Mumbai University at the bottom of pyramid

The HRD Ministry has released the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) 2018 list.  For the first time in a row, the University of Mumbai doesn’t figure in the top 100 institutions of the country. The University, which was in the ranking of 101-150 last year, now languishes in the 151-200 slot. This is a huge embarrassment and a matter of disgrace to the once prestigious premier institution.

The five parameters applied for evaluating the institutions are: teaching, learning and resources, research, graduation outcome, outreach and inclusivity, and perception. Ironically, the State of Maharashtra has the highest number of NAAC accredited institutions in India. And yet many “A’ grade accredited institutions do not find place in the ranking. This shows there is something odd in the parameters applied by the NAAC and those by the NIRF for accrediting the institutions of higher learning. Savitribai Phule University, Pune, is the only University from Maharashtra that made to top-20 overall list. In the overall institutions’ category, only six from Mumbai made it to the top 200, St. Xavier’s College, being the only one from the city to find a place in the country’s top 100 colleges, though its rank dropped from 40 last year to 74 this year. None of the Mumbai institutions figure in the list of top 100 law, architecture and medical institutions.

Mumbai University’s credibility has suffered immensely due to exam goof-ups, paper leakages, inordinate delay in declaration of results, mismanagement and maladministration. The results of many examinations conducted between November and January this year are not yet declared. It is five months since the exams were held and the university hasn’t been able to declare the results. It is a repeat of last year when the students who wanted to pursue higher studies could not do so due to unusual delay in declaration of results. The students demand that examinations for the current semester be held only after the results of previous semester are declared so that they are clear about whether they have to take the re-examinations. The university has now postponed the re-examination and the sixth semester exam scheduled for April and May. The results of re-evaluation are also not declared. And the students are expected to fill the examination forms. What happens to those students who applied for the re-evaluation and declared passed, if they take the examinations once again. The past record shows that about 30% students, who declared failed, pass after the re-evaluation.

A Law College student expresses his anguish, “we are yet to get our semester V results. How are they expecting us to fill the forms for repeaters’ exams without even knowing which subjects we have failed? When are they expecting us to apply for re-evaluation?” Another student agonises, “We have not received the re-evaluation results of our last semester examinations yet. We do not know if we have failed or passed in the rechecking. If we have passed, we do not need to appear for ATKT examinations.” It is criminal to force the students to take the re-examination without declaring the re-evaluation results. The university must be hauled for jeopardising the future of so many students due to its sheer incompetence. No one in the university is bothered about the mental trauma that the students go through.

One of the reasons for the inordinate delay in declaration of results is inadequate number of qualified teachers to assess the answer scripts. Many teaching posts are vacant. Most of the teachers, being appointed on ad-hoc basis — temporary, contract and clock-hour — are not qualified to assess the answer scripts. Besides, the teachers are busy in teaching and evaluation in their own colleges. The university should restore the first and the second year exams to colleges, instead of setting a common examination time table. This will provide huge relief to the university from the routine examination work.

What is worse, the University of Mumbai has not applied for re-accreditation by the NAAC — the accreditation having lapsed some two years ago. This makes it ineligible for UGC grants at a time when the funding from the state government is not forthcoming. According to Radha Srinivasan, the university’s Chairperson of the Internal Quality Assurance Cell, “the major reason for not featuring in the list is the inability to send complete data… A lot of data regarding research and other achievements was not shared by departments in time…” The onscreen assessment mess has cast the image of the university.

The university is facing a serious leadership crisis. The Vice Chancellor of the University is yet to be appointed. There is an urgent need to appoint a nationally reputed academic administrator of impeccable personal integrity as the Principal Executive Officer of the University to revamp the system and undo the damage it suffered.

The Search Committee is meeting on 13th and 14th April to interview the candidates and shortlist five, recommending to the Chancellor — the Governor of the State — for appointment to the post of Vice Chancellor, University of Mumbai. It is imperative that the Committee checks thoroughly the credentials of each candidate — background and intrinsic worth, absence of any political allegiance, honesty and incorruptibility, conviction and fearlessness in decision making, and not go by manipulated impressive personal resume. It is a challenge before the Committee to short list the right persons. And the Chancellor should appoint a right person from outside Maharashtra, who could rise above regional and parochial considerations to restore the university its pre-eminent national stature.

G Ramachandram is a professor of Political Science and retired principal. He has published his magnum opus ‘The Trial by Fire: Memoirs of a College Principal’.

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