Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91
Vol. XXVI No. 15, November 16-30, 2016
It may be one of the three original premier universities of India and may have enjoyed stellar status at one time, but if at all the University of Madras makes it to the news these days, it is for the wrong reasons. The non-appointment of a Vice Chancellor for several months has thrown it into further chaos resulting in unseemly protests. All this does not make for a world-class institution.
The University of Madras has been without a Vice Chancellor for over ten months now. There has been no action in terms of appointing a fresh incumbent. There has only been a meeting or two of the University Syndicate in the last six months. Routine activities of the institution have been taken care of by a Convener Committee, but this does not have any authority over fresh appointments or administrative reforms. As a consequence, several departments are now functioning without heads and many teachers are employed on an ad hoc basis. Important aspects of academic functioning, such as viva voces for Ph.D theses, etc., are being held only sporadically. Over 90 teachers were on probation pending confirmation till recently. Having waited for long, the Madras University Teachers’ Association launched a protest and that led to assurances that around 80 of the teachers on probation would have their services confirmed.
In the meanwhile, allegations of irregularities in the functioning of the sub-committee that evaluates private colleges for affiliation to the University have surfaced. One of the colleges has named a member of the committee in an informal complaint and accused him/her of demanding a bribe for obtaining formal recognition. This has thrown a shadow over the process by which the University selects colleges for affiliation. In any case, the sub-committee can only make a recommendation, which needs to be passed by the Syndicate and then approved by the Vice Chancellor, as and when someone is appointed to that office.
Two Churches in Broadway, several houses along the way, the Law College Buildings, a couple of heritage structures on Mount Road…the list of victims of the Metrorail is long and rather illustrious. The latest now to join this select club is Ripon Building, the 102-year-old heritage structure that is home to the Corporation of Chennai.
The story has been the same in all cases. As the drilling works of the Metrorail progress, old buildings along the way develop cracks. The residents are alarmed, the newspapers report the matter, the structures are evacuated; a team from Chennai Metrorail visits the site and then claims it is not responsible for the damage.
The higher education scenario in India throws up several-puzzling features. Among these are the mushrooming universities and colleges (arts and science, engineering, medical, vocational etc.). Almost in all institutions, the number of students knocking at their doors for admission shows no signs of abatement. We find, over the last three decades, several thousand graduates emerging from their portals.
I had just finished reading Sushila Ravindranath’s eminently readable book, Surge*, when my glance fell upon a headline in the day’s newspaper, ‘Venture funded idlis in your kitchen’.
“At the age of fifty, when most people start planning to retire, Dr. Prathap Chandra Reddy decided that he was -going to revolutionise health-care in India. In 1993, the renowned cardiologist launched the country’s first professionally-run private sector hospital system.