ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Such a Fall

Mumbai University, once an iconic institution, has lost its way.

The current glare of public attention on the sorry state of affairs of Mumbai University was inevitable, given the series of mishaps in the conduct of recent examinations. These include a paper leak leading to a court petition and re-exam (for about 85,000 students), errors in allocating centres, delay in distribution of hall tickets and even failure to print a set of exam papers. All this highlights the steady decline over the past two decades of various structures and mechanisms of this iconic institution. Mumbai University seems to suffer from an assortment of maladies that include governance issues, political interference and indifference in equal measure, an impossibly vast jurisdiction, poor infrastructure and woefully inadequate teaching and non-teaching staff. Add to these a leadership that does not have the requisite blend of scholarship and administration qualities and the recipe for disaster is complete.

The appointment of the present vice chancellor (VC) in 2010 was widely criticised as an act of political favouritism overlooking his inadequate academic qualifications. However, the education lobby in the state, dominated by powerful politicians (shikshan samrats or education emperors as they are known), has for long manipulated to place amenable appointees in this post. A VC who is dependent on political-bureaucratic patronage is likely to find that he/she has to contend with “recommendations” in fi lling signifi cant posts. From here it is a short journey towards the erosion of governance structures. But the patronage of politicians does not move on to planning for more funds for the institution, leading to the obvious neglect of higher education in the state. The university’s record in teaching and research in the humanities has been abysmal as is evident in the steady decline of students awarded PhD degrees. Its deteriorating image has had the twin effect of keeping away talented faculty and students not only from the state but also from other parts of the country.

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