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Quality tag for education

The Vice-Chancellor of Bangalore University, M.S. Thimmappa, has vowed to make the university more student friendly.

BANGALORE ATTRACTS lakhs of students from all over India. Students from the North flock to our professional colleges, be it for courses in engineering (for which, our City has the most number of colleges in the country), medicine, or law. But where do we stand, when it comes to providing our youngsters quality education at the undergraduate level?

M.S. Thimmappa, Vice-Chancellor of the Bangalore University, answers issues surrounding this crucial question in an interview. Excerpts:

You have been in favour of autonomous syllabi, and most students will agree it is a change to look forward to. But don't you think this kind of a change will come with its own share of troubles?

We are looking at 475 colleges and some 4.5 lakh students affiliated to one university. These are different students, who belong to different colleges, and have different needs. Now this is a colossal task, but if power is entrusted in safe hands, the system will only be more efficient.

Will it lead to misuse of freedom?

Of course, only the colleges that have been credible in the past will stand to gain autonomy. So, the standards will be high. Courses maybe re-paired for newer options and so on... What we want for the colleges is faster and more efficient ways to react to their own problems. A little policing will, of course, go with the limited freedom and autonomy. We need to see that the freedom is not misused in terms of reservations and donations. I am confident that here in Bangalore, nothing will stay behind curtains. We have a transparent media and we are open to it. It is about time we brought about changes.

It is an experiment most would agree is worthwhile, but what about the existing system of evaluation?

The system isn't computerised, and mistakes do occur. I do agree that we haven't yet managed to eradicate corruption in the existing system. The good news is that we will have the system computerised by this March. With our tie-up with Infosys we will be able to completely computerise the system of evaluation in four phases. Only the computer will have the identity of the student before evaluation and no one will have access to it while the evaluation process is on. We are looking forward to making the system as student-friendly as possible.

Do you think this will attract more students to Bangalore University as compared to other universities such as Mumbai to pursue undergraduate education or even keep students of our university from going to other universities?

I think, today, with all the competition, students are striving towards a more secure future. There is a tendency to take professional subjects over others. No one would want to take up subjects that don't ultimately prove lucrative. We have started some vocational courses with on-the-job training such as Nutrition and Dietetics and Business Management. We have put a lot of effort in designing courses such as Biotechnology. They have been introduced to stimulate students' interest towards undergraduate degree course, as against professional courses. We also revise the syllabi of all subjects every few years to keep them relevant. But, ultimately, one should understand and not just learn. Our university's motto has been taken from the Bhagvaad Gita, which says: Gyaanam, Vigyanam Sahitam. Knowledge and their meaning should be applied to real life. Education is not just learning, it is a more wholesome process.

Some people think having major and minor subjects is a good idea. The system exists is other universities.

Well, taking more than one subject keeps a student's options open. If one feels that one has made the wrong choice of a subject, one of the other chosen subjects can be taken up.

You have done your doctorate in psychology. What inspired you to take this subject and how have you applied it in your university's functions?

I was a student of science when I took up psychology by chance in Shimoga. But slowly, my interest grew in this field. I was fascinated by abnormal psychology. And here, at the university, we have started programmes that help students in concentration, practical study techniques, and many other types of counselling programmes. There are also HRD training programmes at the university that help interpersonal relations through motivation.

As the Vice-Chancellor, where do you see Bangalore University heading?

I began my term with certain objectives in mind. I want to change certain aspects of the university, while I am at it. This time around, I want to set up maximum teacher-student interaction. The student-teacher relationship needs to be changed in many colleges in a big way. Students not only retain what they are taught, but also the way they are taught. As for the higher levels, I want to have the post-graduate syllabi revised, and introduce only quality-oriented research programmes.

Arranging for active collaborations between areas of research would also be a big step forward. The sciences are intricately woven around each other.

The "global village" phenomena?

Yes. We have the internet, and the world is becoming a smaller place. We also have tremendous potential. We need to capitalise on this. I hope to introduce more value-added education for all the students here at the university.


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