Another uneventful chapter of the Goa University comes to an end this week. The last five years leading to the silver jubilee of the existence of the varsity were perhaps the worst in terms of declining academic standards, what with politics on the campus and professors accused of various misdemeanors. Even the Prof Vinodh Gaur Academic Audit Committee has severely castigated the varsity, terming the leaders of having little innovation in curriculum.
With this kind of mindset it was only natural that the only varsity in the state had the collective shame of being rated as a “B” grade university by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) — much below seven other affiliate institutes, including four colleges in the State. Instead of radically improving the standards of education, after the NAAC report was out, large scale maintenance and construction activity took priority, with wide allegations of corruption, contracts reportedly going to selected bidders from certain places of Maharashtra. Bungalows were repaired, the administrative building was renovated, conference hall was refurbished, and jubilee hall was built at a questionable price. Orders for chemicals and equipment went to select vendors.
It is indeed shameful that the University, which leaders like Jack de Sequeira had envisioned at the time of Liberation, has reached this nadir. Some institutions of repute in India and abroad do not accept Goa University degrees for qualifying examinations.
In the last few years, the university had virtually become the Goa University of Maharashtra: While there are individuals shouting from rooftops — Konkani as the medium of instructions — when it comes to the university the same argument is not made, nor are there any discussion about how Goa University has benefitted Goans. Dr. Bailon de Sa who was the Vice Chancellor of Ghana University, who logically was most competent to be the first vice chancellor of Goa University was sidelined for a man who did not take the university anywhere, to say the least.
Subsequently, the Maharashtrian lobby took over and flourished during the last five years. Hence, the celebration of Statehood and autonomy — to do what Goa and Goans desire — is just an empty cliché. The moot question is: What has the state achieved with Goa having its own university? Are we just content with just paper degrees after years of rote learning? Anyone who has passed through the Bombay university system would agree that those degrees have value due to the strict assessment standards, whereas students with Goa University degrees are hardly employable.
The only notable vice chancellor was Prof. NC Nigam, who kept politicians far from interfering in the varsity affairs and set high standards, such that many incompetent non-teaching staff were on the run looking for transfers and deputation to get out of the university. To our utter shame, Prof. Nigam an aeronautical engineer from IIT used to roam with his resignation in the pocket, and right enough tendered his resignation just 17 months after taking office. Thereafter, the rot set in and Goa University has not yet recovered since. Now there is extension of courses, buildings and recruitment of staff. Sadly, no vision. The Goa University has done pretty little to tackle the problems of Goan society, besides just pure research since education has both an intrinsic value and functional value. It has not been able to suggest solutions to the medium of instruction imbroglio or the ecological problems, administrative problems in civil services, pollution, financial problems. No doubt there are a few committed academics from across the borders who have researched on mining and marine problems. However most have remained happy buying plots, constructing houses, besides looking after the education of their kids to the detriment of the university.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar ought to be commended for resisting all pressures to retain the present vice chancellor beyond his five year term. Parrikar should now hold a thorough inquiry into the financial and other irregularities at Goa University. While we await the appointment of a pro-active Vice Chancellor, who will lead the path to academic excellence and intellectual recovery, there is need to ensure that the new leader has the vision, the desire and a decisive plan of action besides commitment, so that the varsity attains new heights and benefit Goan society.