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Time to turn the page at Mumbai university

Mumbai university has attributed the current problem to a ‘mix-up’ of question papers that were distributed to various colleges. But that’s an excuse lamer than a duck without legs.

mumbai Updated: Feb 02, 2018 00:20 IST
Ayaz Memon
Ayaz Memon
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,university,exams
Hardly a surprise that Mumbai university does not figure too high in the worldwide rankings of universities.(HT file )

What would you do if you were confronted with an examination paper that did not conform to what the syllabus had prescribed? My student days got over decades ago, but the thought still chagrins me.

This is precisely what happened during the Masters of Commerce (MCom) examination as the Hindustan Times reported last week. The particular paper, on Strategic Management, was based on an old syllabus instead of the new, leaving students at sixes and sevens.

The number of students affected totals a whopping 11,134. Imagine their plight! How disorienting it must be to find their efforts at focusing on a certain aspect of the curriculum for days and weeks only to discover this does not feature in the paper.

What state of mind would they be in for the remaining exams? And even if this was the last paper, what conviction would they still have in the institution from which they hope to graduate and make a mark in life?

Mumbai university has attributed the current problem to a ‘mix-up’ of question papers that were distributed to various colleges. But that’s an excuse lamer than a duck without legs.

As redressal, the university has offered to give aggrieved students full marks for questions different from what appeared in the paper. While this may be temporary salve to the wound, in the long run, the remedy would be more dangerous than the affliction.

What faith will potential employers have in graduates who have got full marks for questions they never answered!

Having been through the grind, I have serious compunctions about our educational system, in schools as well as colleges. Undue emphasis on exams promotes a learn-by-rote culture that hardly helps in developing independent thinking.

But that’s hardly the fault of students. They strive for what exists, and must therefore be assessed for what the system provides. But what if the system itself is dysfunctional? Who does the hapless student turn to?

Going by its track record in the past seven to eight years, Mumbai university sadly appears to be going to seed. The problem is not isolated and restricted to the current MCom paper fiasco. It has become systemic, and therefore endemic.

Leaked papers and corrupt invigilators are not new, but have become more frequent. Sharp practices may not be totally eradicated, yet can be restricted with robust checks and balances. What appeared to be an every now and then ailment has become a malaise.

Then, some years back, it was reported that several colleges had not had principals for extended periods and almost 1,000 posts for professors and lecturers were vacant. What kind of education is being provided in these colleges is anybody’s guess.

In 2012 if I remember correctly, several students landed up at the wrong centre to write their examination paper because of incorrect information provided by the university.

And mid last year, it will be recalled, came the crisis created by the inordinate delay in online correction of exam papers, which the University was adamant happened because of a technical glitch.

While this may have been true, failure to put in place manageable software was in itself the cardinal sin, compounded by the lethargy in making amends. That the university should have been so cavalier with the lives of students was unpardonable.

Not unnaturally the student community was up in arms. Later, some professors also got rebellious which forced the university to accept its failure and vice-chancellor Sandeep Deshmukh lost his job.

This is the backdrop in which a once great institution is functioning nowadays. Such massive deterioration in administration is bound to have ramifications in academic standards too.

The number of papers published — globally acknowledged as the benchmark of a university’s stature — has been falling rapidly. Hardly a surprise then Mumbai university does not figure too high in the worldwide rankings of universities.

This is a tragedy if not calamity. Walking past the magnificent Indo-Gothic structure where Mumbai university is headquartered, one can sense a clarion call for assistance emerging from muted stoniness.

Given the way things are, perhaps nothing less than a purge will do.

First Published: Feb 02, 2018 00:20 IST