It takes a whole semester for college students to study their curriculum, but the University of Mumbai (MU) wanted teachers to prepare it in just two weeks.
Anxious to put in place new syllabi for various courses before a new law — the Maharashtra Public Universities Act 2016 — came into effect, the university sought to wrap up the exercise in record time. After facing backlash from teachers and realising that the act would not have any bearing on the syllabus formation process, the university allowed teachers to prepare the curriculum at their own pace.
The process to gradually change the syllabi of all the undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) courses offered by MU was started last year. However, with no statutory body in place at the university — thanks to a state government directive prohibiting elections for these bodies till August — the varsity relied on temporary committees to come up with new syllabi in a short span. This irked teachers’ unions, which suggested that the syllabus formation needs to be more deliberative and consultative.
The curriculum usually passes through a number of statutory bodies — namely syllabus sub-committees, boards of studies, faculties and academic council — before it is adopted.
On February 14, the varsity’s academic authorities unit sent a letter to the members of a special task force set up to frame the new syllabi, as well as various board of studies under faculty of Arts, asking them to “promptly” arrange meetings to finalise the new syllabi for second and third years of UG and the second year of PG courses by the end of February. The first year syllabi of UG and PG courses were changed last year.
“After the new act is enforced, all the authorities and bodies may be dissolved and it may take four to six months to constitute the new authorities and bodies. This may lead to a delay in taking academic decisions, including approving the new syllabi,” reads the letter explaining the haste.
However, as MU later realised, its apprehensions were unfounded. The new act had provided for the continuation of existing authorities and bodies in the transition period.
Many teachers who were tasked with changing the curriculum, were flummoxed by the varsity’s directive. Professor SP Dubey, a member of one of the sub-committees under board of study for Hindi, said, “MU has jurisdiction over a large area and one must know the needs of various parts before forming the syllabus. At our first meeting on February 17, we decided that it was impossible to meet the university’s deadline. The authorities still insisted that we complete the process before varsity academic council’s meeting at the end of the month.”
Bombay University and College Teachers Association (BUCTU) targeted MU vice-chancellor (V-C) Sanjay Deshmukh for ‘hastily’ pushing the new syllabus through the boards of studies and other bodies. It added that it was unprecedented for the V-C to be directly involved in changing the syllabi. “He is impinging on the powers and duties of the boards of studies, with which lie the primary responsibility and power to formulate changes to the syllabi, upon prescribed and necessary consultation and deliberation,” read a letter by BUCTU to Deshmukh.
The university sought to downplay the teachers’ concerns. “The directive was issued for the courses for which new syllabi have not been finalised yet. These are ad-hoc committees, so some adjustments have to be made. The teachers should continue working on the curriculum according to their own wisdom,” said MA Khan, MU registrar.