-Sri B.V. Raghunandan, SVS College, Bantwal

The tale of the universities in Karnataka are like the journey of river Ganges from the purity of Himalaya to the polluted Hoogly in Kolkata. Starting from the days of Takshila to the modern day's existence is no less a polluted journey than that of mother Ganges. From the pristine objective of being the beacon of wisdom and academic development, the universities in Karnataka have become obese immature boys putting on the weight of corruption, nepotism, casteeism, favouritism, ad hoc management, and day to day shift in policies and programmes. Instead of generating wisdom, it has created power centers that feed on the University for their own selfish ends. The vision and mission are confined to the bill boards at the entrance of the universities and the reports generated for consumption by NAAC Peer Team on their mandatory visit once in five years.
A drastic change that came to afflict most of the universities is the transformation of the role of being agents for conducting examinations and declaring the results. Many a vice-chancellor lamented about the fact even under the Annual System of examinations. UGC, in its own wisdom, coerced most of the universities to accept semester system in the name of progress. This move pushed the universities more towards conducting two full fledged examinations per year instead of one examination. The teachers, the colleges, the non-teaching staff and the universities spend most of their time in conducting the examinations, declaring the results and issuing marks cards. When marks cards scandals arise now and then, some more time is spent in managing the circus. Just compare it to the system, when both teachers and universities spent more time in academic development not long ago. Tutors were provided in non-science department and demonstrators in science departments. The tutors were required to do the entire process of examinations under the guidance of the faculty. The wisdom behind the system was that examination work is mechanical and teaching work is creative. The teaching faculty should not engage themselves in the mechanical work. Compare that wisdom to the present day faculty who spends more time in examination related work than teaching. It is gratifying to note that premiere institutions like National Law School of Indian Universities are bringing back the Tutors System. It is time that universities leave the work of conducting examinations to the colleges and merely supervises the work by devoting a minimum time.
Another area, where universities lost their perspective is losing their authority in academic matters in favour of the government departments. With many of the universities becoming state universities in Karnataka, they depend on the finance provided by state government. Using the role of being the pay masters, the government departments usurped the powers of the universities in many academic matters. The rules applicable to the universities are no less
bureaucratic than the PWD department. The Board of Appointments no longer has the power to fix the scales of the recruited faculty based on their qualifications and experience. Every recruited teacher has to start only with the entry level remuneration. There was a time when even the workload of the teachers in affiliated colleges was determined by the universities.Now, even the workloads of the teachers in the universities are determined by the government
The role of universities as affiliating authority is also diluted with every educational contractor getting affiliation for his college. The contractor may find it more difficult in getting the building license from the Municipal Corporation than getting affiliation from the University to a college in the same building. No longer any condition needs to be fulfilled. Affiliation is given even to colleges without having a building, leave alone a library, sports ground, hostel, toilets, rest-room and other amenities. There were times when the Affiliation Committee  investigated about the objectives of the promoters and rejected affiliation to the
promoters having a business background. Now, universities are ready to rename the buildings and departments in the names of private donors. No wonder, in a short time from now, every bootlegger will get the names of his parents or his own name contributed to the buildings and departments. Yes, Sir, we are available for sale, if the price bid is right.
One more peculiarity is the establishment of specialised universities for Engineering, Medical, Women etc in various parts of Karnataka. The idea of a university is that it has all the branches of study under its fold. Where, it has only a few branches of study, it makes the institution a college and not a university. If more universities are needed, the government can do so. To make the universities more responsive to the requirement of the colleges, the government can remove the area restriction so that a college can seek affiliation from university. Opening specialised universities do not carry any wisdom on the part of the government except satisfying the vested interests.
What is afflicting most of the universities is simple plagiarism of American practices and a higher degree of commercialisation. The universities are functioning like any unscrupulous trader out to get the maximum blood of the customers. Instead of functioning as a beacon of wisdom, the universities copied the commercial model of Engineering and Medical Colleges in introducing the capitation fees in the form of payment seats and merit seats. With an alternative
available to the graduates to join BPO or such other companies and the capitation fee becoming a deterrent for pursuing post graduation, the cream of the students will shy away from post graduate studies. This will create a long term impact on the quality of faculty available. The adverse impact is felt by the colleges even now. Getting a good faculty has become a dream. One may not see a single candidate who may possess even three out of ten qualities required of a teacher even among a group of 100 candidates. Naturally, one shudders to think about the future. A model and an ideal university should have the following characteristics:

  • It must function as an effective affiliating authority
  • Post Graduate Courses offered at the rates at which they are offered in Government colleges
  • They should have academic staff colleges offering intensive training and conducting workshops on varied subjects even for shorter duration like a few days
  • The supervisory role of colleges should be strengthened so as to fix up the scales for management paid staff and also to ensure only properly qualified teachers are appointed
  • It can also set up a Teachers Recruitment Commission so as to recruit and provide good teaching faculty to affiliated colleges
  • Delegate the duties of conducting the examinations to the college
  • Give full autonomy to colleges to devise their curriculum with the required checks and balances to ensure quality
  • Revise the syllabus at least once in a year, if it remains the prerogative of the colleges, and once in two years for non-autonomous colleges
  • Make the Boards of Studies to meet at least once in two months to deliberate on the existing curriculum and design a new curriculum over a period of one or two years
  • Do not appoint any Dean or Head of the Department to be a full- fledged officer like Registrar (Evaluation) or Finance Officer to carry on the work as an extra burden apart from the usual teaching and administrative work.

Finally, if the Universities are bold enough to try only what has merit, abandon the idea of semester, whether it is choice-based or credit based and bring back the Annual System for the overall development of the students. If necessary, feedback can be obtained from all those who are concerned about the semester system and the decision can be made on the basis of the input generated. Ever since its introduction, most of the teachers are demoralised for carrying on non-teaching work more than teaching work. Reading habits are coming down drastically, as the teacher runs as if Alice in Wonderland to remain where he is in terms of portions, extra-curricular activities and the multiplicity of terminal examinations even within the short duration of a semester.
The students have become almost robots created out of defective programming. They run to catch the trains of almost one examination per month. It is doubtful whether a student in Final Year can remember the titles of all the subjects he has studied in the Course in the first two years. The Supreme Court made it compulsory that every student should study Constitution so that one more subject was added. An inter-disciplinary subject was added at the time of introducing Credit-Based semester scheme. In addition, extracurricular activities are added as a subject. Many colleges introduced compulsory certificate courses to please the NAAC Peer Committee or because the UGC has sanctioned grants. The  resultant is the five hour teaching per day is increased to six hours per day and Saturday almost becoming a full day. In subjects having heavy syllabus, there is the compulsion of special classes. The net effect is one tired group of students in the teen age and the second tired group of teachers nearing their retirement age or only a few years to go before retirement. Only a radical and intensive study can throw light on the pathetic condition. Let us believe, better wisdom will prevail on the part of planners.




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