Odisha Universities Act Amendment: A Step In The Right Direction

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The gazette notification of Odisha Universities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 has created a hue and cry among academicians, university job aspirants, political parties and some voluntary organizations. The reason behind this opposition is the recommendations of the amended act.

This new policy has two major recommendations – first, recruitment of Assistant Professors, Associate Professor and Professors will be done by the Odisha Public Service Commission (OPSC); second is the recruitment of other ancillary staff or Non-Teaching staff by the State Selection Board (SSB). People may perceive this as an arbitrary decision of the Odisha government so far as autonomy of universities is concerned. The decision may also curtail the authority of Vice-Chancellors in the recruitment process.

The obvious questions that come to the minds of people are why were such amendments needed and what compelled the state government to go for such a decision? For all the universities of Odisha, it’s time to introspect.

Politics in the campus, groupism among professors, the crabs-in-a-basket syndrome of intellectuals and callousness of Vice-Chancellors have created this kind of situation in the state. Hundreds of teaching positions are lying vacant after the superannuation of professors in almost all universities of the state. The university authorities show no signs of interest to recruit for the vacant positions.

Most of the well-performing departments, like Journalism department of Berhampur University, appear non-functional after the superannuation of veteran professors. Utkal University, the oldest university of Odisha, has not recruited teachers for quite a long time.

PhD programmes are being run by various departments without a single regular teacher in the department. Part-time teachers are managing the show in the universities. Neither the government machinery interfered in university affairs nor did Vice-Chancellors take proactive initiatives to address the issues.

Have we ever done self-evaluation? Have we ever tried to know our position in comparison to other high-performing Indian Universities and global counterparts? Do we know where exactly we stand in terms of job creation, employment, campus recruitment and sustainable development? If we talk about rankings, then what is the NIRF ranking of our universities? How many universities of the state have got UGC NAAC A grade? In QS ranking where do we stand? What is the research output? How many patents we have filed from our universities so far? How many MoUs we have signed with international universities? What is our faculty and student exchange rate with global universities?

We do not have any answer. The result is known to all.

While doing introspection, even more questions pop up. We should ask ourselves how many times have we revised our syllabus? How many new courses have we launched in last 20 years in our universities? How contemporary is our syllabus? Have we ever compared our syllabus with prominent national and international universities? Have we ever mapped our curriculum with world-class universities? Isn’t it the responsibility of the Vice-Chancellor to take care of these unaddressed areas? The lack of vision and initiative, ineffective leadership at the top level, the attitude of passing the buck and procrastination has left us in our current position.

The teaching staff is equally responsible for the present mess in universities of the state. Have we ever tried to know for how many hours the teachers are teaching in the classroom? Do they adhere to UGC recommendations of minimum workload? Have we ever assessed the teachers on the basis of students’ outcome or result? Have we ever made any teacher accountable for the poor performance of the students? As teachers of universities, have we ever tried to enhance the employability of our students? How much time does a professor contribute for research with the scholars? Teachers should self-assess their contribution to the overall growth of the students, department and the university in general.

Analyzing all these questions implies that the decision of the state government to control the universities is apt and need of the hour. At least through this act, universities will get teachers and students will get back to the classes. This change is imminent.

It will definitely bring positive changes in higher education. The OPSC is capable enough to shoulder the recruitment process as it is the same body that recruits lecturers for government colleges, officers of OAS, OPS, ORS and other departments. For the recruitment of teachers for universities, the OPSC will definitely form a selection committee comprising subject experts from various universities and consider proper guidelines of UGC for minimum standard of teachers in higher education.

Let’s welcome this move of the government for a better tomorrow.

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