IntroductionThe State Universities like University of Madras, or the University of Mumbai were established several decades ago, and date back to the British days. These Universities are very well known abroad, as they are highly established Universities of repute, having several affiliated colleges that are simply world-class. Yet, even these colleges need to change with the times.
Whatever be the changes that are sought to be introduced, like the four-stage process of acquiring a degree and then proceeding to do the doctorate, in the New Education Policy, the State Universities have a vital role to play. They have good resources, particularly human resources, in terms of highly qualified Faculty Members. What is missing is the urge to excel and create a wider impact on society, similar to what some deemed to be Universities have achieved. Their achievements are the result of innovative thinking. In the process of observation of State Universities, it now becomes clear that there are several steps to be taken to bring about dynamic changes.
Unless these changes happen as a routine, we cannot see drastic changes. There will be degrees produced, but with little impact on society. The trick is to involve the members of different groups of the most important stake-holder involved and very much interested in the functioning of the State Universities -- the public. In other words, unless the local citizens become part of this vital change, the State Universities cannot become viable entities of social change.
To this end, the reforms of State Universities should include a) Introducing inter-disciplinary courses b) Making internships compulsory at the end of every year c) Making teachers monitor the internship activities d) Amendments to the laws to induct industry professionals, and e) Making a consultation with the public compulsory in any reform.
Introducing inter-disciplinary courses There is an urgent need to revamp the syllabi at all levels, including in the first year of the three or four-year course itself. For example, the BA(History) course should be changed to BA(History &Tourism Development). While the History professors need to discuss all the traditional History topics, they should also explain the cultural aspects of the particular State, and this should include places where tourism has maximum potential.
Furthermore, the University should strike a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with any number of Tourism-oriented organizations, even at the small-town level. For example, a college that is affiliated with the University of Madras at Kanchipuram (80kms from Chennai, and a district headquarters town) should have an MoU with a local travel agency at Kanchipuram and with other similar organizations at different places on the outskirts of Chennai city. This sort of industry collaboration will make the courses highly job-oriented and interesting and not merely academic.
Similarly, industrial chemistry, marine biology, or fashion design should have industry linkages. State Universities need to introduce courses like BA (Capital Markets), in collaboration with stock-broking organizations and Mutual Funds. There is an urgent need to bring in this job orientation and re-orient the old courses.
Making internships compulsory at the end of every year How can the State Universities become socially relevant? They can become relevant if they offer solutions to society's problems. Some years ago, a professor of Physics at a Madurai-based college, that is affiliated with the Madurai-Kamaraj University, advocated the use of used plastic bags for laying roads. This was done in various places. We need similar solutions.
To this end, the internships of the students should be made compulsory. The students should also be made to take up internships in development-oriented areas or projects. For example, the self-help movement is highly active in many parts of India. The self-employed ladies who belong to these self-help groups produce a number of products and are also engaged in setting up small catering establishments in small towns and big villages as well. The students can enable the market survey for new products, and to this end, the role of the small-scale sector is vital. For example, if the State Government provides support to private entrepreneurs to put up food processing plants where tomatoes are grown aplenty, and where supply exceeds demand, the prices of the vegetable will become slightly higher in the summer months and give more money to the farmers. The State Universities can become partners in progress if a massive number of such inputs goes on to create a far bigger social impact, than what is being done now. The compulsory internship at the end of every year will be the first step in this direction.
Making teachers monitor the internship activities Even in the MBA course, in the arts and science colleges the role of the teachers stops with the introduction letter seeking an internship for the student. This is absolutely inadequate and does not address the real need for socially relevant inputs. The teachers need encouragement. They need strong leaders, who will enable them to see the logic of transforming themselves and, in the process, transform the State Universities.
Amendments to the laws to induct industry professionals The State Universities need to amend the various laws to provide for the required changes. For example, in the Board of Studies that administers every single college, industry professionals at senior levels should be compulsorily inducted and encouraged to play an active role.
Such professionals would have ample experience in the Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) domain and will be in a good position to point out the various areas of collaboration with the educational institution. When the action happens, there should be sharing of experiences, even though the online mode or through local seminars, so that the process becomes more fine-tuned.
To give a simple example, take excellence in music. Today, some private TV channels have programs where anyone who is talented can participate. Why not promote local talents through local talent identification at the city or town level? For example, if it is a city like Mysore in Karnataka, a bi-annual grand function, with the participation of all educational institutions can make a whale of a difference. Sponsorship for such events can be made through the trading community and the local industrial organizations. The State Government can chip in with some 5 to 7 percent of the total cost and even the prices can be sponsored. The massive cultural events should showcase local talent and through this experiment, such human talent can go to the next level.
Furthermore, the talented ladies of the surrounding villages, that is, the housewives, should be encouraged to participate in rural food festivals in colleges and through this exchange, perhaps a group of new entrepreneurs who would desire to set up small catering establishments will emerge as a natural follow up of the initiative. These are exactly the lines on which many initiatives should be put in place. Such initiatives will increase the social relevance of the State Universities.
Making a consultation with the public compulsory in any reform What is the use of any reform, if the wider public, that is, the local public is not involved? For example, the students of agricultural universities are now engaged in advanced research, on using organic fertilizers. This is an excellent step in the right direction. But has this reached the wider target group of farmers? In many cases, the answer is a big no.
Now, what should immediately happen is that those who are doing such research should compulsorily share such information with the local farmers in some marriage halls and some YouTube videos should immediately communicate what transpired in such events. The scope of such consultation is indeed very huge and we have not even touched the tip of the iceberg. However, when the reforms start kicking in, hopefully, there will be more positive changes for the wider social relevance of State Universities.
Conclusion Social Changes do not happen in a vacuum. They are the result of many changes, normally over a period of two or three decades. If the State Universities function in the same old ways, their social relevance will be almost nil. The urgent need for reforms should include the aforesaid steps, which have been discussed in some detail. When the process of change starts, the dynamic changes that become visible in some part of the respective State will hopefully induce more dynamic change in the society at large, The process of transforming State Universities into viable entities for social change has to start immediately.
The government is spending a huge money on the state universities. But how far this money spent is getting paid back is a big question. Really, the conditions in state owned universities in many states are very bad. Once upon a time these universities were of high standard and competing with very good universities across the globe.
If we analyze the reasons for this, there is no commitment in the faculty in these universities now. Many professors while working here will work for other private colleges to earn more on hourly basis. His focus will be more on that side activity and will never concentrate on the university students. There is no discipline among the students also. Under various schemes the university will be procuring many equipment but nothing will be in working condition and nobody will take care of that. Unless otherwise these conditions are changed we may not be able to see any development in these universities.
In the name of reservations, many students who just manage to acquire the qualifications are being absorbed as teaching staff and they are not able to come up to the expectations and the students are not happy with their teaching. There is no research work going on. The work load of these teaching staff is very less. In many universities we rarely see teachers for full working hours.
Many universities are not having teaching staff also and somehow they are managing. With all these conditions we have no chance to expect any improvement in these universities.