The very first thing to note is the shameful silence of the science academies which championed the cause of a four year bachelors program in the sciences; their position paper was a precursor to the IISc's FYUP (and also Bangalore University where it has been in suspension since 2013) which started in August 2011, the same year IIT-K converted its five-year Integrated MSc program into a 4-year BS program.
The Academies didn't defend, even partially, the FYUP at Delhi University. I can understand, sort of, their silence because DU's FYUP was not just for the sciences, but for all areas of study including commerce and the "arts subjects". But I just cannot understand their quiet aloofness after UGC came after IISc and now, the IITs.
The statements of support from Prof. C.N.R. Rao and Dr. Anil Kakodkar have been timely. But their framing leaves much to be desired: "why are you doing this," they seem to say to UGC, "to our premier institutions?" It's as if it's okay for the UGC to do this to other institutions. As influential leaders, they could have stood solidly behind all our institutions of higher ed, and demanded autonomy for all of them.
It has become fashionable among the influencers to support the creation of new types of institutions such as IIESTs and IISERs as well as starting new IITs, NITs and IIMs. An assumption which drives this trend is that our universities are so badly doomed that reforming "the system" is not even worth the effort.
But, this mindset ignores the fact that an overwhelming majority (more than 95%, going by a recent talk by President Pranab Mukherjee) of our students study in our universities and their affiliated colleges. It is important for our scientific elite to support them in their struggle against irrational regulations.
One of the strongest critiques of Indian higher ed policies of the 1950s was that the then government chose national labs (basically, the CSIR labs) over universities for science funding. This choice had the effect of pretty much decimating university research, and helped make many of them just examination-conducting bodies.
Our current enthusiasm for creating IIXs can only have a similar debilitating effect on our universities, and may end up solidifying a two-tier system in which some get elite and expensive education while a vast majority go to increasingly impoverished universities.
We should be aiming for a system where our good universities have the same exalted status as the IITs, and others know what they need to do to achieve that status. It is in our own long-term interest that our policies keep us moving toward this goal.
I'm afraid our policies are dragging us in the opposite direction.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
UGC's War on FYUP - VII: Some Observations
Posted by Abi. Posted at 4:29 PM