Indians consider code for standards

May 16, 1997

INDIA's University Grants Commission is studying a proposal for a model code of governance for universities following complaints of increasing political interference in their affairs and a fall in academic standards.

The code would empower the UGC, which funds higher education, to withhold money from universities which fail to perform effectively and offer incentive to "achievers". The proposal has come from a planning commission which allocates money to the social sector, and follows a survey by the mass circulation English daily, the Hindustan Times, on the state of Indian universities.

Commission secretary Bimal Jalan has written to UGC chairman A. Desai that "even if half of what has been reported by the Hindustan Times is true, it would mean that in most universities systems have collapsed or are on the verge of collapsing".

The "faultlines" identified by the survey include political interference in admissions and appointments, waste of financial and human resources, lack of basic facilities, poor teaching standards, examination delays, indiscipline and "criminalisation" of student politics. The vice chancellor of Allgarth Muslim University has been quoted as saying that he feels so unsafe on the campus that he carries a revolver. After his remark drew a strong reaction from teachers and students he clarified that he was referring to the threat from Pakistan intelligence agents who had infiltrated the campus.

The commission's proposal to link funding with performance has been welcomed by educationists but they doubt if it would be accepted by universities. A scheme of productivity-linked grants mooted by the government some time ago was rejected by most universities. In fact, they demanded an increase in funding level saying it was precisely because of cuts in funding that their performance had suffered.

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