Manipur University Library (Pic: Herojit Th/Wikimedia Commons)

People have been talking about quality education in Manipur for quite some time but it seems the discourse has been all style with no substance. In what seems to be an impatient move, CM Nongthombam Biren has even announced that the state government will introduce a policy for deducting the salaries of those government employees who send their children to private schools. We can only wait and watch what the new government has in store for the people.

In 2016, 73 of the 323 government schools in Manipur had a zero pass percentage in the High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) examination. If we look back, there had been all sorts of measures taken up by both state and non-state actors regarding quality education but the result has been telling a different tale. Then recently in the first quarter of 2017, the Manipur University has not figured in the top 100 universities in India that was announced by the Ministry of Human Resources, Government of India. Amar Yumnam, professor, Manipur University and Pradip Phanjoubam, editor, Imphal Free Press made their comments on the issue.

Article source: Imphal Free Press

The Grade And The Un-grade: Manipur University’s Predicament Today

By Amar Yumnam

In December 2016 Manipur University submitted indented information to an authorized agency of the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India. The outcome of the information submitted by Manipur University today is that this institution is not within the FIRST HUNDRED institutes of this country worthy of ranking as assessed by the ranking authority. Recently it has also been a reality that some Faculty Members kept receiving calls from the University Grants Commission as the persons in Statutory Positions of the University were just not available on phone. Well these consequential calls did cause embarrassment and shamefulness to these Academics. Now the icing is that the University is not one of those identified as worthy of ranking by the concerned authority of India. Now what does it imply? Well, it implies at least that the institute is not even in the race for excellence in this country for competitive performance of expected roles of an institute of higher learning.

Here let us look at the context of this rather lack of performance. The people of Manipur do possess an inherited cultural quality of endeavouring for excellence; a competent boy would be the groom of the Princess or if your feet are wet, your mouth too would be so. But Manipur University today has been labelled as one not included in the race for excellence. Further, the reaction of the general public to this exclusion has been primarily of three types. First, there are large sections of the people who are not concerned with the implications of this news. Second, there are quite many who are not surprised by the result. Third, there are few who feel upset, disturbed and concerned by this; they feel ashamed.

What is really disturbing is the consequential concern, debate and articulation on this exclusion from the ranking, or rather the absence of these and poverty of understanding of the issues involved among the stakeholders within the University itself. We may ask ourselves as to what is life if we cannot romance with life; this is another way of putting the Biblical saying that Man does not live by bread alone. Everyone aspires to lead a life with dignity. How can the stakeholders in a Central University lead a life with dignity or romance with life? They can do so only when they feel their efforts bearing fruit and recognised by the society besides the good monthly earnings of bread. This has not been so in the case of Manipur University. The society cannot afford to let go this situation un-dissected.

Before we dissect the situation, let us recall a few realities – realities associated with universities around the world. First, every university, excepting Manipur University, in the world is now aware of the full responsibility to rise to the occasion of knowledge becoming a rising component of every action and product in any nation. Second, all of them, except Manipur University, are aware of the fact that the world of today is very different from the world before the 1990s. In this highly networked world and impatient needs of the increasingly networked youths, the role and responsibility of the universities are qualitatively very different; any competition among universities is necessarily ever more intense and global today. Third, every university, except Manipur University, is tremendously engaged in contextualisation of knowledge and application. Thus while they are all trying for increasing social convergence in knowledge expansion, Manipur University is still in the Feudalistic Mode and of late increasingly so.

In the Feudalistic Mode the focus was on Domination, Command and Control and with limited interests confined to the locality. This underwent a change during the period of Industrial Revolution to a focus on Hierarchies, Control, Responsibility and Efficiency. Further this transformed into a focus on Networks, Responsibility, Contribution and Effectiveness. From this Knowledge Culture, the world is now into a Creativity Culture where the focus is on Flows, Innovation, Contribution and Creativity.

Any change in any context does not happen in a vacuum; there definitely has to be a facilitating milieu for the change. Such is the truth in the case of a university as well. The most painful part is that the announcement of rankings has put in clear terms that the Manipur University is still in the Feudalistic Mode. This is established in unequivocal terms by the absolute lack of concern by the Statutory Leader of the University on this absence in the List of Ranks; Manipur University is not even an also ran in the competitive race of Academic Competence as assessed on the information provided by the University herself in December 2016. This unfortunate situation is coupled by a very mechanical understanding of the rankings by a majority of stakeholders who are supposed to be knowledge-givers. The global, national and regional realities demand of the Manipur University today a kind of an Open Milieu of Virtuous Circles facilitating enhancement of Core Competencies in an Atmosphere of Trust. Such a situation can be affected only by an Institutional Leader free from nepotism and inherited obligations and with full commitment to the contextual demands of providing organisational efforts. The situation in the University is still in the Old Feudalistic Paradigm, and thus necessarily stunting the evolution of a milieu contemporaneous to the global reality today.

