Interview

India lacks ranking mechanism to distinguish between performing and a non performing VC

Prof Jalees Ahmed Khan Tareen is
presently heading the B S Abdur Rehman University as Vice Chancellor. Prior to
joining BSAR University he was serving as VC of Pondicherry University. Prof Tareen
has been associated with the higher education sector for close to four decades,
he has served the University of Mysore for 33 years (1967–2000) in Department
of Geology at various teaching positions.

He has also served as VC of Kashmir
University (2001–2004). Prof Tareen is a recipient of several states as well as
national awards and in 2009; he was awarded Padma Shri for his contribution as
a scientist and educationalist. Prof Tareen has published notable research
papers and two fundamental crystallography books, namely “A Basic Course in
Crystallography” and “Fundamentals of Crystal Chemistry.”

In an exclusive interview with India
Education Review
Prof Tareen shares his experience of working on the higher
education sector and the reason none of the Indian universities are able to
make into the list of top universities globally.

You have
just taken over as the VC of BSAR University, what are your priorities?

My
priorities are to address the immediate issues and strengthen the parameters
which are essential to make any university globally competitive in terms of
quality of teaching and learning and the research environment.

These
parameters  are 1) Critical mass 2)
Demographic diversity in students and teachers 3) Integration of undergraduate
and postgraduate programs with flexibility of lateral exit and entry with UG,
Honours and Masters degrees 4) Development of interdisciplinary programmes 5)
Easy access to information and maximum utilization of E- resources,6)
State-of-Art infrastructure and laboratory facilities,7) Creating an Ambiance
on the campus 8) Student assessment of teachers is an important parameter for
incentives 9) Promoting interactive teaching and research learning rather than
monologue teaching 11) Balanced importance to sports, cultural activities and
campus discipline.

You
have been in the higher education sector for more than four decades, how much
it has evolved over the years?

Growth of
higher education is phenomenal if one considers the growth of educational
institutions. We need to also look at it with our growth in population. One
parameter is the GER which seem not to have crossed 18 per cent in spite of
enormous thrust given during the XI five year plan which is below international
average of 23 per cent.

Although
the government has been increasing the number of universities, colleges it has
not taken cognisance of the most important factor of Critical Mass. The average
student strength in Indian universities is less than 3,500 and the in the
colleges it is below 450. No good university in the world has students less
than 15, 000 and no university in the world has disintegration of education
into Masters and PhD in universities and the undergraduate education in
affiliated colleges. There are bold structural changes required to be made
which we have either not taken them seriously or that we are shy to implement.

I was
associated with chairman of UGC during the preparation of XII plan document as
chairman of two important subcommittees on Access and Quality .We have made
many of the recommendations to bring in the desired changes. In fact the UGC
has also brought in an excellent document with all the recommendations, well
compiled articulated by Prof Ved Prakash. Optimum utilization of campuses and
college capacities, besides all other parameters mentioned above should be the
top priority. This alone, with doubling of intake strength with appropriate
increase in faculty and other facilities, can double our GER.

What do
you consider as your most challenging role as VC of various Universities?

Well, in
Kashmir University, the challenge was to restore the academics, bring in
normalcy, bring back its past glory which was masked by 20 years of dust
accumulated due to the militancy, give the youth a helping hand to come out of
fear, and conflict psyche and open up the university to rest of India.  The excellence of their talent was to be
tapped constructively. In three years I could attain a 200 per cent growth,
bring back academics with several new programmes and new infrastructure. I was
glad that youth got connected again to several universities. The convocation was
held after seven years and I brought the PM, Vajpayee to the campus for the
convocation.

The
challenge at Pondicherry University was a different one. It was on an 800 acre
campus with students less than 2,000 for the past 22 years. Many affiliated
colleges were bigger and doing better than the university, except for a few
departments.

I applied
the same principle parameters of expansion with excellence and equity and in
five years attained an all round growth of three hundred percent, which was the
highest in any central university of India. The university got over hundred new
programmes with more than 22 departments and centres established. The students
seeking admission increased from 8000 to 50,000.

The
research output tripled, with over 300 new projects. The H-index and Average
citation indexed touched the current values of JNU and Delhi University. The
visibility increased to attract students from 32 states and faculty from 24
states and even from abroad. The university faculty got over 50 patents filed.

The
extraordinary measures like free education including board and lodge to
physically challenged, rent free hostels to girls, food subsidy to poor, and
hundred women faculty on the campus made it unique and the President of India
gave the best Institution award during 2010.
The 880 acre campus is 100 per cent Wi-Fi with 100 per cent power back
up. The Library with 27000 e journals is remotely accessible from anywhere in
the world. In short a new work culture and ambience has been implanted in the
university which makes it different.

How do
you look at the entry of foreign higher education institutions in India? 

Entry of
foreign Institutions with a proper regulatory mechanism is most welcome. India
should open up and experiment with global community. Cross fertilization of
ideas come only if there is flow of faculty and students from other countries.
The conservative approach and protectionism in the current global border less
job opportunities will only harm the career prospects of our youth.

How do
you look at the international ranking system, in which none of the Indian
universities could figure even among the top 200?

One cannot
dispense with the international ranking system as a convenient way to defend, not
being there. Whatever the lacunae in that ranking, the fact remains that we are
not there. The chances of its being there are also remote as we have failed to
analyse the basic structural differences between our universities and the top
ranking universities. They have the critical mass, demographic diversity (not
regional like us writing answers in vernacular), they have international
community of student and faculty population, they have not disintegrated the
undergraduate from postgraduate programms, besides the ambiance, culture of
work, state of the art facilities.

No
guaranteed security of job and assured promotions, as is the practice in India.
There is total disconnect as far as appraisal and ranking of the Indian
institutions is concerned. Till date the country does not have any ranking mechanism
nor is there an appraisal mechanism by which the MHRD or UGC can distinguish
between a performing and non performing Vice Chancellor or a University.  Even the schools have an accreditation in
advanced countries and in India, we do not have any mechanism in place to for a
parent or a student or an employer to know the ranking of universities
particularly disciplines wise.

Not only foreign Institutions will bring in a
fresh air but will bring in competition and this should happen. Over regulation
will also dampen the sprit of collaboration with overseas Institutions.

How
important is university industry interaction in present scenario?

University-Industry marriage is the real
strength of western universities. There has been again indifference from the
Indian Industry towards it social responsibility to support Indian
universities, when their industries have sustained the growth because of the
students produced from Indian universities.
I can only say that Indian research can be made innovative only if the
Industry and universities work together for mutual gains.

In what
ways can research scenario be improved in the university system?

Research
scenario will depend again on the investment on research facilities,
instrumentation, cross fertilization of ideas, demographic diversity, academic
freedom, flow of researchers and students from all over the globe without
political restrictions. Even some of our high end research centres established
by government and UGC should open up more by a complete change of its policies.
Access to big laboratories and even admission to the academies even today is
largely through contact building, even if you are a scientist par excellence.

Indian science has
inherited from our senior scientists a culture of close door research, secrecy
research and hence a pan India team building in crucial researches in energy,
materials or for that matter any discipline is yet to be realized to be of any
comparison to western researchers including our Indian scientists, who are
different when they are overseas and a different face when the return to work
in India.

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