A liberal education aims at the ‘making of men’, said Sir Raymond West, vice-chancellor of the University of Bombay, speaking in the convocation address in July 1882. “It [education] is not to be diverted into a process of manufacturing human tools wonderfully adroit in the exercise of some technical industry, but good for nothing else,” added West.
His words are interesting to revisit as the University of Mumbai (MU) turns 160 this month.
The former VC would probably have had some things to say about how the university has conducted exams and admissions in recent times. It has also messed up schedules and delayed results. Last year, the Mumbai University ranked 68 among 421 institutions among BRICS nations according to rankings agency Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). Amongst 724 institutes nationally, it ranks between 151 and 200, in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) released by India’s human resources development ministry in April.
Think of a prominent Mumbaiite, and chances are she or he studied here.
Nuclear physicist Homi Bhabha; reformer Lokmanya Tilak; Morarji Desai, the fifth prime minister of India; Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema, passed through these gates. More recently, so did industrialist Adi Godrej; Wipro founder Azim Premji; jurist Nani Palkhivala and ICICI Bank CMD Chanda Kochhar.
“The MU is one of the three oldest in the country,” says Naresh Chandra, former pro-vice chancellor of the university who now serves as principal of Birla College, Kalyan. “The largest number of NAAC-accredited A-grade colleges fall under MU.” These include St Xavier’s, Ruia, Ruparel colleges and more.
Established in 1857 and initially spread over a single 243 acre campus in south Mumbai, MU now operates across campuses in Kalina, Thane, Ratnagiri and Kalyan. It is the administrative body for 777 colleges and more than 7 lakh students, says Leeladhar Bansod, the university’s deputy registrar. At the undergraduate level, courses are offered in subjects ranging from management studies to law, architecture, aviation and physical education. It also runs 58 post-graduate programmes ranging from applied psychology to nanotechnology.
BACK AND FORTH
Changing times need a change of pace and approach. “One of the key issues for students of the 21st century is student engagement,” says Rajan Welukar, former vice-chancellor of MU. “The moment you engage them, learning happens automatically in the classroom and outside it. For this net-savvy generation, what is needed is creating the experience around such easily accessible content.” MA Khan, registrar of the MU says, “The current administration has initiatives to increase transparency and automation. ”
Indu Shahani, educationist and former principal of HR College, says that much of the university’s good standing comes from the staff and students. “Eighty to ninety percent of students in MU travel from the suburbs for higher education. They are very self-motivated,” she says. “They make things happen no matter what.”
“Today, a generation lasts not 20 years, but 5. Newer courses when added, must be centered around the learner, ” says Snehlata Deshmukh, former vice-chancellor of MU.
Shahani adds that the university has been able to meet the needs of its students well. Its B.Com courses have offered specialisations such as Banking and Insurance, and Accounting and Finance. It also introduced Bachelor of Mass Media and Management Studies courses in the early 2000s.
But much more needs to be done. “When exam reforms are added, the process has to be set in motion at least two years in advance,” says Snehlata Deshmukh, former vice-chancellor of MU.
Quick decisions have resulted in delays in results and mix-ups during exams.
Deshmukh also says that the curriculum be revised more frequently. “Today, a generation lasts not 20 years, but 5,” she says. “Newer courses when they are added, they must be centered around the learner.”
Despite West’s view, the curriculum needs to help students face a changing workplace. “The jobs of the future will be in fields such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, design thinking, virtual reality, and data analytics,” says Shahani.
“Data is going to be the next generation’s oil.” It’s time the institution started planning for tomorrow.