It is often said that Mumbai is the city of dreams. It is touted to one of the megacities of the world. What one can certainly expect with such a huge urban mass are basic infrastructural facilities. This, itself has turned out to be more of a misnomer these days. Most of us consider malls to be the prime essence of modernity of a city. However, in the process we tend to ignore social infrastructure and thus, one of the key parameters of any global city, which is higher education. It should get a keener look. In the case of Mumbai, this is where we stumble upon in the University of Mumbai (MU).
Founded in 1857, MU currently boasts of more than 200,000 students spread across 700 affiliated colleges. This probably makes it one of India’s largest higher educational institutions. However, over the years, MU has lost much of its sheen. While individual colleges are well-known, the entire system is in a perpetual mess. It is here that I wish to relate my experience regarding how things function in MU in due course of time. From time to time, I will also put in what some other friends have gone through.
The first and foremost thing when one thinks of MU is the reputed and famed college life of Mumbai. And yes, for the first two years of a normal bachelors’ degree (3 year course), there is enjoyment and learning. This is because the colleges handle examinations internally. The real trouble starts when you get to the third year. As most of the institutions in India have the credit system, so does MU. What the Credit system entails is a clear demarcation between internal assessment and external examination. Furthermore, there is the semester pattern which implies two exams in a year. Also, where there are exams, there is ATKT (Allowed To Keep Terms) involved. According to ATKT, a student is allowed to study in the next grade if they have failed 1-4 subjects. They are allowed the clear the backlog in the next semester. This means that there is a huge examination procedure, which is going to play a role in the life of thousands of students.
What one finds more often than not in MU is that third-year students don’t just have to worry about studying for exams. In fact, according to me, it was my very last area of concern. Initially when college started, everything was going decently. The real struggle started with the filling of our 5th semester exam form. We submitted it in the first few months itself, but we didn’t get our timetables till September! Added to that, our exams were stretched over a period of two months for very little justifiable reason. In fact, the last examination got over approximately in mid-January. As the examination dates were announced late, there was an agonizing wait for the hall tickets. Finally, as they arrived, they had a big mistake in it. My language of answering the paper was shown to be ‘Marathi’ instead of English. It was at this time that I had the ‘real MU’ experience, that I had read about till then only in newspapers.
With only 4-5 working days to go for the exam, my friends and I had to run around at this juncture to get the error in our hall tickets corrected. Both the college and the university passed the buck. Finally, after unending visits to the University campus and the college, the problem got sorted a day before the exam.
One can just imagine what kind of exam preparation we could do during this point of time. Many students like me had the same fault in the hall ticket and so, I can definitely say that lot of students were adversely affected. The other biggest joke was that we had to fill in the exam form for the 6th semester in the month of December itself when our exams were still going on! As for the results of that exam, it was once again a wait into eternity. When we finally got the result in March, we were more focused on the next exam. Once again, our exams were postponed and it dragged on till June. This exam, thankfully, passed on successfully.
But, we were in store for more unforeseen trouble. Many students across all streams got an error after the exams saying that they had cleared the 6th semester exam, but their results were being kept on hold due to failure in the previous examination. One can just imagine the reaction of a student getting their result after months and that too being notified that they had failed in the previous semester, when they had actually passed! I myself got such a result and lost my appetite to do anything. As the result was declared Saturday, I had to wait till Monday to do something.
For the umpteenth time, MU and my college passed the buck. While MU reasoned that the failure of submission of GPA scores for the earlier semesters caused this problem, the college continued to shirk responsibility. What made us more anxious is that, without this result, none of us could pursue postgraduation or other courses. As the work gradually got done after plenty of pleadings with many officials, many students missed the deadlines for other universities. Also, for some students, who had changed colleges in the third year, it was a total nightmare as they had to suffer rebukes from both MU and the college concerned for ‘wasting time’. They had to run from pillar to post demanding basic things like registration, hall ticket and so forth. As one such student rightly told me, “Every day, I curse myself for changing my college in the third year.”
So, what does this bring us, i.e., the students to? Basically, the central question here is, why do we even go for an under graduation? It is certainly for enhancement of learning. However, in the current situation that MU is in, the students can neither enjoy, nor learn, study or take forward anything substantial.
The entire third year makes one stressed out for the ultimate ‘fear’ that something might go wrong. Added to that are the erratic exam and result schedule wherein one cannot even get the feeling that one has graduated! So, are these fault lines so deep that nothing can be done about it? The answer is a clear ‘No’. What needs to be done is to build a proper FAQ system on the website, in the colleges and in the university so that any error has a definite procedure. Secondly, coordination between individual colleges and MU should be increased. A cumulative database should be in place whereby documentation is kept at the basic minimum. While our PM has made it clear long back to remove the ‘Attestation Raj’, self-attestation should be effectively brought into action. Thirdly, exam timetables and results dates need to be in place at the start of the year itself, to bring in transparency and this will benefit the students. Moreover, if we look at the larger picture, it has become necessary for MU to either decentralize its functioning by appointing more VC’s or to split MU into other universities. This will reduce workload and can enhance efficiency.
It is high time that quality gets precedence over quantity. If MU has to get back to its glory days, we need to start with the acceptance of the fact that things are not rosy anymore. I am glad that the current VC of MU has made that admission and hopefully, effective steps will follow to bring MU out of this condition.
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