“Institutions should be free and autonomous as in America”

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Friday blamed “bureaucratic barrier” as a major hurdle for the delay in starting of the Nalanda University, which is being established in Bihar, close to the ancient historic institution of learning.

“The reason for delay is the bureaucratic control. We are having some problem in getting the sanctioned funds released but we should be able to deal with it,” Professor Sen, who also chairs the Governing Board of the University, said.

Explanations for bureaucratic queries take a lot of time, he said, while speaking at an open session on “Nalanda University: A 21{+s}{+t} Century University: (Re) Calling the Past'' here.

Dismissing a growing perception that the University was in trouble and that the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, had disassociated himself from it as the first Visitor, Professor Sen said the delay was only because of bureaucratic hurdles, which could be partly due to ignorance, and Mr. Kalam had disassociated himself only because he had stepped down as the President, in which capacity he held the position of the Visitor also.

“We wanted him to continue as the Visitor but he wrote to us saying that would be inappropriate since the new President had taken over,” he explained.

Describing Nalanda as the university of “Bihar, India, Asia and the globe,” the Nobel laureate said admissions would start as soon as the funds were released to enable appointment of the faculty.

Quoting Mr. Kalam, whom he met earlier in the day, Professor Sen said he (Mr. Kalam) felt that research in India was difficult because of bureaucratic control, though some of the institutions like the Indian Institutes of technology (IITs) were very good basic training centres.

“There should be no bureaucratic control over education and the institutions should get freedom and autonomy as in the American universities,” Professor Sen said. He said a lot of money was being spent on higher education in India, which should have been spent on school education, but not much was being achieved.

He expressed unhappiness that India was not represented in the top 200 institutes of the world, though several Asian institutes had found place in the survey conducted by the Times group. “The important thing to recognise is the standard of education and the relevance of what is being taught,” he said, adding this would be followed strictly in Nalanda.

Professor Saugata Sen, member of the Governing Board, said even though the Indian institutions did not seem to be doing well at a global level, there was enormous individual talent. “So something was missing which failed to translate individual talent to administrative ability,” he said, adding that most good researchers were in institutes and hence unable to benefit the young students. There is a need to strike a balance between research and teaching.

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