Prof. A P Dash, Vice Chancellor, Central University of Tamil Nadu, speaks to Pritha Roy Choudhury on the winds of change blowing in the higher education domain. The UGC is going to change the course curriculum. It is coming up with Learning Outcome based Curriculum Framework. So, things are changing now, and we are heading for a new India,” said Prof. Dash.
Q. The course curriculum at the universities has been sort of static for quite some time. Is the UGC doing something on this?
A. Yes. The UGC is going to change the course curriculum. It is coming up with Learning Outcome Curriculum based Framework (LOCF) for every subject. I was chairing the subjects Zoology and Aquaculture. We have completed that and as the Secretary of UGC has shared, survey for seven subjects has been completed. So, things are changing now. We are heading for a real new India.
Q. Another related concern is about research in higher education institutions. What are your views on this?
A. Yes. We do need a research culture. I am trying to bring research culture to my university. Research component needs to be strengthened in the universities because if you see the global ranking, they put maximum emphasis on research output. So, that needs to be strengthened. Our university has been very successful in doing that on our campus. Among the new central universities I am very proud to say that we have some flagship research publications which include five papers in the ‘Lancet’.
Q. Isn’t there a disconnect when it comes to employability of university graduates?
A. Employability depends on the course curriculum. For example, we started MSc in Epidemiologic Health. Students of the first batch passed out in 2018. Everybody got a job except one for some personal reasons. Similarly, if there are subjects which help students in getting employed then there will not be dearth of employment. Most of our students are getting jobs and many are completing their PhD on the campus while many others are going abroad for that. One of our students has recently been selected for the prestigious National Institute of Immunology in Delhi. They do not take NET qualified students. They have their own selection procedure. Only 20 students are selected from across the nation.
Q. Can you tell us about some of the innovative programmes at your university?
A. We are having 22 departments and some of them are quite innovative. We have the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health. You search anywhere, you will get Masters in Public Health, MPH course or Public Health Course in India, but nowhere will you get MSc in Epidemiology and Public Health. This programme involves science and its application in public health. After successfully completing the programme, the students can go for a job. All students from the last batch got a job. Or, if they want to, they can go for research also.
Q. What is your view on the 10 percent reservation for students from economically weaker sections?
A. If you calculate in numbers, for an integrated MSc programme, the number of seats that we have is 30 and if 10 percent quota for economically weaker sections is implemented then it goes up by three. So it is a welcome move, it does not make a huge difference, and that many students can be accommodated.
Q. What about autonomy for institutions that are doing well?
A. Autonomy comes with responsibility. It does not come alone. If I am getting autonomy, I don’t think anybody can interfere with me and I can listen to anybody and as far as quality is concerned, there should be no compromise. You should talk to our faculty on how they are recruited, it is based purely on merit. This is one university which is located in rural area of Tamil Nadu, 320 kilometres away from the state capital, Chennai. Once you are at the university you will understand how the system has bridged the gap between urban and rural education.
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