Friday, June 24, 2005

Academic audit

The Hindu reported today that the University of Mysore went in for a sort of academic audit, an evaluation of the University by a panel of external experts, constituted by the Vice Chancellor, J. Shashidhar Prasad. The panel members were K. Muniyappa, K.J. Rao, G.K. Karanth and C. Thangamuthu, and it was chaired by M. Anandakrishnan, former Vice Chancellor of Anna University.

Excerpts from the report:

...about 30 per cent of the 39 departments have shown performance levels comparable to 30 top-rated departments in their spheres in the country. However, an equal number suffer weakness, including poor faculty strength and competence, unclear goals, incoherent academic focus, internal contradictions and unviable student enrolment.

The committee of experts noted [questioned?] [the] enthusiasm in the university to start short-term certificate and diploma courses. This, it said, will dissipate manpower, time and energy, and questioned the need for it as university departments should be catering only to PG courses and spending resources on quality research

...30 per cent of the funds are generated internally, and the university is comfortably placed financially. But this is not sufficient if the university is to emerge as an institution of national importance.

In a ToI op-ed from a while ago (November 2003!), Jayant Narlikar urged flexibility in managing the internal affairs of what he called ARI's (Autonomous Research Institutions). He added:

The purpose of providing flexibility and autonomy is to enhance the creativity of the scientists working there. This has also objectively to be gauged. How many ARIs today have external scientific monitoring? One of the few exceptions, is the Inter- University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, which has an external scientific advisory committee visiting every 18 months. Such monitoring should help weed out deadwood and move from unproductive to productive lines.

I am not sure how one "weeds out deadwood" in our system, which has a public sector culture of never firing anyone for non-performance. However, an external audit would certainly help in exerting certain peer pressure. In any case, even if the 'deadwood' cannot be 'weeded out', such an audit provides a method of identifying and rewarding high fliers.

Such an audit can also take an unbiased -- and critical -- look at programs, like the Mysore University's audit committee seems to have done with the diploma programs.


  1. Sunil said...

    I think this is a really good idea as a first step. Like you's very hard to remove deadwood in the Indian educational system...

    But I think progress can start by really rewarding and incentivizing high achievers. That way, a culture to encourage performance will be created. The deadwood, over time, will automatically disappear.