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FTII controversy highlights problems with our premier institutes

The government must take a long hard look at how to salvage our institutions of excellence.

editorials Updated: May 10, 2017 15:57 IST
Film and Television Institute of India

FTII-students-are-demanding-the-cancellation-of-the-appointment-of-Gajendra-Chauhan-as-chairman-a-post-occupied-in-the-past-by-luminaries-such-as-director-Shyam-Benegal-HT-Photo

It is beginning to resemble a B-grade Bollywood potboiler which is dragging on endlessly.

The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) has been in turmoil for months on end ever since the government announced actor Gajendra Chauhan as the new chairman.

In the latest twist to the sorry saga, some students who allegedly gheraoed the director were arrested in a midnight swoop and later released on bail.

This raises the issue of the problems confronting many of our premier institutions from the IITs to IIMs and medical bodies. Most of them suffer from a lack of adequate faculty, infrastructure and funds.

In the case of the FTII, many students seem to have been living on the campus for as long as eight years during which time they have either not submitted their course work or have not been evaluated for it. This is not the first time that the FTII has had such agitations.

India’s institutions of higher learning are nowhere in the top international rankings and little is being done to improve this situation. In this case, the government seems determined to stick to its guns with the choice of Mr Chauhan.

But where it has erred is to have let the problem get so out of hand that, for quite some time now little teaching or learning has been taking place in the once prestigious institute.

The government must take a long hard look at how to salvage our institutions of excellence. Of course, leadership matters and the selection of people to head such institutions should be conducted more by experts than politicians. In many foreign universities, international committees of peers shortlist candidates for jobs in universities.

This may be worth emulating here as well. A concerted effort should be made to attract the best in the field as far as faculty goes, even if it means looking outside Indian shores. As for the paucity of infrastructure and funds, these are well known problems that have been allowed to fester over the years, making many institutions almost defunct.

Students who overstay their courses, or linger on to make trouble must be dealt with firmly. In the FTII, even former students seemed to have access to the campus and participated in the agitations.

A review should be undertaken of the output of institutions like the FTII, among others, in order to streamline them. Those who are found to be below par should be given enough time to pull up their socks or face remedial action.

We have for far too long dwelt on the personalities that head institutions, we now really need to address the systemic flaws in higher and professional education. The FTII mess should serve as a wake-up call on this front.