– Reshma Ravishanker
The Forum of Former Vice-Chancellors of Karnataka has criticized the BJP state government’s proposal to establish new universities at a time when existing universities are facing numerous challenges such as faculty shortages, lack of research facilities and funds.
In an official statement released on March 12, the Forum, which has on its panel 67 former Vice-Chancellors, states that the government’s focus must, instead lie on liberating the existing universities from “academic as well as financial paralysis”.
Karnataka state hosts 32 state universities, 17 private universities, 14 deemed-to-be universities, one open university and a central university.
“Universities are centers of higher learning and research and generate the competent manpower crucial for economic growth and social development. However, currently, almost all universities in Karnataka are suffering from lack of adequate infrastructure, faculty and finances. Many of them have shrunk as mere ‘teaching shops’ as they are run by guest faculty. There is little or no research,” says the statement.
Dr R.N. Sreenivas Gowda, Secretary of the Forum and former Vice-Chancellor of the Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University, says that the government must focus on strengthening existing universities and establishing postgraduate centres. “If there are no universities in a particular region or district, the government can establish postgraduate centres rather than establish a new university. Setting up a new varsity involves higher costs and faculty recruitment is another big challenge,” he expressed.
The forum has also highlighted the issue of faculty shortages and recruitment delays. According to the Department of Higher Education 49.8 percent of faculty posts in state government universities is vacant. In this connection it’s pertinent to note that in early January, students of Maharani’s College of Arts, Commerce and Management, Bengaluru staged a protest demaning immediate filling o vacant faculty positions.
“Some universities do not even have sufficient funds to pay their lecturers, let alone funding additional activities or upgrading facilities. Most of them have no funds for research. This is hampering the quality of higher education delivered in the state,” said Dr Gowda.
According to Prof S N Hegde, president, Forum of Former Vice Chancellors of Karnataka who is also the former Vice Chancellor of Mysore University, lack of adequate funds in existing universities has ‘paralysed delivery of quality higher education”. “Universities have been reduced to tutorial centres. The quality of education is mediocre. There is no emphasis on research. Instead of setting up a number of new universities, focus must be on strengthening the existing ones,” he said.
Citing an example, Professor Hegde adds, “Mysore University has been in existence for over a century now. Infrastructure update is the need of the hour. Universities are heavily dependent on government funds. The fee collected in state universities is far less compared to even what it costs for admission into a private preschool.”
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