Academics can’t be improved overnight: Rajan Welukar

Monday, 3 February 2014 - 6:13am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Rajan Welukar, who took charge as vice-chancellor of University of Mumbai in July 2010, is easily the most controversial V-C of the 157-year-old institution. The latest controversy was suspension of Prof Neeraj Hatekar, head of the economics department, by him. Following a huge protest, the university was forced to revoke the suspension. Welukar answers a wide range of questions from Kanchan Srivastav  

It’s been three-and-half years at the varsity.
It's been very challenging considering the perennial issues the university was grappling with. Several issues like accreditation of the varsity to the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) was pending since 2006, statutory audit was not done since 2007, infrastructure projects of Thane and Ratnagiri campuses were incomplete, Nanotechnology Centre at Kalina, Centre for Basic Sciences and Kalina campus beautification were all pending. University Grants Commission (UGC) funds were also lying unused. We streamlined all these pending works. Many of them are near completion. We got an ‘A’ grade from NAAC. Thane campus will start this year.

Mumbai University slipped in world rankings from the 350-400 bracket in 2009 to the 601-650 bracket in 2013.
Academics can’t be improved overnight. We took several steps like implementation of the Credit-based Semester System which would transform university education in the next few years. Students are studying on a daily basis because they have to complete projects, give class tests and semester exams. Class attendance has improved vastly and parents are very happy. The world rankings are debatable. Some of their parameters include strength of international students and foreign faculty. We can never score on these parameters because Mumbai is a very costly city for foreign students and a public university can’t afford foreign faculty.  

Why can’t you address simple issues like provision of adequate drinking water facilities, street lights on the campus or TVs in hostels?  
We are trying to work on these issues. The day I came to know about the defunct TV in the girls’ hostel, I sent my own TV.  

People call you a dictator because you imposed the credit system and the scaling-down policy without proper consultation and homework
This is a misconception. The V-C doesn’t take a single decision on academics. The Board of Studies and Academic Council, which have more than 1,000 members, take these decisions after adequate consultations. The policies framed by them are reviewed by separate committees after receiving feedback. Some rules in the credit system were amended. We are reviewing the scaling down policy too.  

Prof Neeraj Hatekar has alleged that selection of members for bodies like the academic council is unfair. Good teachers are worried about ongoing malpractices and policy paralysis at the top.
I will not comment on the Hatekar case. A vice-chancellor has no say in the selection of members for these bodies.  

dna has exposed the functioning of the board of studies of the Master of Computer Applications course. Its chairperson is illegally setting question papers, assesses the answer sheets and works as a practical examiner. You did nothing.
I am not aware of this issue.  But let me check with the persons concerned.  

You are inaccessible to students and teachers. You haven’t even convened a single meeting with professors till now. How do you aim to improve academics, then?
How does it affect their (teachers’) performance? By the way, I forward all their complaints and petitions to the people concerned. I am open to meeting everybody.  

Teachers blame you play vindictive politics.
I will not discuss anything about my teachers.    

Why are you so obsessed with outsourcing university work to the Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Ltd (MKCL) with which you are associated? You didn’t even pay heed to the CAG report which states that the computerisation project should have been handed over to the university by now.
This is again a misconception. This firm is working with the university since 2007. I became the V-C in 2010. We have stopped their payment recently after reviewing their work. Besides, MKCL is not an outsourcing firm. All the state universities are stakeholders of MKCL.  

The University Computerisation Centre (UCC) says it can manage the work and that the services of MKCL are not required anymore.  
The UCC can’t handle the project.

Over one-third posts of teachers are still lying vacant.  
We have advertised for the 243 posts which is a record. Over 70 posts have been filled up. We didn’t get suitable candidates for 81 posts. The process for the rest of the posts is underway.  

Why do students flee from Mumbai University which is evident from 30% vacancies in undergraduate courses, including the so-called job-oriented ones?
The trend in higher education is changing globally. The courses, which were popular until a few years ago, have lost their charm recently. We have launched 30 new courses for this purpose.  

Why did Controller of Exam Prof Padmaja Deshmukh quit suddenly?  
The management of her parent college, CHM College, Ulhasnagar, wrote to us that they wanted her back as their principal. We accepted their request. If my employer (government) asks me to leave this post and do something else, I will have to do so.


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