AMU must become co-ed, merge Shia, Sunni studies: Govt audit - Hindustan Times

AMU must become co-ed, merge Shia, Sunni studies: Govt audit

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Nov 19, 2017 11:32 AM IST

The audit also recommended abolishing admission quotas, including those under the discretion of the vice-chancellor; no official reason was given for the audit.

The Aligarh Muslim University must abolish separate colleges for male and female undergraduate students, do away with discretionary admission quotas and merge the departments for Sunni and Shia studies, a government-backed audit of the institution has suggested.

The 142-year-old Aligarh Muslim University has been audited in effort to move its ‘feudal culture’ and ‘broaden the mental horizon’.(HT File Photo)
The 142-year-old Aligarh Muslim University has been audited in effort to move its ‘feudal culture’ and ‘broaden the mental horizon’.(HT File Photo)

These are among the top recommendations the audit made to help move the 142-year-old university away from its “past feudal culture and present obscurantist attitude”, ensuring its students “broaden their mental horizon” and climb the social ladder with “blinkers off”.

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The institution, better known as AMU, is among 10 universities being audited for their academics, research, finance and infrastructure. The University Grants Commission set up five panels for this on April 25.

No official reason was given for the audit, although some of these universities have been in the news for student protests and allegations of nepotism and autocratic administrations. The Allahabad University and Pondicherry University are among them.

In the case of AMU, a university known for its orthodox Muslim culture and segregation of the sexes, it’s more about a need for wider reforms, the audit suggested.

“There is a need to reorient the educational pattern and syllabi in a very conscious way taking into account the need and background of the students,” said the audit report, which was submitted to the human resource development ministry earlier this month.

In a section titled “University Culture”, the audit said the institution should encourage vocational courses not only to enhance students’ employability but because it will facilitate their upward social mobility and “broaden their mental horizon” so that they can “contribute more meaningfully to their family, community and society”.

The audit report said “the segregation of boys and girls up to the under-graduate courses in separate boys-only and girls-only college is considered a legacy of the past especially when the workplaces and activities in the real world are gender-neutral”.

The AMU’s identity is a contentious political issue, with the central government arguing that granting it the status of a minority institution was in violation of the constitution that does not permit a secular India to set up and fund institutions on religious lines.

In July last year, the government withdrew an appeal filed in the Supreme Court by the previous Congress-led government that had sought to retain the minority tag for the AMU. It also withdrew all letters issued by the previous government allowing the AMU to reserve 50% of its seats for Muslims in the faculty of medicine.

Reacting to the audit, AMU official spokesperson Omar S Peerzada told HT: “As the university has not received any intimation or correspondence in this regard till this date, we are not in a position to give any reaction.”

Some of the recommendations made:

Abolish segregation of sexes in courses

Do away with VC’s admissions quota; make other quota categories merit-based

Appoint VCs through search-cum-selection panel, not election

Hike fees

Use standard national-level entrance tests for admissions

Merge departments; amalgamate three off-campus centres with nearest universities

The UGC-backed audit also said many of the university’s departments could be merged. For instance, the separate Sunni and Shia departments under the Theology faculty could be merged into a department for comparative religion.

“There is a need to merge departments to make them wholesome and to facilitate constant interaction with one another,” said the audit, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times.

The audit panel pointed out that during its visit and interactions with various stakeholders it sensed “groupism being rife amongst teachers, arising from regional and linguistic biases”.

The audit also recommended abolishing admission quotas, including those under the discretion of the vice-chancellor and for the children of employees. It suggested reservations under other categories be made open and merit based as the present system “smacks of nepotism”.

“Admission quota for internal candidates should be as per state government’s prescription for other universities in (Uttar Pradesh),” it said.

“This will help in diverse mix of students in the AMU and as a sequel, lead to natural de-inbreeding,” it said, using an official term to describe the university’s practice of promoting its own students through primary and high school to post-doctoral levels before staffing most of its faculty with them.

“While on a personal front this could be convenient and comfortable, such continued stay in one place doesn’t help academically and professionally due to lack of exposure to the outside world…. Lack of such ingress and egress carries with it the seeds of a ghetto culture that is academically debilitating.”

It suggested that just as in the case of many other top higher educational institutions, Masters and PhDs student of AMU take a five-year break before taking up a teaching assignment with the university.

The audit report also suggested the AMU follow other central universities and Indian Institutes of Technology and Indian Institutes of Management whose vice-chancellors or directors are picked through a search-cum-selection committee and not through election.

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    Neelam Pandey covers education sector and gender issues for Hindustan Times. She is a policy wonk with a keen interest in politics.

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