Traveling in Greece (many years ago, before the Eurozone crisis and all that) one of the few words that I was encouraged to recognize was ΠΑΝΕΠΙΣΤΗΜΙΟ, the word for University (for the somewhat pragmatic and mundane reason so I could identify the signs to find my way back to my host…).
PANEPISTEMIO... It has always struck me that it’s literal meaning, as a place where “All the body of ideas that determine the knowledge that is intellectually certain at any particular time” has a satisfying completeness. And so much more appropriate for what it is we should want to be… “University” is too all encompassing and doesn’t quite focus on the knowledge that we hold so dear as part of what defines us.
This introspection comes at the cusp of the 11th and the 12th five-year plans, when it is time to start reflecting on where we want to be in the years to come. How we visualize our University in the next ten, twenty years… that determines the course of action we must take now. What new branches of knowledge we should propose to explore, what new fields of study we should embark upon, and what new disciplines we must forge…
The University is today composed of 10 Schools of study that contain, severally, some 15 or so Departments. And in addition, there are Centres both inside and outside the School framework. What we study, how we train the new generations, how we organize ourselves are all issues that testify to our sense of common purpose. To convert our institution into one where all disciplines flourish will take some doing, and given our framework, may not even be possible now. But the Pan-Epistemic ideal is one that I believe is worth striving for.
We should try. Do we have too few Schools? How many is too many? What do we need? Where are our (many) gap areas? Is our structure robust enough to allow us the academic framework we need? What can we do to strengthen this? How many students should we have? Do we teach enough? Too much? All questions that are easy enough to pose, but not quite so easy to figure out sustainable answers to… I know I have posted along somewhat similar lines recently, but given that this is a constant preoccupation, I guess some repetition is inevitable. And of course, its not all repetition.
One general aim we need to keep in mind is that we should increase the number of students on campus. After we have built sufficient hostels of course, but the fact is that we must increase the size of the student body. That can’t be done simply by increasing the numbers in each class- sometimes there are just not that many takers for a given subject- but we also need to worry about what academic disciplines are attractive for those seeking education.
A number of cross-disciplinary chimeras have arisen in recent years, some with the benefit of clergy and some without. In the fitness of time they will- like the languages I wrote about in an earlier post- evolve into other disciplines, some will die, others will be born, but we do not, now, have the luxury of time. Some response to let me know what you feel is needed could help us evolve a plan to present to the UGC when they decide to ask us to make a proposal for the XIIth Five Year Plan. More “Community College” type courses? An emphasis on issues of the environment? Particle physics? Gender Studies? More M. Tech. programmes? Less of them? P G Diplomas? Brain science? Post Genomics? Let me know.