COIMBATORE: Highly critical of the fragmented higher education system with a large number of institutions being having adopted the monodisciplinary system, the draft National Education Policy has favoured multidisciplinary universities and colleges with the aim to address the problems in the arena of higher education.
Students should be allowed to develop cross-disciplinary capabilities and focus on both creative and analytic growth, the draft policy suggests. As with any new policy, academia stands divided on this suggestion too.
According to the draft policy, students are now being forced into narrow areas of study -- engineering, science, arts, profession and vocational subjects -- and are generally mandated to take almost all courses only within their stream.
This is a very harmful practice that prevents students from having the flexibility to develop their individual interests and talents, reads the draft prepared by the committee headed by Indian Space Research Organisation’s former chairman K Kasturirangan.
Over 40 per cent of all colleges in the country run only a single programme, far from the multidisciplinary style of higher education that will be required in the 21st century, the report points out. It aims to end this by moving higher education into large multidisciplinary universities and colleges.
While this system will give students a vibrant community of scholars and peers to learn from, it will also help break down harmful silos between disciplines. This will also help develop active research communities across disciplines and particularly aid cross-disciplinary research. Efficient use of resources will also be a welcome byproduct, the report predicts.
Anna University’s former vice-chancellor E Balagurusamy belongs to the section of academics who have welcomed the idea. The idea of the university is to offer various courses in different disciplines. While this had been the case originally, separate universities for engineering, medicine, sports and arts began to be established, he recalls.
He also opines that creating Anna University for engineering colleges was a wrong move. However, he points out that changing monodisciplinary universities into multidisciplinary ones will be difficult.
According to All India Federation of Self Financing Technical Institutions General Secretary K V K Rao, there is little reason to believe the system will yield better results, based on the evidence at hand. The liberal autonomy granted to multidisciplinary, autonomous deemed and private universities has mostly been misused.
Till date, no step has been taken by the regulators to correct the system and ensure the compliance of desired norms by the so-called higher-status institutions, he has said in a letter to Minister for Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Secretary R Subrahmanyam.
Besides, no research or survey conducted has given evidence to the claim that multidisciplinary institutions produce better output than single stream institutions, he added.