The changing idea of a university (The
Mains Paper 2 : Governance
Prelims level : National Education Policy
Mains level : Significance and importance of the National Education Policy
- The first proposal of this government to be made public was the 100-day
action plan for education.
- It includes framing a new National Education Policy, replacing the
University Grants Commission (UGC) with another body, and adding 10 more
Institutions of Eminence.
The purpose of education
- While the media has extensively covered the attacks on institutions such
as Jawaharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad Central University, and the
violence unleashed by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.
- The student arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in some places, what
is more long lasting is the way the BJP has instrumentalised education by
binding it to the objective of creating skills and employment and making
education useful for the market.
- By doing this, it has hollowed out the whole purpose of education, which
is to preserve and disseminate knowledge and generate new knowledge.
- This is the first time in the history of independent India that common
people have started looking at universities as spaces where their
hard-earned money is being misspent. The business of knowledge creation
itself is being perceived as extravagant and unnecessary.
- So, if you look for the word ‘knowledge’ in the policy documents of the
government, you are bound to be disappointed.
Developing critical thought
- The very idea of pursuing truth and developing critical thought, which
were seen as the role of universities, has gone into disuse.
- Universities were spaces where all kinds of ideas, however dominant,
were constantly examined.
- The only aim of education is to be to mainly inculcate nationalism, as
prescribed by the government, among students as well as teachers.
- The government even circulated a list of research areas and topics to be
kept in mind while preparing and approving research proposals.
- This essentially means that there is no space for free inquiry in the
field of higher education any more.
- If we look at the research proposals approved by the Indian Council of
Social Science Research, the Indian Council of Historical Research and even
scientific bodies, we realise the thinning of this area.
- Even the All India Institute of Medical Sciences recently held a seminar
on ‘astrology and the medical sciences’.
- This means that the very idea of science is under severe stress. Also,
the stories of the pressure that independent research institutions are
facing in the name of appraisal and scrutiny have not come out in the open
for obvious reasons.
Withdrawal of state support
- Apart from all this, public universities are being systematically
weakened by the steady withdrawal of state support to them.
- This is ironically at a time when the number of first-generation
learners in the university space has reached a satisfactory level.
- Universities needed more support to improve access to higher education.
Unfortunately, they are now facing a fund crunch.
- This leaves these students at a great disadvantage.
- The government is firming an unequal hierarchy in the field by promoting
the idea of Institutions of Eminence and keeping autonomy reserved for a
privileged set of institutions.
- Most public universities with a long tradition are kept out of it, thus
demoralising their teachers and students.
- Autonomy to such institutions has also been linked to withdrawal of
- Weakening the regulatory framework mechanism
- The regulatory mechanism for the field of higher education had started
to weaken during the UPA regime itself.
- Directives from the government became frequent and regulatory agencies
were used to route them to universities.
- Directives from bodies like the UGC kept disrupting the functioning of
- From reservation in faculty appointments to norms for doctoral research
and framing of undergraduate and postgraduate courses and syllabi.
- It has been a story of overreach and encroachment of the university
space by the UGC.
- Universities have also failed to assert their autonomy and have allowed
the UGC to enter areas it is not supposed to.
- Along with this we have seen a campaign to purge campuses of dangerous
- Meetings and seminars have been held exhorting students to identify such
- Independent scholars are now being shunned by universities and the
nationalism check is applied almost everywhere.
- Publishing is part of the academic ecosystem.
- Major publishing houses have started getting manuscripts legally vetted
to avoid litigation and attack by ‘nationalist’ elements.
- We can expect publishing to take a right turn under the new regime.
Q.1) Which of the following statements is/are correct regarding
1. The state can impose restrictions on fundamental rights in an arbitrary
2. They are available to citizens and foreigners only.
3. They are not applicable to armed forces, para-military forces and police
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) None of the above
Q.1) Do you think the education system in India is staring at a dismal future?