I would like to add another point to the differences mentioned by Krishna Kumar in his article “Universities, ours and theirs” (Aug. 9). While political and administrative reasons are largely to blame for the state of our universities, another factor is the thinking of the present day middle class, which is materialistic. When a graduate thinks of pursuing higher studies, a common question that arises in the minds of people is: did he not get a good placement in his campus interview? If you have a professional degree, you ought to have a job, preferably in a multinational company. Research is for “them,” not “us.”
Our higher education system still considers our faculty members “employees.” As an employee, a teacher needs to put in only 16 hours a week to be eligible for a fat salary. There is a mismatch between societal goals and the university’s goals on the purpose of education. Universities are reluctant to introduce radical changes.
The archaic and outdated rules framed by monolithic bodies such as the UGC and the AICTE have been instrumental in curtailing the freedom of universities to develop into centres of excellence. The posts of Vice-Chancellors and other high officials have been politicised. There is no evaluation of the faculty by students.
I was reminded of Mark Twain’s remark “I never let my schooling interfere with my education” on reading the article. Just as brick and mortar do not make a home, classrooms, teachers, students, and buildings cannot make world class universities. The state of our universities laid bare by Mr. Krishna Kumar is a telling comment on the emerging status of India. We are building a superstructure, unaware that the ground beneath is sodden.
I fully agree with Mr. Krishna Kumar’s views. Without doubt, we suffer from the “Diploma Disease.” The medical profession to which I belong is no exception. The emphasis is on getting an additional degree or diploma. The public mindset also encourages the tendency. I was in the U.S. recently and was amazed to see the importance its universities give to training and research. Any specialisation you choose in the West after medical school is research based.