000 research labs. “Opportunities are aplenty,” he says, emphasising the need to create ‘human capital’. While being affordable to students, a new financial model has to evolve so that the university can become self-sustaining. The university should enjoy autonomy and the freedom to be able to function independently. “It should have a separate Act to govern it,” says Japhet. 

Facelift coming up

The university syndicate has approved plans for a Rs 150 crore worth facelift for Bengaluru City University.

The 33-acre campus will keep its Gothic architecture while it gets state-of-the-art features. A lecture complex with 50 classrooms, new labs and seminar halls will be built. The heritage cricket pavilion will be restored while a modern sports complex is built alongside.