Tamil Nadu

Violations of norms mar standing of universities

Rules not followed for appointment of faculty members, according to data furnished for rating

While aspirants are many for Vice-Chancellorship, the academic standing and research output of many State universities have been deteriorating rapidly over the decades apparently due to deviation from UGC norms for faculty appointments, going by data furnished by leading universities for rating under NIRF (National Institutional Ranking Framework) 2018.

The UGC advocates a minimum strength of seven faculty members for a department, to fulfil requirements of teaching, research and extension. But, there are 54 departments with less than three faculty members in University of Madras, 51 in Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU), 19 in Bharathidasan University (BDU), and 12 in Manonmaniam Sundaranar University. Only in Bharathiar University (BU), each of the 39 departments has more than four faculty members.

“There are many more departments with just single teacher and two members of the faculty each. Departments with already lesser than required number of teachers are split by Vice-Chancellors at their discretion to create headship for the purpose of rewarding loyal teachers. That explains why there are 83 departments in University of Madras, 74 in MKU, 28 in Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, 33 in Bharathidasan University and 39 in Bharathiar University,” explains P. K. Ponnuswamy, who has served as Vice-Chancellor of University of Madras and Madurai Kamaraj University.

It is with the truncated faculty members that many schools are created, purportedly to promote interdepartmental research and training. There are 15 to 20 schools in each of these five universities. Additionally, there exist only for namesake several Centres created with the purpose of furthering research in niche areas.

The grey area that is showing up increasingly of late is the presence of students in just single-digit numbers in many departments or even none in some cases.

There have been instances of teachers in University of Madras, Bharathidasan University and MKU winning national and international awards and recognition, but most of them are on the verge of retirement.

The research culture could be carried out only through replacing the retiring teachers with bright minds. But, the pattern of appointments leaves much to be desired, Prof. Ponnuswamy pointed out, citing the instance of the appointments made to 40 posts of Assistant Professor and Associate Professor in Bharathiar University in recent years. “A majority of the appointed candidates had not even entered the portals of universities for research; they had completed doctorates under part-time or distance mode. How then can research in frontier areas become possible there? The very edifice of higher education has been broken in this case,” Prof. Ponnuswamy contended.

“Unless the system is rectified to ensure that only the best researchers with teaching aptitude are recruited, cutting-edge research in universities will evaporate completely,” he added.

‘Rampant corruption’

Creation of many departments is a fallout of “rampant corruption” in the university and college system, because of the tendency of the political class to view the higher educational system as a cash cow, Krishnaswamy, former convenor of Tamil Nadu Federation of Universities Faculty Associations said.

“Universities are seen as soft targets for money making by politicians irrespective of the parties at the helm, since students who constitute the affected section do not have any strong association to oppose the menace. These problems would not have arisen had the office of the Chancellor stemmed the corruption in the first place,” he argued.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 5:30:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/violations-of-norms-mar-standing-of-universities/article22321376.ece

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