As the University of Mumbai – one of the oldest in the country - celebrated its 160th foundation day on Monday, academicians said the institution’s history has grown in size but not in stature.
The university, which was established in 1857 along with University of Calcutta and University of Madras, has grown from two departments — with faculty of arts in Elphinstone College and faculty of medicine in Grant Medical College — to more than 740 affiliated colleges and 57 post-graduate departments.
“The legacy of MU coincides with the history of higher education in the country,” said R Ramakumar, professor at Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
He said that during the post-independence period, in 1950s and 1960s, the university had made a mark for itself, adding that the economics department was popular in the academic circles. The institution even had a major economic thought, the Bombay school, named after it.
Despite its achievements, academicians said the reputation and the quality of education has taken a beating in the recent years. Ramakumar said MU’s reputation started sinking as the overall standard of higher education declined in the country. “However, the decline of MU was faster than that of other institutes such as Delhi University,” he said.
In the last 15 years, MU has not only tripled the number of colleges under its ambit, but also added departments and infrastructure, especially at its Kalina campus. Thane sub-centre has started functioning. The Ratnagiri sub-centre was established in 1989.
“The university has taken higher education to rural, semi-urban and tribal areas between Silvasa and Goa,” said Rajpal Hande, principal of Vile Parle’s Mithibai College and former director, Board of College and University Development, MU.
However, in the past decade the examination department has come under fire with instances of question paper leak, answer sheet tampering, fake marksheets, corruption and delayed results. Although the university has moved to digital distribution of question papers and online assessment of science and engineering papers, the issues still persist.
The university expansion, limited resources and lack of funds are some of the reasons for the problems. “While MU has grown exponentially, the government has not added new posts to handle the burden. Taking control of its examination system is one of its biggest challenges,” said AD Sawant, former pro-vice chancellor of MU.