Aligarh Muslim University -- Search for Excellence - Prof M N Faruqui

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Aligarh Muslim University -- Search for Excellence

Author: Prof M N Faruqui

Originally posted on on Friday, December 03, 2010


The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) has been functioning as a University since 1920 and earlier as a College since 1875. There has hardly been any change in its style of working, outlook, and approach. AMU is suffering from ennui and obsolescence like the traditional universities in Northern India who are also in this predicament. The ‘total educational’ system that was established at AMU by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and later by his eminent successors produced some remarkable people over the years. The University was famous and stood for certain concepts and ideas that had served it well. However a systematic deterioration of concepts and values has occurred with the passage of time and the rapid technological and social transformations taking place all around. The essentiality and compulsions of the educational backwardness of the Muslim community have hurt the university most.

Totally un-informed and politically motivated demand for a Minority status is doing more harm than good to the University. Barring one course the percentage of Muslim students in the University is around seventy percent. It is high time that the University rejuvenates and take measures to modernise itself in academics and infrastructure facilities in order to achieve excellence and serve the community better. Painstaking, sincere and challenging performance of the faculty is another component of excellence. Efforts of opening outside centres of AMU are misguided and harmful to the cause of preserving Aligarh spirit and imparting quality education.

I would like to discuss here the problems of AMU from an Academic point of view and take up Administrative issues later. The faculty of the University has become totally ‘inward’ looking with a frog in the well attitude where the world outside is, as if, immaterial and is inimical to their interests and hence of the University. This pessimistic and unrealistic view rubs off on its students inculcating in them a feeling of isolation and a pessimistic attitude.

Revive AMU :

The first step would be to revive the spirit of AMU. This University is not a place that just distributes diplomas and degrees but inculcates a way of life, a value system and a ‘Tehzeeb’ in its students. AMU was known for and was proud of this heritage and considered no education complete without imbibing the “tehzeeb”

The classical style of teaching-learning adopted by traditional departments has resulted in an obsolescence of ideas. AMU had some very outstanding Professors in various fields of Arts and Science but intolerable level of inbreeding has led to sycophancy, dissemination of favours and a palpable deterioration. World over revolutionary changes have taken place in the teaching-learning process and AMU has to wake up to these radical and innovative changes. Some of the Academic issues that should be addressed by the faculty, students and the administration of the AMU are discussed below.

Academics :

Make AMU a Modern University in all senses. The requirements of the Infrastructure needed to achieve it are discussed subsequently.

A University is seen to be active, vibrant and ‘alive’ if it offers courses in newer disciplines and continuously upgrades the content and scope of the existing courses and disciplines. A look at a comparable American University will show the depth, variety and scope of courses they offer. The University should put more academic rigor in Ph Ds and Masters level courses and go through a conscious overhaul of its Postgraduate programmes and become a leading university in offering out-of-the-box thinking and ideas. At Masters level student must put about 25 to 30 hours of work per week.

Some of the important and in my view mandatory changes that have to be made are listed below. Going along its unhurried leisurely pace of functioning is not going to bring any significant change in the development of the University. Attitude of the faculty have to change.

i. Emphasis on Post Graduate teaching including Ph D education should be increased

ii. Revamp the curricula and syllabi and make education more serious. A revision of the curricula every alternate year should be mandatory. This has to be an internal effort as Board of Studies seldom helps generate ideas.

iii. Reports, Projects, and Assignments should be an Integral part of the curriculum, right from the First Year. Emphasis must be increased on self learning by the students and extensive use may be made of Internet and other Information Technology techniques. This applies to all disciplines and Faculties and not only to Engineering.

iv. The Project or Assignment in every course in each semester should require about 25 hours of independent work by the student. Rigour has to be maintained for excellence.

v. Number of days of Instruction in a semester be fixed (say 90 days including exams); As a measure of reform the University must cut the number of holidays and follow fixed schedules of Instruction and Examinations.

vi. Number of hours of functioning of a department should be 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week.

vii. Compulsory and wide use of Computers should be made for submitting reports and assignments. Short Mid-Term examinations should be introduced.

viii. Decouple Faculties for examination purposes and decentralise Faculty-wise functioning. (Semester system in Arts and Social Science and Science Faculties is a must if already not done).

ix. Create large number of Adjunct Professors who can interact with faculty and students
x. Introduce Computer literacy courses for all students

Feedback about teaching must be taken from students about the teaching in a course. Good and sincere teaching and research should be rewarded through various incentives including cash awards.

Infrastructure :

1. If a University has to develop into a world class Institution it has to have a world class Infrastructure in addition to a dedicated Faculty and a liberal and open minded Administration.

2. Having well equipped laboratories, modern class rooms and state of the art Internet facilities are essential first steps towards achieving the goals.

3. For the Internet they have to install a total Wireless system with Broadband connectivity. There should be no compromise on buying the largest bandwidth available. All Departments, Faculty rooms, labs, class rooms, individual rooms in Halls of residence and total Administration should be provided with connectivity, computers and appropriate software. Faculty members and students should be encouraged to own laptops and easy loan schemes may be negotiated with banks. This is a MUST for all Faculties in the University. For students having financial difficulties small clusters of computing facility may be established in some Halls in the beginning.

4. Build new Halls of Residence in order to reduce the overcrowding that creates problems all around. The living conditions and the state of cleanliness of the toilets etc leave a large scope for improvement. The messes in the Halls have to be revived and made hundred percent functional. Eating in the dining hall must be compulsory. Other than cleaning them up they require more modern gadgets to function smoothly.

5. Power Supply by the State agencies is also a major problem and a draw back to all Technology and Science based education system. Irrespective of the cost hundred percent power backup is essential and must be provided.

6. The renovation of ‘Heritage” buildings including Halls of Residence were once funded by UGC but a fresh look is desirable and action taken. Departments that are not housed properly deserve a building of their own.

7. Lack of renovation of the buildings including better and latest equipment and facilities in the Medical College has hampered the development of the college.

8. Overhaul and re-equip old and obsolete Equipment and Facilities in the Science, and Engineering by discarding old and obsolete equipment and ideas.

9. Faculty members and Administration have to be held Accountable for lapses if any.

Obtaining Funds for development would not be difficult since the Government of India has been generous in grants to the University but unfortunately they have been either returned or utilised for some other purpose.

Faculty members:

1. The University has to run Faculty Development programmes to train the teachers in modern pedagogy.

2. Incentives and Promotions should be tied up with the performance of a teacher judged by either students’ feedback score or research output. A minimum of 2 papers in refereed journals in a year may be adopted as a standard for good performance.

3. Liberal funding for paper presentations be made available for attending conferences both National and International.

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