25th October 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS II- SOCIAL-EDUCATION
Q1. Discuss the impact of the recent decision of the government, which requires employees of publicly-funded universities to be subjected to the Central Civil Service (conduct) rules governing Central government employees on the teachers. Do top universities of the world follow a similar approach?
- The university in India is morphing under external pressure. How it will end up should be a matter of concern for all Indians and not just its denizens. This is so as universities are a source of new ideas for human advancement, hold a mirror to society, and act as a bulwark against authoritarianism. At least that is the idea behind setting them up at public expense.
- For almost a decade now they have been subject to unaccountable governance by India’s higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission. However used they may have become to the meddling, nothing could have prepared them for the most recent diktat. This one requires employees of publicly-funded universities to be subjected to the Central Civil Service (conduct) rules governing Central government employees. Now, Central government employees are prohibited from writing critically about the government and making joint representations. So the latest regulatory measure would be a blow to India’s national prestige today and its health in the future. The silencing of academics is taken to be both a sign of backwardness and incompatible with democracy. But it is more than just how the world sees it, for stifling freedom reinforces the backwardness of a society.
- The argument that universities need adhere to a code of conduct is incontestable. All associations need codes of conduct to prevent chaos. Further, taking democracy seriously would make it incumbent upon them to adopt codes in keeping with its norms. Thus universities need to follow codes maintaining respect for the autonomy of its members, ensuring fairness in the evaluation of performance of students and teachers, efficiency in the conduct of everyday business, and accountability in the wielding of power by the administrative authority.
- However, there is no place in the university for a code that bars criticism of the government. When interpreted broadly in its application, such a regulation will prevent the achievement of the very goals imagined for the university. The idea that teachers exceed their brief when exercising their freedom of expression is dictatorial in its essence.
- As India is a democracy, it would be of interest to see how the leading universities in other democracies regulate the intellectual life of their faculty — that is, if they do so at all. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is ranked first in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) ranking of the world’s universities for 2019. The term ‘public intellectual’ may have been coined to describe its former professor Noam Chomsky. A world authority in the field of linguistics, Prof. Chomsky has been a trenchant critic of the U.S. establishment for over 50 years. In a less provocative way, the Harvard economist, John Kenneth Galbraith, had incisively pointed out how the core of the American economy was constituted by ‘the military-industrial complex’ uncovering also its political power. Galbraith had gone on to have a happy career.
- The university ranked first in the Times Higher Education (THE) ranking of universities in 2018 is Oxford. The very reference to it as the ‘home of lost causes’ reflects its character as a bastion of free thinking. An instance of it that would be of some interest to us in India is that when Gandhi was in England for the Round Table Conferences held during 1930-32 he was, on more than one occasion, the house guest of Alexander Lindsay, Master of Balliol College. At the time Gandhi was virtually at war with the British Empire, having been tried for sedition. A quarter of a century later, at the height of the infamous Cold War, the same college elected as its head a historian who was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (it seems not even the communists can forego grand titles).