Studying the varsity

Dec 03 2012, 10:01 IST
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SummaryResearch is also taking place outside, but the university’s contribution to a democratic culture cannot be ignored

Research is also taking place outside, but the university’s contribution to a democratic culture cannot be ignored

Are Indian universities no longer centres of excellence? Have they failed to produce outstanding students and research? Since the IITs, though they are not known for pioneering innovations and research, are still seen as model institutions, the real issue is, is good research in social sciences occurring only in institutions outside universities?

Before we pass the verdict and agree with the government that our universities urgently require transfusion in the form of private funding, foreign universities and centres of research outside the universities, there are a few significant facts we need to note with regard to the changing landscape of the universities, particularly in the field of social sciences.

One, contrary to predictions of doom and crisis, in recent years the most prestigious universities from all over the world, Europe and America being the frontrunners, are coming to Indian universities seeking research collaborations with faculties in the social sciences. Many would like joint degree programmes and teaching, though the framework currently in place in India does not allow for that easily.

Two, research students registered for degree programmes in “foreign” universities regularly come for consultation and research guidance here. The number of such students is only increasing by the day. Three, graduate students from India, pursuing research abroad tend to perform extremely well and have high success rates.

Four, if one looks at the catalogue of any well established academic publishing house in India, a disproportionately high percentage of books are written by scholars teaching in universities. That is not all. In almost all disciplines, members of the social science faculties are invited to contribute to the best known journals and, at times, asked to be guest editors for them; many hold positions in international professional bodies and so many are contributing to books that are being published from different parts of the world.

These are no mean achievements, particularly when you consider that so much of their time is given to teaching and guiding students in their work. This is not to say that research is only being carried out in universities. But the enormous contributions that university professors have made to the growth of knowledge and an understanding of our society, and the issues that confront it, must also not be ignored. There is no doubt that much more could, indeed should, be done. Just as there

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