The University should ask itself if it makes sense to open a new campus when it can’t get its act together on a campus it has managed for years
The University of Mumbai is reportedly considering setting up a campus in the United Arab Emirates. This is possibly the funniest thing I have read in months, for a simple reason: I studied at the University of Mumbai.
Ask any former student if they believe it has what it takes to open and manage a campus abroad and they will find this amusing too, for a number of reasons, starting with its ability to communicate. When was the last time you tried getting in touch with the University for information of any kind? When was the last time you tried one of its so-called ‘help lines’? When was the last time you went there for help and got what you wanted on your first attempt?
A month ago, journalists tracked four helpline numbers - one each for general enquiries at the Fort and Kalina campuses, and two for student-specific queries — and found that they were non-functional. Students with questions about admissions, examinations, results or mark sheets have always had to run from one end of campus to another, for decades. And this University now wants to run a campus abroad.
A month ago, the University reportedly decided to close access to its file tracking system for employees, despite promises to go digital for better accountability and transparency in its functioning. The system, which was supposedly open to all since 2011, was to generate a Document Journey Management System number to help students track the status of pending files at various departments by pointing out the exact location of the file at each point. This would have made life simpler for students so, naturally, it was scrapped. And this University now wants to run a campus abroad.
In 2013, the result sheets of a number of students marked those who had appeared in the fifth semester of their final year Bachelor of Arts examinations absent. In March 2014, approximately 25,000 students were wrongly failed in exams conducted by the University, according to information obtained under an RTI application. According to the same RTI reply, the examinations department also said that details of action taken against erring professors or examiners couldn’t be revealed as it was confidential. Around 25,009 students were declared ‘passed’ after revaluation. That same month saw errors in the assessment of engineering exam papers after many answer sheets were not scanned properly and rejected by examiners on grounds of poor resolution. These reports are all in the public domain. And this University now wants to run a campus abroad.
Google ‘complaints against the University of Mumbai.’ It scores a satisfaction rating of 1 percent on a popular consumer complaints forum. Former students have blogged about everything from delays in the issuing of mark sheets after revaluation, to missing convocation certificates, pending duplicate certificates and results not declared on time. This happens year after year. Some students say that admissions to other colleges after studying here are a nightmare because they don’t have hard copies of their mark sheets even 10 months after the declaration of results. And this University now wants to run a campus abroad.
The University should ask itself a few questions: Does it make sense to open a new campus when it can’t even get its act together on a campus it has managed for decades? Does it make sense to try and attract new students in another country when it continues to disappoint thousands of students here? Why not fix what you have first, before trying to create something new? According to the last published Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) University Rankings for Asia, no Indian institute made it to the top 30 Asian institutes in overall rankings, although the University of Mumbai was the only one whose rank rose to 125 compared to the previous rank of 131. Experts did point out, however, that quality at the University was deteriorating day by day.
The University should also consider the example of the University of Pune, which reportedly opened a campus in Ras al Khaimah in 2009. That experiment failed after it failed to attract enough students.
If the University has one thing going for it, it’s this: Cowardice in the face of political pressure. Remember the time a political party got author Rohinton Mistry’s novel Such A Long Journey struck off its curriculum? That sort of behaviour is supposedly endearing in the United Arab Emirates. Maybe advertising that episode may help the University of Mumbai attract a few students. I can’t think of anything else that will.
When he isn’t ranting about all things Mumbai, Lindsay Pereira can be almost sweet. He tweets @lindsaypereira. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org