Anyone cares for such state of affairs?
Certainly not Manmohan Singh or Arjun Singh!

This year’s annual rankings of the world’s best universities are out! What is news? What do Indian universities know about such news? There was no reaction whatever from whatever quarters you expect to have!

Yes, no reaction from the Prime Minister, supposedly the most learned university man at the top of the honours! Not also from the next best bet, we mean the education minister of the country, the very venerable Arjun Singh who enjoys the distinct honour of presiding over the HRD ministry twice! What qualifies him to have that double honour? His learning or erudition or his political clout? Or, his track record? On any conceivable ground he is no performer, may be someone over-estimates his political clout or he himself imagines? One can’t be sure!

Then, in the order of our education hierarchy. UDC? When you last heard of such a body in existence? Or, the newly created AICTE? Its clout also had fallen, once the country realised that the private sector players, the most unscrupulous in the country had now joined hands to create education empires, vast complexes of campuses, almost rivaling the newly coming SEZs. Yes, it is literally vast real estates these private self-financing ventures that spin money Ratan Tata might envy. In TN, you can see the full play of this highly unscrupulous elements, each has a notorious story about himself, vast encroachments urban land, even encroaching the waterways and riverbeds and also adopting all the know rules to break all rules and conventions in establishing these complexes and literally collecting money through a water tap-like system!

The education standards you can expect from these establishments. They are also now all deemed universities; they don’t respect the UGC, AICTE or the state governments. In TN, it is an open scandal. No less in Kerala where the powerful private education lobby threatens the very Achudananadan government!

In Karnataka it is no less a scandal. So too in AP and Maharashtra.
Now, what is the news we broke in the beginning?
In the latest ranking of world’s best universities, we have the venerable Harvard piping Oxford and Cambridge. Harvard number one, Oxford next. Then in the order come Yale, Imperial College, London, Princeton, California, Chicago and then University College, London and the tenth MIT.

In the first 20 we have from UK 2 universities, from US 17,UK-US we have the first 19,so the world total for the first 20 have only these two countries. That means in other words, 95 per cent of the first twenty best universities in the world are located in England and the USA!
In the next order, that is the next best 21-50 rankings we find some 12 developing countries. In the next best 51-100 universities, we have 10 developing countries.

In the bracket of the first 101-200 universities developing countries have 90 universities. Still you don’t have India in this list of developing countries!

India comes and finds a place only in the bracket of in 301-400 rankings! IISc and IIT-Kharagpur are the only two top universities in this list.

What about our age-old universities, Madras, Kolkatta and Mumbai or even the much-touted Delhi University or the Jawaharlal Nehru University? No, they are nowhere near the winning pole!
We have in the last sixty years of freedom, grown from 25 universities in 1947 today we have 20 Central universities and 215 state universities and 100 deemed universities and we have so many other nationally important centres of learning and also 17,000 colleges of varying strengths and reputation. We have to admit there are some regionally located colleges, over a century, some missionary institutions that are as good, if not better than some of the established universities, as far as traditions of learning, teaching and discipline are all concerned.

Education, more so higher education is all about establishing high traditions and an atmosphere conducive to learning and research and pursuit of independent thought.

Many serious-minded educators, thinkers and scientists, have lamented the various deficiencies, fall of science teaching, lack of autonomy in the universities, too much of politicisation and political interference. Once famous institutions, Presidency College, Kolkatta is today a poor shadow of its old dynamism. Yes, once Sir C.V.Raman did his Nobel Prize-winning research in the humble buildings of the Indian Association for the cultivation of sciences in Bow Bazaar in the crowded Kolkatta. Today, with all the organised universities, good salaries and perks and opportunities somehow Indian higher education had fallen sick.

Also, the minds of education leaders, from ministers to educators have also become poverty-ridden!

That is the simple lesson and the message must be clear.
The message is: please vacate your seats for the younger ones to come and change the scenario!

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