Manipur University today needs a Statutory Leader who can effectively play to provide two important Trusts of the Six propounded by Roderick Kramer. These are Role-Based Trust and Rule-Based Trust. The persons in authority should be able to live up to the expectations of being in position to fulfil the requirements of providing organisational leadership founded on dynamic learning. If this Role-Based Trust is established all the members of the organisation shall necessarily follow the rules of the game – Rule Based Trust would spontaneously evolve. It is only in this environment that the Manipur University can rise to live up to the expectations on Academics Plus to be an institute of higher learning in the true sense, particularly so in this highly globalised world.

MU Obscured

By Pradip Phanjoubam

It is really unfortunate that the Manipur University did not even figure in the top 100 universities in India in the recently announced list by the Ministry of Human Resources, Government of India. Manipur’s other universities, with perhaps the exception of the Central Agriculture University, are too new to be blamed for missing the list. Six universities from the Northeast did make it to the list, but because of the failure of the MU, even this commendable achievement has been reduced to a bitter-sweetness experience for those of us in the state – sweet because six from the region made it, but also bitter because MU has been left far behind. The six universities which made the grade are: Gauhati University, Assam (Rank. 27), Tejpur University, Assam (Rank. 30), North Eastern Hill Universtity, NEHU, Meghalaya, (Rank 48), Mizoram University, Mizoram (Rank 58), Dibrugarh University, Assam (Rank. 74, Rajiv Gandhi University, Arunachal Pradesh (Rank. 76) and Assam University, Assam (Rank. 92).

It is time for the Manipur University to begin serious introspection. What is it that it lacks that the other universities have? It is also curious that except for Gauhati University, all of the other universities from the Northeast which have made the ranks this time are either the contemporaries of MU or else much younger. This should make MU’s failure even more painful, for it does indicate it is not inexperience which let the MU down, but its management and competence. Again, with the exception of Gauhati University, which grittily decided to remain as a state university, all the rest are now Central universities as per their wishes, therefore in terms of project funds, salaries and infrastructure, somewhat homogenous. The MU therefore cannot complain on these counts.

The MU while it was a state university after its founding in 1980, was in financial trouble like the rest of the state. This was especially so about two decades ago starting from the time of the implementation of 5th Pay Commission recommendation for Central government employees. But those lean days are now over, and in terms of infrastructure expansion and salaries hike, the MU has like other Central institutions have been enjoying unprecedented bonanzas. Even those outside the MU community cannot mistake these change. Widening avenues, shining new buildings springing up one after the other each year without end, increasing number of swanky cars parked outside the university’s department blocks, all point to this. These advancements make pleasing sights and no doubt, this level of material prosperity is necessary, but certainly cannot be sufficient condition for a university to excel for it is also supposed to be a centre for higher learning and knowledge. The question is, how committed is the MU to this later mission?

Anybody who visits the MU faculties on a regular basis will vouch this is probably where another failing is. On most of the days, many of the departments in the arts and social sciences blocks are deserted. Especially in the afternoons, the lecturers’ rooms are most of the time locked and students sparse. In the science block the scene is better. Again, in terms of peer-reviewed writings published in reputed and specialised journals are few and far between, and if not for the science blocks, would have been rarer still. Indeed the atmosphere inside the MU campus can hardly be said to be ideally academic, where students and lecturers hang around reading, writing, discussing and conferencing even on days of no classes.

What has instead become a feature of the MU are strikes and students unrests of all hues, sometimes paralysing the entire university for weeks, giving the university a very bad image in the state as well as outside. If the face is the index of the mind, this image is also very important, and probably MU being given the miss this time had a lot to do with it too. Besides bringing order in the campus, there are other obligations the teachers especially but also the students of the university are called upon to shoulder. While their primary concern must be to endeavour to excel in their chosen disciplines, they must also public intellectuals, sharing their understanding of the world, in particular of the trials and tribulations of the state they are in, with the larger public, through their writings. That on so many occasions, in its times of extreme crisis, Manipur remained invisible to the rest of the world tells of a grave failure of the intelligentsia as a whole, of which the academic community should have been one of the major flag bearers.

A moribund image and the seeming lack of intellectual ferment are probably some of the factors behind the absence of a gravity around MU to attract students from outside the state, another important scale by which a university’s worth is measured. There probably are more reasons for the MU’s failure this time. We hope the MU community will collectively pull up their socks and give a more credible performance next year. They must remember they cannot exist in an ivory tower, and good performance on their part is a public responsibility, therefore answerable to the public.