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.
(The author is a Professor and Head: Department of Economics, Manipur University)