UNIVERSITIES IN CRISIS:REFLECTIONS IN DEBATES ON HIGHER EDUCATION

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Date- 24/1/2013

GUEST SPEAKER: Prof. Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley

CHAIR: Dr. Mallika Shakya, Department of Sociology, South Asian University, India

DISCUSSANT: Dr Dev N Pathak, Department of Sociology, South Asian University, India

To discuss on the issue of universities in crisis we had amongst us Michael Burawoy. He is the sociologist who has popularized neo Marxism in contemporary scholarship and we attribute the coinage of public sociology to him.

The event was initiated by Dr. Mallika Shakya by introducing the theme of the lecture. Michael Burawoy started his lecture by describing his first visit to India in 1967 as an undergraduate from Cambridge University, England, to study the language problem in university education in India. The issue was whether regional language should be the medium of education in Universities or not. He said Universities are included in a global hierarchy which has an implication on other issues of society as well. Talking about the crisis in Universities he stated that Universities are interested in “internationalization” i.e to get money to collaborate with the extension of practices from American Universities.

He addressed four dimensions of the crisis:
Budgetary crisis: Universities are privatized and they take lump sum amount of money from students that redirect the course in Universities. This results in degradation of teaching.
Governance crisis: Governance of Universities is changing and they need to be reconstructed.
Legitimation crisis: Students find it difficult to get stable jobs through the degrees provided by some Universities. The negligence by the Government in regulating the proper functioning of the faculties and the university in a way is responsible for such crisis.
Identity crisis: The deliberation upon knowledge in Universities is not necessarily for the purpose of serving society

There should be certain functions performed by the Universities. However Universities are increasingly driven by markets and thus knowledge is regulated. Universities should have a public function and knowledge should be applied in public where discussions can be carried out. Prof. Burawoy also added that Universities should be the radiating center for new ideas.

Instead contemporary Universities provide :
1) Instrumental knowledge that is concerned with means of a given end.
2) Reflexive knowledge wherein knowledge produced should be examined and discussion should take place entering into wider scope of society.

There are three models of Universities that regulate them:
Regulatory Model: There are reservation policies followed by every Universities which has not only local but also global impact as it results in the ranking of Universities. In spite of not having sufficient publications, Universities with money are favoured.
Market Model: This indicates the privatization of Universities like management colleges, Engineering and medical colleges. More than 50% of colleges in India are privatized. The Market model is followed by regulatory model and they work together.
Critical Engagement Model: Universities should sites of discussion and development of alternatives. We should engage ourselves in deliberative democracy encouraging public discussion about the problem of Universities.
Thus, regulatory model becomes more powerful and creates a mistaken hierarchy of Universities. To suppress deliberative democracy, the market model becomes active and universities are privatized.

Dr. Dev N Pathak, discussant for the event, said that Universities are no longer separate from society as there is a thin membrane separating both. It is increasingly subject to societal problems. We should re-energize ourselves and approach Universities as entities to engage among ourselves and the public.

Rapporteur:
Saumya Saloni
M.A. Sociology 2nd Semester
South Asian University

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