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With a patch of land and finance, they could get ‘university’ approved: Ex-chairperson, UGC, Dr Arun Nigavekar

After independence, education was being redefined to be an entity that encourages human intellectual discourse. University-level education in the country began with the establishment of three universities, one is Calcutta University, Mumbai University, and the Madras University, but as the government’s focus turned to create more human resources in the country, more universities started to come up.

pune Updated: Nov 16, 2017 16:15 IST
Ananya Barua 
Ananya Barua 
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,patch of land and finance,university
Dr. Arun Nigavekar in conversation with HT in Pune.(SANKET WANKHADE/HT PHOTO)

The circular issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) on November 10, directed 123 institutes to drop the term ‘university’ from their nomenclature and use ‘deemed-to-be university’ instead. Speaking to Ananya Barua, ex-chairperson of the UGC, Dr Arun Nigavekar, shares his experience with the long battle around ‘university’ status and offers an oversight into the education system in India.

What is a deemed-to-be university?

The title of ‘deemed-to-be universities’ has come into this country in a very abnormally, non-reflecting environment. The question of deemed-to-be-universities has been on since the 1980s. By definition, they have the power to generate knowledge on a well-focused subject or stream , but do not have the capacity to go beyond those focus areas. But, they cannot be called universities because a university is supposed to be an empowered system which crosses all subjects and boundaries of disciplines, without focusing on one. It is the umbrella of all institutes. So, the others should be called ‘deemed-to-be universities’ and not a ‘university’, and that is where the conflict lies, as these other institutes with time have branched out into several disciplines and have been generating a financial strength for the owner.

How has the education paradigm changed over the years?

It has changed a lot. After independence, education was being redefined to be an entity that encourages human intellectual discourse. University-level education in the country began with the establishment of three universities, one is Calcutta University, Mumbai University, and the Madras University, but as the government’s focus turned to create more human resources in the country, more universities started to come up.

The qualitative education growth which had begun then, with time, changed its curve towards a quantitative growth, leading to the negative consequences of today, where we have institutes and universities coming up at every nook and corner, mostly with an objective to reap money rather than quality education.

Could you please elaborate on the negative consequences?

This came into being when some individuals realised the economics of the education sector. People in the political domain realised that there is a strategy which if used carefully, can generate a lot of money. And, that’s why if you see, you will find that many politically influential individuals began to establish their own engineering, medical and management colleges. More than 80 per cent of such colleges have political backing.

Can you share an incident to substantiate?

For example, when Madhya Pradesh was split and Chattisgarh was formed, with Congress as the governing party and Ajit Jogi as first CM. Also, Arjun Singh who was the education minister at the Centre was also the CM of Madhya Pradesh. Although not mentioned anywhere, these two together approved 142 independent private universities in a small state like Chattisgarh, within just three months. Cases of such dubiety were so rampant that with a letter mentioning that one has a patch of land and finance, they could get their ‘universities’ approved within an hour.

First Published: Nov 16, 2017 16:14 IST