Context: As per some experts the university administration in India has now been completely transitioned from academicians and professors to the education minister and bureaucracy.
- Pre independence era:
- In the 19th and 20th century, the universities were under the control of colonial masters whose main aim was to teach things that helped in assuring loyalty and obedience of the Indian masses.
- However with growth of nationalism and decolonisation, the grip over education was strengthened by national leaders giving them an opportunity to revise the curriculum and make it more representative.
- Early Post independence phase:
- Building strong autonomous institutions:
- The initial decades of independence also saw an emphasis upon strong and autonomous institutions like IITs and IIMs that were supposed to play a key role in nation building.
- These emerged as model institutions that defined the new academic ethos and the vigour of the modern Indian nation.
- Simultaneous growing of other institutions:
- Other universities in India also took the lead, revised curricula and set about the task of reforming the university as a space for healthy academic engagement.
- Inclusive decision making:
- Changes in the university education were marked by the growing importance of various large representative institutional bodies like faculty committees, committees of courses, board of studies, university senates, academic councils and executive councils.
- These bodies oversaw the administrative and academic functioning of the university and ensured a collective decision-making based on serious academic deliberation.
Transitioning towards a new regime:
- From 2005 onwards, the government tried to impose a new intellectual regime with the establishment of the National Knowledge Commission and emphasising on privatisation of education.
- This undermined the independent character of universities as administrative and academic decisions were imposed from above and discussions within various academic bodies were discouraged.
- The imposition of the semester system across India and the introduction of a four-year undergraduate programme in many public and private universities were hallmarks of this new era of bureaucratic centralisation.
- The government of the day undervalued the academic achievements of scholars from Indian universities and romanticised American academia.
- After 2015 a new wave of government intervention came like the imposition of a ‘cafeteria system’ associated with the Choice Based Credit System and renewed attempts to privatise higher education linked to an emphasis on rankings were highlights of this new thrust.
- Now the minute details pertaining to academic curricula, the teaching-learning process and the parameters that governed academic research within the university were brought under bureaucratic control.
- During this period, the university emerged as an extension of government.
- And finally the COVID -19 has allowed the government to further intensify the control over universities and control the daily functioning of universities.
- Decisions about the conclusion of academic term, the modalities for evaluation and the conduct of the teaching-learning process have become exclusive government prerogatives overnight.
- The university administration has been replaced by the government of the day, from being external facilitators they have now become decision makers within the higher education institutions.
- These institutions which ought to be fertile intellectual spaces that can inform and shape society are increasingly being undermined in India.
- Thus the time has come for institutions of higher education in India to recover their lost voice and restore the fertile academic space where ideas are discussed and debated rather than suppressed and dismissed.
Image Source: The Hindu