Every year, it is a challenge to conduct examinations in Sawantwadi, in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. Three colleges of this Konkan town are affiliated to Mumbai University, almost 650 kilometres away. Going to the university for any work is a big challenge. Administering the colleges in this region is an equally big one for Mumbai University. The Konkan people have long demanded a separate university for their area. This problem is not unique to Maharashtra either.
The University of Mumbai, like most universities in the country, has a federal structure. The central administration and its postgraduate departments form the core that sets standards for and regulates a number of affiliated institutions, typically colleges, for undergraduate studies. These colleges can be fully public, aided or private.
The draft National Education 2019 is only the latest policy roadmap to recommend abolishing this system of affiliated colleges. Education commissions have regarded this structure with concern for years and it’s easy to see why. Some state-run universities are so bloated, their central cores, instead of focusing on research and innovation, have been reduced to just conducting exams and managing welfare schemes and promotions.
India’s five biggest universities regulate a staggering 4,209 colleges and centres between them, enrolling lakhs of students. The largest, Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj (CSJM) University, Kanpur, alone has close to 1,000 affiliated colleges spread across 14 districts of Uttar Pradesh. Mumbai University, with over 800 affiliated colleges enrolling 8.5 lakh students conducts 8,500 examinations in a year. Savitribai Phule Pune University, Maharashtra, and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University, Agra, Uttar Pradesh are about the same size as Mumbai University. The story behind their bulk is the same one behind most of public higher education – underfunding, teacher-shortage, and systems whose growth simply hasn’t kept pace with the growth in the number of students.
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