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Academics call for thorough restructuring in higher education

By Our Staff Reporter

CHENNAI NOV. 16. Two Vice-Chancellors of key south Indian universities, a senior executive of the University Grants Commission and a host of other academics today called for drastic and urgent reforms in higher education.

"We need a complete academic, administrative, financial and examination restructuring in higher education," V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice-Chairman, UGC, said, participating in a two-day seminar here on `Emerging trends in general higher education'.

Reforms in examinations were particularly crucial, he stressed.

"The purpose of examinations is not to pass or fail a student but to get him to learn. Lots of other methods such as continuous assessments can be used for this."

As for restructuring of administration, he called for total empowerment of campuses and courses. The University of Madras, for instance, was working towards a system that would allow its colleges to award their own degrees.

On the academic front, Dr. Pillai suggested universities offer more undergraduate courses and not restrict themselves to postgraduate and research work. As a first step, they should start integrated five-year undergraduate courses.

"The most senior teachers, who get to attend and learn from international conferences, should be available to take classes for first-year undergraduate students."

However, all these would be effective only if there were financial reforms. He noted that over 80 per cent of the UGC's total grants went to just five per cent of the universities and one per cent of the colleges under it. Worse, more than 90 per cent of these grants were used by the colleges and universities to pay salaries and not for development.

C.V. Jayamani, Finance Secretary, University of Kerala, conceded that most of the UGC grants were directed towards other needs. He suggested that institutes do away with outdated fund management systems and adopt innovative ways for resource generation such as `earn while you learn' schemes, consultations, publishing of books, collecting affiliation fees and arranging donation campaigns, especially from alumni associations.

Higher education should be made relevant to students, M.S. Thimmappa, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bangalore, said. It would enable them to realise their total potential.

He spoke against total compartmentalisation of subjects and called for more integrated courses.

On attracting foreign students, he said institutes should offer courses such as Indian sciences and studies, which they could not get elsewhere.

Courses in traditional dance or folk dance, which foreigners would specifically seek in India, could be offered and universities should have curricula specially designed for them, S.P. Thyagarajan, Vice-Chancellor, University of Madras, said.

There should also be a policy reform for strengthening of infrastructure, and admission and visa procedures should be simplified, he said.

Academic and administrative audit systems should also be implemented so that a college's functioning would be open to review. The University of Madras had started an auditing system and asked its affiliate colleges to replicate it at their levels, he said.

The seminar was organised by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

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