The surge in demand for market skills led to a complete overhaul of higher education with the result being universities becoming mere affiliation hosting bodies for the vocational colleges located at a distance from its main campus. Once the demand overshot even this customary practice was done away with and autonomous institutes were allowed to function outside the purview of any existing university. This ushered in big money in education sector that led to the growth of sprawling campuses in almost all metropolitan cities. The opportunity was judiciously cashed by thugs who used the avenue to convert their ill-gotten black money. From politicians across political divide to real estate developers the sector found benefactors from varied quarters. If in doubt one only had to visit the Chairman’s room in these newly established colleges and private universities to ascertain the truth. At such visit most often one would find a person sitting on a highly raised pedestal wearing some heavy gold stuff. The ambience of the institution is so maintained that the cash rich client walking in to take admission is not turned down at his first visit.
Understandably, for a government with a proven monochromatic view of everything, universities are not a garden but a contract farm. However, the fact is, Universities are sanctuaries of ideas. To stifle the universities is to erode the base for rational and critical thinking and stall knowledge creation that is essential to even the far right.A welfare state irrespective of its ideological affiliations is duty bound to protect not just these sanctuaries but ensure access of its resources to all its citizens alike.
Therefore, an Increase in fee, decrease in scholarship, misappropriation of research grants, delaying of stipend,closure of courses in liberal arts, a general apathy towards non vocational courses,making admission procedure adversarial to students coming from far flung areas and poor and marginalized communities and discouraging students bodies thereby denying a proper forum for grievance redressal mechanism is all a well-orchestrated plan of furthering corporatisation of education.
While in school students learn from scratch, in universities the learning begins by unlearning. The discovering and rediscovering of the self is a continuous feature of university education, unlike school,which have in their sight a basic development of the child. The teaching pedagogy in universities is aimed at allowing the students to appreciate their surroundings and establish a critical thinking based on their own understanding. The government in its utter idiocy does not want the mental faculties of the students to develop beyond school level.
In the world struggling with the post truth phenomenon, far right posturing, corporatisation of media, paid news, yellow journalism and social media trolls it is left to the universities to keep the propaganda at bay and document all voices that are nowhere to be heard.Universities in their line of duty have to be vigilante with their research, thorough with their facts and absolute with their hypothesis. But, it’s a sad state of affairs that barring a few pioneers like JNU, no university in India has it armoury filled with the required provisions.
Universities are public good and assume even more importance in the environment of rising inequality, and aggravated marginalization. It is incumbent on the universities, so much as a duty to offer a critique of socio political and economic policies of the state. Institutions like JNU endow the other public institutions their knowledge and skills and also keep a vigilante eye on state excesses. But, for them we would loose another important block that is significant to keep checks and balances in our democratic setup.
Md. Aariz Imam is a political commentator