Opinion | Here’s a way out of the Khalsa University imbroglio | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Opinion | Here’s a way out of the Khalsa University imbroglio

The 128-year-old Khalsa College in Amritsar represents the collective sentiments of the Sikhs and the Punjabi community. Its historical significance, luminous alumni, and iconic architecture make this heritage educational institution a legitimate source of pride for Punjab.

punjab Updated: Apr 07, 2017 18:18 IST
Gurmohan Singh Walia
The institution is in the thick of controversy due to its management’s ambition to upgrade it to a full­fledged university.
The institution is in the thick of controversy due to its management’s ambition to upgrade it to a full­fledged university.(HT Photo)

The 128-year-old Khalsa College in Amritsar represents the collective sentiments of the Sikhs and the Punjabi community. Its historical significance, luminous alumni, and iconic architecture make this heritage educational institution a legitimate source of pride for Punjab.

But, for the last four years, Khalsa College has been in the thick of controversy because of the management’s ambition to upgrade the institution to a full-fledged university. Some leading figures of the Sikh community opposed this, arguing in favour of retaining the heritage status of the college. The Punjab assembly passed an act last year establishing Khalsa University as an independent education entity.

The management, however, did not change the status and nomenclature of Khalsa College keeping in mind the feelings of some members of the community, and it is working independent of the newly created university.

The row has erupted again as Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh has publicly declared his intent to rescind the Khalsa University Act and restore its original status and nomenclature as only Khalsa College. The Captain’s royal forefathers had made a stellar contribution to Khalsa College and were on the post of chancellor for many years. Maharaja Mohinder Singh had visualised the importance of higher education long ago and had set up Mohindra College, Patiala, in 1875, even before the establishment of Punjab University in Lahore.

LEARN FROM OTHERS

Every Institution has to grow with the passage of time, and so is the story of Khalsa College. The community missed the bus in the 1920s when Banaras Hindu University and Aligarh Muslim University were set up. There is a possibility and way out to elevate and upgrade Khalsa College into university if the management, the government, and the community act in tandem. There are a number of such institutions of higher education in Britain which have retained their nomenclature as college and yet are the leading universities of the world.

For instance, King’s College, London, is one of England’s oldest and most prestigious educational institutions that was founded in 1829. It has more than 29,000 students and 6,000 staff. It is ranked among the top 25 multidisciplinary research universities in global listings. Since 2008, it has been authorised to award its own degrees and hence has been elevated as state university.

Likewise, Imperial College in London, on its centenary in 2007, was given the university status as ‘The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine’.

Another example that offers a way out of the Khalsa College row is London School of Economics (LSE). Founded in 1895, it has grown to become one of the foremost social science universities in the world, ranked alongside Harvard, UC Berkeley and Stanford. A specialist university with an international intake, LSE has a cosmopolitan student body, with around 10,500 full-time students from 140 countries. Over 100 languages are spoken on its campus.

From 1902, following its absorption into the University of London, and up until 2007, all degrees were awarded by the federal university, in common with all other colleges of the university. However, this system was changed in 2007, and the college has been elevated as university in 2008 to award its own degrees.

RETAIN THE NAME

Keeping these examples in view, Khalsa College management can request the Punjab government to amend the Khalsa University Act and allow the college to become a functional university retaining its original name. The state government may allow Khalsa University to retain Khalsa College as a constituent autonomous institution as in the case in University of Cambridge and University of Oxford.

Guru Nanak Dev University is a public university and has its own name in the field of higher education. But, in the present scenario, Khalsa College or Khalsa University cannot remain forever under the shadow of GNDU. They have to grow and find their own place under the sun. There are number of instances where private universities have achieved higher ranking and better success as compared to public universities in India and abroad.

Moreover, future of 300 students who have already enrolled in different courses at Khalsa University is at stake. The university has also employed a sizeable number of teaching and non-teaching staff. The state government and the governing council of Khalsa University must take into account their future before taking any decision on this subject. Both the government and the council should sit across the table to work out a solution that preserves the heritage status of this great institution and also allows it to grow. An amicable solution will be Capt Amarinder Singh’s contribution to his ancestors’ glorious legacy.

(The writer is vice-chancellor of Sri Guru Granth Sahib World University, Fatehgarh Sahib)