City's big new varsity braces for road ahead

Rajitha Menon, DH News Service, Mar 11 2018, 20:39 IST
The new university is headquartered in the Central College building which has a rich legacy. DH PHOTO B H SHIVAKUMAR

Bangalore Central University is Bengaluru's brand new university. It is one of three universities born from the trifurcation of the erstwhile Bangalore University. Inaugurated by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday, March 7, it faces many challenges, competition from private universities being just one of them.

In a candid chat with Rajitha Menon, Vice Chancellor S Japhet outlines the road ahead.

Vision for university

It can become world class. A huge plus-point is the location in the very heart of Bengaluru. It is one of the few in India to be a city university. It also enjoys the brand of Bengaluru, with its large pool of intellectual resources, IT and BT industries.

Motto from Kuvempu anthem

The university has to be a free and open space. Our motto comes from the famous Kuvempu poem 'O Nanna Chetana, aagu nee aniketanaa.' We have chosen 'Aagu nee aniketanaa' (be unbounded'). We want students to go beyond boundaries, identities, and ideologies that limit our thoughts.

Politics on campus

I welcome politics. I was myself involved in student politics; I was the general secretary of the Bangalore University Students' Union and also convener of the Karnataka Students' Action Committee. We shouldn't shy away from politics but it shouldn't come at the cost of one's studies. Students can organise themselves, but within the Constitutional framework. When it goes outside this framework, it is not student politics; it is something else.

Teething problems

We are a state public university that just got trifurcated, and face problems in terms of formalities and resources. The chief minister has assured us adequate funds and additional land. Of course, some baggage comes from our old university. Bangalore University was very reputed but problems cropped up in later years. So much so that job advertisements at one point used to say 'Students from Bangalore University need not apply'. We have to change that.

Finding faculty

The most crucial thing for me is to get qualified, competent and dedicated faculty. We have working posts now in a total of eight departments. We have just 50 per cent of them. We must also conduct exams, draw up syllabi and constitute a board of studies for affiliate colleges. We need to have all those courses even on campus. We have submitted a proposal for 20 new departments.

Integrated courses

I have constituted expert committees, drawing the best of minds from colleges across the country, to work on courses. We are planning to start a five-year integrated programme in science. We are also planning a two-year Masters in planning and governance through which students address Bengaluru's burning problems. We want to make our programmes multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and intra-disciplinary.

Private universities

The challenge is only in terms of perception. We have more qualified teachers here, and we cover 239 colleges. A large number of students are first-generation learners. As they come into the picture, the demand for education will rise. If private institutions can impart quality and affordable education, they are welcome. But they won't. An education lobby is at work indirectly killing state public universities. Education is an obligation of the state. It
should not be looked at as an expenditure; it is an investment. Developed economies are
doing well because they have invested heavily in education.

Experience at NLSUI

I want my university to be an inclusive place. That is what I bring from my stint at the
Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, National Law School of India University. We need to acknowledge we are still a divided society. That concept of a
democratic culture is what I bring. If I am allowed, I will even allow each of these affiliated colleges to conduct their exams.

Why Guv wasn't invited

Politicians are hard-pressed for time, especially in the election season. The chief minister gave the date just 10-15 days ago. If the governor had come, we would have had to follow a certain protocol which, given the short notice, was not possible.

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