What ails Mumbai University?

Apr 01, 2012, 10:09 IST | A Correspondent

As students reel from the shock of an audacious paper leak, we find out why this is only the latest in a series of gaffes committed by a beleaguered institution in danger of losing all public standing. Can a university once recognised as one among the top 500 in the world redeem itself? We speak to the governor and the Ex Pro VC, Mumbai University, to find out

I am shocked to read about the leak of the third-year Marketing and Human Resource Management paper. The vice chancellor is the academic and administrative head of Mumbai University and the system can only function smoothly when he/she monitors, controls and provides guidance to college principals and the controller of examinations and the registrar.

He/she needs to hold meetings with examination bodies, appoint examiners in time, supervise the submission and printing of manuscripts in time, and dispatch them well in advance. This requires a lot of advance preparation so that problems associated with a shortage of principals, examiners and teachers are addressed. 

Unfortunately, over the past few years, VCs have begun to look upon their exalted position as a matter of status. Unqualified, inexperienced people have begun to lobby for it, due to which the university has seen some VCs who were neither strong academicians nor good administrators. 

The public has heard only about the problem of the examination paper leak and the goof-ups related to the distribution of hall tickets. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Allowing administrators to select the VC has affected the university’s leadership. In 2006, the university was placed at 452 in the global ranking, after a special drive undertaken at the time. Since then, however, it has slipped.

The apathy of the short-sighted state Government, which experimented by appointing IAS officers without studying the cause of the deterioration of the examination system, has affected the university severely. 

When there were merely 200 colleges, 20 departments and about two lakh students in the early ’80s, the strength of the administrative staff was only 1,500. The situation is worse today — we have over 700 colleges, over 50 departments and about seven lakh students, but there has been no additional staffing. In its cesquicentinial (150th year), the university had to fill vacancies for the posts of teaching and non-teaching staff on contract and regular salary, which ate into revenue. 

This has thrown the system out of gear. The task force and its masters are missing. Many colleges are unaided, adding fuel to the fire. In many colleges, there aren’t enough full-time qualified teachers and even principals. In aided collages, there were no new recruitments from the mid ’90s to 2005. Even today, colleges do not have complete freedom to fill up empty posts.

In 1998, a TYBCom paper was leaked twice from the same college, after which, with full support from government officials, strong measures were taken to curb future occurrences. Every college principal was himself/herself appointed as chief conductor, and no leaves were sanctioned without the permission of the VC. That put a complete stop to any paper leaks. The 100-odd day delay in the declaration of BCom and Engineering results was brought to almost five days. 

Due to political compulsions, strong measures are not taken these days. Academic audit has become a thing of the past and UGC guidelines on quality improvement have been completely ignored.

Unfortunately, the system has started to derail once again, and the lack of discipline has been aggravated by the poor quality of the current leadership.”A

stormy affair

 *  On March 29, 2012 seven senate members of the University of Mumbai were suspended, an eighth member resigned, the state legislative council was adjourned twice amid calls for the varsity Vice-Chancellor’s (VC) sacking and the council called for an inquiry into the suspensions.

*  On March 29, 2012 Mumbai University’s (MU) senate members finally approved a Rs 376.89 crore budget on Thursday. Senate member PV Page presented the budget. MU’s senate meeting opened on a stormy note on Wednesday with members slamming the varsity’s administration for a spate of recent goof-ups in conducting examinations. Ten senate members attended the meeting in black caps to protest against the ‘mismanagement’ and demanded the resignation of the Vice Chancellor (VC), Rajan Welukar.

*  On March 22, 2012 the University of Mumbai constituted a one-man committee to probe the actions of DN Mujumdar, head of the university’s computing facility, in connection with errors in allotting centres and issuing hall tickets to students of third-year Bachelor of Commerce.

Mumbai University’s recent goof-ups

*  On March 30, 2012 Shiv Sena legislators and a few members of the Mumbai University Senate demanded the suspension of varsity Vice Chancellor Rajan Welukar alleging that he is ineffective in handling the administration of the university.

*  On March 27, 2012, the University sent the wrong question paper to 612 final-year commerce students from the Institute of Distance and Open Learning (IDOL), who were spread across 19 exam centres in Mumbai.

*  More than 4,000 FYBCom distance-learning students failed to get their hall tickets on the stipulated date of March 26, 2012, even though their exam commenced on March 30. They were finally allowed to take the exam, and the incident is being probed.

* On March 21, 2012, Mumbai University re-allotted exam centres of more than 2100 TYBCom students a day before the exam.

* On March 19, 2012, just a day before the examination commenced, students of TYBCom were made to collect their hall tickets.

*  Mumbai University’s recent U-turn in its mandate for Engineering students to clear their course within eight years left several hundreds of students in the lurch.

*  In September 2010, a discrepancy in Mumbai University’s optical marked recognition (OMR) code system led to answer sheets of about 100 students being mixed.

* In April, 2010, MU forgot to send the Politics and Society in South Asia paper of TYBA to two colleges in Mumbai, which led to the examination being delayed by two hours. 

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