by Prof. Jagdiswara Rao
I served as a university teacher for over 38 years. I held many administrative and academic assignments, and have a good knowledge of the general working of many universities. My conclusion is that there has been deterioration of educational standards in most of them. There are no doubt exceptions, which are due to the commitment by individual teachers and students particularly belonging to the professional courses such as engineering, medicine, agriculture, education, and management. In the early years, the staff pattern used to be pyramidal with many lecturers, a few readers, and a single professor. The professor used to be the head of the department till retirement and was taking the full responsibility of the department. He was having the full powers in the admission of students, assessment of students' performance, recruitment of staff, generating grants, purchase of materials and books, etc. The salaries of teachers used to be much lower than those paid in other professions. The entry point of a teacher into the university was tutor/demonstrator with a salary just sufficient for bare living. Those who were committed to teaching and research alone remained in the university, while others used that position as a springboard to get into some lucrative position in or outside the country. There used to be however a few cases of victimization of students and staff by the professor. Despite this, the system worked well and the general educational and research standards used to be quite high. After 13 years of schooling, the more meritorious students with aptitude for higher education alone used to join into the honors courses run by the university, while others were joining into the degree courses in other colleges. There used to be half-fee concession for economically poor students and a few scholarships for meritorious students. Jobs were waiting for most of the students even before completing studies. The stipulations for the award of doctoral degree were quite severe and the degree was awarded only when three foreign professors unanimously recommended for the award. But things are now different. The headship of each department is on rotation for two or three years and no one is accountable for any wrong in the department. The entire purchase of equipment and books has been taken away by the non-teaching staff and many teachers are so much frustrated that they prefer not to apply for any research grant. Thanks to the University Grants Commission (UGC), the salaries of staff are as attractive as those paid in other professions. The entry point of a teacher into the university is lecturer, whose salary is same as that of a Class-1 officer in the government. Thanks to the UGC merit promotion scheme and further dilution of rules by many vice-chancellors, the staff pattern in most university departments is in the form of an inverted pyramid with very few lecturers, a few readers and many professors. Irrespective of performance, most lecturers become professors in course of time. The staff once recruited can remain at the same place without any transfer. Many of them indulge in politics or take up some part-time work. Some coach students for various competitive examinations for entrance into various professional courses and for getting into some job, which may range from IAS to clerk-grade. Recruitment of teachers now is based on the rules of reservation spelled out in various government orders (GO) from time to time. Some of the reservation categories recognized include scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST), backward classes (BC) divided further into A, B, C, and D sub-categories, physically handicapped, women, etc. Efforts are being made to recognize four sub-categories among SCs. These GOs are often so poorly drafted that rules in one GO sometimes contradict with those in another GO. This gave scope for the university to implement the GOs to suit its convenience and fill up a vacancy by reserving it to the caste of a favored candidate. Several aggrieved parties then filed cases against the universities. The whole issue became so complicated that the Supreme Court evolved a formula where the reservation category of each vacancy should be determined by chance and not by selection by anybody. Thus if a particular post is reserved for a BC-A category, it cannot be filled up even with a meritorious SC candidate. In the whole process, real merit and the specialization requirements of the post are forgotten. Admission of students into the university is now not based on the marks secured in the qualifying examination, but on the ranking obtained in a common entrance test and rules of reservation. Sometimes, SC and ST candidates who could not even qualify in the entrance test had to be given admission. Every year there are hundreds of writ petitions in the High Court particularly from those who could not get admission into the professional courses challenging the admissions on one ground or the other. Entry of students now into the university is after 15 years of schooling and the university education is limited to two years. Only those who failed to get admission into a professional course or a job opt for studies and research in the university. Scholarships are now granted for all categories of students including forward castes, whose parents monthly income is below Rs.1000-2000. The only students who are denied scholarship are those who cannot get such an income certificate. Merit ceased to be a basis for scholarship. Many students who now seek admission into the university had their entire education in mother tongue, while English is the medium of education in the university. The students find it difficult to follow the subject in the English medium. The unwritten understanding is that the teachers can avoid teaching, but award a first class to all the students. After getting the degree, many students seek admission for research not out of interest in research but to remain somehow in the university hostels and try for some job or face some competitive examinations ranging from IAS to clerk-grade. Scholarships are also given to all those who got earlier such scholarships. Only those who failed to get any job finally carry out research. Quality of research is often very poor. Evaluation of the doctoral thesis is so diluted in some universities that degree is awarded if majority of three Indian examiners, of which one is the research supervisor, recommended for the award. Most of the syllabi of courses other than the professional courses are so outdated that the students do not get any skill for getting into any useful job. The syllabi is not updated as the concerned teachers do not wish update their knowledge. The only hope for these post-graduates is to become lecturers to teach the very same subject to the students or face competitive examinations by choosing their course subject as an elective. The syllabus of these electives for IAS also is not updated. Many universities have started job-oriented courses of relevance in recent years. But the necessary infrastructural facilities and necessary jobs could not be created owing to budgetary constraints. One way is to scrap the old courses having no demand or relevance. No university can hope to do it as there will be opposition from the staff. Despite government incurring enormous expenditure on higher education, there is no hope of improving the quality of higher education. IPI also suggests for decreasing governmental expenditure on higher education. It is necessary for the universities to become self reliant by introducing dual fee structure, which is in vogue in the state universities in USA. There is therefore an urgent need to do something to revamp the university education in India on a priority basis.