Imposing Gothic buildings and iconic architecture: this is the best that one of the country’s oldest universities now has to offer. These are among the institutional strengths’ as described by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) in its reaccreditation report in 2012.
The institutional weaknesses, on the other hand, include faculty not involved in research, posts lying vacant and too many courses with not enough teachers.
The quality of the University of Mumbai has been on the decline for the last few years and the series of exam-related gaffes this season, has further highlighted the malaise.
In 2010, Mumbai university ranked 96 in the annually released QS rankings of Asian universities, falling to 145 in 2011, and then into the 151 to 160 bracket in 2012. Although in the QS world rankings, Mumbai university’s rank rose to 551 in 2012 from last year’s 578, it is still nowhere as high as the 401 rank in 2009.
“Rankings are debatable,” said vice-chancellor Rajan Welukar, when asked about the fall. “All over the world there has been a debate about rankings. Until and unless you have the same conditions across the board you can’t compare two or more things.”
There is concern that the university’s reputation among employers, too, is in jeopardy.
“After the way TYBCom marks were inflated last year, we heard that the industry was confused when they saw such high marks on resumes,” said a principal of one college.
Further, the introduction of the credit system and new courses has also meant an increase in the number of exams but not an increase in staff. Students are frustrated on many levels, and the teaching and administrative staff are burdened, low on morale and griping on issues of pending pensions and arrears, poor academic leadership and political interference.
Problems afflicting the University of Mumbai are manifold—beginning with the expanding administrative burden, given that from 3.75 lakh students in 2001-02 numbers nearly doubled to 6.5 lakh students in 2011-12.
The university has 664 affiliated colleges – among the highest number in the country, with just six colleges that are autonomous.
With the central government focused on improving enrolment and making education accessible, the university has little choice but to add more colleges and students, said officials.
Welukar’s appointment is still in court. “Every day the administration collapses a little more,” said an administrative official on the condition of anonymity. “Everyone is upset and people have lost faith.”
Although plans for university reforms, including splitting the university to make it more manageable have been floated, they await implementation.