What Ashoka University controversy says about the failures of private institutions -Kiran Bhatty and Christophe Jaffrelot
-The Indian Express
Greater push towards privatisation has implications for academic freedom and diversity in education institutions. For a more just, equal educational system, the state must have a role
The resignations of Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arvind Subramanian from Ashoka University have created ripples in the world of academia, not just in India but across the globe. While the immediate cause for the resignation is not known, it is surmised that Mehta’s outspoken views on the ruling establishment might have a lot to do with it. It is undeniable that this government has shown itself to be particularly thin-skinned to criticism. But the resignations raise equally pertinent questions about the ability of the private managements of educational institutions to withstand such pressure and fundamental questions about education and its primary objectives.
What are the implications of the privatisation of higher education for academic freedom? On paper, it seemed that private universities would be in a better position to ensure intellectual independence. Certainly, public institutions have been targeted by the government, as is evident from recent policies regarding JNU. In 2016, the Modi government appointed as vice-chancellor Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar. His tenure has seen drastic budget cuts and a decline in student recruitment, while the office of the VC has been tangled in several face-offs with student unions and faculty opposed to the Hindu nationalist movement on a host of issues, from contested promotions and faculty appointments to violations of university procedures. But no full-time faculty, to our knowledge, was forced to resign because (s)he was a “political liability” — to use Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s words — a clear indication of the protection teachers continue to enjoy in the public system.
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The Indian Express, 2 April, 2021, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/what-ashoka-university-controversy-says-about-the-failures-of-private-institutions-7254945/?fbclid=IwAR33d45q2fcyue5okKoWF0crU3uvRuLL7Q8rHy1iKl02gVdMzP9RjH3Y12o