When it can offer cheap education, it is in the news for its internal strife

When was the last time Bangalore University (BU) figured in a discussion on academics? Can’t remember? But mention internal strife and bingo! everyone has something to say. Be it the intense rivalry between Vice-Chancellor N. Prabhu Dev and Registrar (Administration) B.C. Mylarappa or the near-physical fights during Syndicate meetings, BU finds itself neck deep in unsavoury situations. Consequently, the real issues pertaining to the university are overshadowed by personal ones.

It is almost as if the 48-year-old university takes a step backwards for every step taken forward. For an entity that has three lakh students on its rolls, it is saddled with unfulfilled promises, unimplemented projects and ambivalent decisions.

Curious state

Take the latest example of Dr. Prabhu Dev’s supposed exit from the post, though he has another four months to go. Curiously, his large portrait adorns a wall that has portraits of his predecessors. Dr. Prabhu Dev has even instructed officials not to send him any important files as it is “inappropriate” as he has been offered another government post (as chairperson of the Karnataka Health System Commission). He has instead appointed a panel of officers to carry out his duties.

Distance education

These developments are detrimental to an institution that reaches out to a large number of rural and disadvantaged students not only because of its low fee structure but also through its distance education programme. BU’s Directorate of Correspondence Courses and Distance Education (DCC and DE) itself is mired in controversies.

According to university sources, enrolment in distance education courses has come down as has income from it. “Earlier, the university used to get Rs. 20 crore per year from the fee collected; now it has come down to around Rs. 4 crore. There is not even a calendar of events. What can one expect?” a Syndicate member despaired.

Late by six months

The annual examinations for the undergraduate and postgraduate courses for distance education students, scheduled for April this year, will be held only this month, late by six months. A tug-of-war between the study centres and BU over installing CCTVs during exams to prevent malpractices led to the delay. Students also complain about the unavailability of study material. Though B.R. Niranjan, director of DCC and DE admitted to it, he said that material had been made available online for most courses. But the question is how this will help students who do not have access to the internet.

Costly outsourcing

Even as there are complaints about depleting funds in some quarters, the expenses seem to be spiralling because of outsourcing which many say is unnecessary. Syndicate member D.S. Krishna cites the example of the increase in the exam budget, which had increased phenomenally. BU now spends Rs. 7.60 per answer script as it is being printed outside the university press, as opposed to Rs. 2 or Rs. 3 that used to be spent earlier in its own press.

Dr. Prabhu Dev’s critics point to constant change of guard as contributory factor to the all-round degeneration. “In the last four years, we have had five Registrars for Administration), three Registrars for Evaluation and as many Finance Officers. Each new person, most of them professors, has to start from the scratch, wasting precious time,” they say.

Bifurcation plans

One of the principal problems is that BU has too many affiliated colleges, 654 in all. The long-pending plan to tackle this through bifurcation (and even trifurcation), however, is still hanging fire. The proposal to divide it and create a new Bangalore University at Hoskote on the city’s outskirts and converting the Jnana Bharathi campus into Bangalore South University was thought to be virtually dead after the demise of the former Higher Education Minister V.S. Acharya, who is said to have been keen on it.

However, sources in the Higher Education Ministry said that the proposal was very much alive. “There are talks going on about the bifurcation and a series of discussions will be held over the next few months. The focus will be on making two universities of equal strength,” the sources said.

In his defence

Though much of the criticism has been directed towards Dr. Prabhu Dev’s tenure, the man himself claims that it was under him that BU figured in the all-India top universities list in a national weekly. With approximately four months to go before his tenure ends, the Vice-Chancellor’s answer to what prevents BU from moving forward was mystifying: “The problem and the solution are the same.”