“…There is a quiet crisis in higher education in India which runs deep,”

Macaulay asserted – “a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”

Representational image. News18

Representational image. News18

abstracted ……………..

There is a growing concern that the present market economy is causing an acute devaluation of humanities as an academic currency, leading to what some call – “educational apartheid”. ………..

Placements, as we know them, come more from management and science streams than liberal arts or humanities. Much like British who consciously designed the educational policy of India to sustain their colonial project and create a class that helps in efficient administration of the state, our youth today is better trained to serve the interest of business enterprisesthan any other entity. The element of critical thinking and realisation of their roles as individual social beings, potential entrepreneurs or leaders – unfortunately remain untapped. Nurturing hyper-specialised robot like humans compromises the future of post-industrialised Indian society, which would need people capable of “navigating cultural differences” and lead in an increasingly “interdependent, border-collapsing world.”


In April this year, Panjab University saw massive protests against a meteoric annual fee hike, surpassing hundred percent in many courses. The demand was simple — to take back the arbitrary increment and not to pass the buck and debt onto the students who in all likelihood would not be able to bear it. Sedition charges were slapped on 66 protesting students for raising slogans against the MHRD, the UGC and the Panjab University administration. Those protesting for their right of affordable access to education became anti-nationals overnight.

Towards privatisation

TISS, PU and other educational institutes are symptomatic of the decay that has crept into our higher education system. When a socialist state like ours, starts failing to ensure affordable education and succumbs to market pressures, we must know that the very outlook towards the idea of education is changing. As a follow up to the recommendation under the National Education Policy 2016, an agency, recently rechristened as — Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA) has been approved to facilitate private investors push their loans in the higher education sector.


Language induced bias

our system is still prejudiced towards socially underprivileged students belonging to villages where education is mostly imparted in vernacular medium. They find it difficult to cope with academic assignments because most of them are in English. This linguistic hegemony………. has become a source of denigration for those who cannot express themselves in English. Very few universities make arrangements for remedial classes and run courses for teaching the language but that too is a half-hearted formality in most cases — barring exceptions like JNU, which has a committed and well functioning linguistic empowerment cell.

Language induced bias

religious minorities (especially Muslims) and those belonging to the SC/ST community face biases in our universities, which though not reflected on paper, but are present in the majoritarian mindset of different university administrations……… only 11 out of 100 Muslims in India take up higher education, which is dismal as compared to other communities….

Even when (under represented minority) students … get into public universities, they are more vulnerable to discrimination than any other student. Najeeb Ahmad and Rohith Vemula are two extreme cases of such structural discrimination. Vemula’s scholarship at University of Hyderabad was illegally denied for seven months. He was thrown out of the hostel along with four other Dalit scholars and was asked to stay away from mess and other common areas,….. Humiliated and heartbroken, Vemula committed suicide writing down in his suicide note that he felt “just empty”. After that, the debate was not about what led to Vemula’s extreme step; rather it centered on questioning his very identity — whether he was a Dalit or an OBC? – So that the charges on the authorities can be cut down. And by the way, suspension of all four Dalit students was revoked after Vemula’s suicide.

Ahmad has been missing from his JNU hostel since 15 October, 2016. He was repeatedly assaulted by right wing ABVP activists immediately before his disappearance. The original report by the Proctor’s office recommended strict punishment for Ahmad’s assaulters. With his sensibilities or whatever, the vice-chancellor found it sufficiently strict — to transfer accused assaulters from their existing hostel to a ‘new’ hostel. Chief Proctor AP Dimri resigned because of alleged differences with the administration, fostered since he served a show cause notice to the ABVP members for violently beating Najeeb before he went missing. Like Vemula’s caste was made an issue to divert the attention from actual probe,

The Times of India blunder (still available online) suggested that Ahmad, being a Muslim probably had connection with the IS…..While recently transferring the case to the CBI, the Delhi High Court bench comprising Justices GS Sistani and Rekha Palli noted — “If today it is Najeeb, tomorrow it could be anybody, just because he belongs to some other community or a political body.”

How safe are our public universities for religious minorities and Dalits? How accessible are they for the underprivileged who have limited financial resources to support their education? How supportive are they for non-English medium students? Should students only be groomed and encouraged to opt for market driven courses? Or should they be allowed to pursue their dreams based on their interest, talent and inner calling? What can be the degree of UGC’s intrusion in university autonomy? Or should there be a UGC intrusion in university autonomy at all?