Equally, there can be no doubt that the present boom in our economic life has been fuelled largely by these centres of higher education. Our universities, medical institutions, IITs and IIMs have shown themselves to be invaluable; thankfully, those who created our system of higher education in the years after Independence, were prescient enough to see that knowledge gives a nation the kind of power that mere gold and oil cannot. But have the models adopted more than a century ago stood the test of time or do the dark corridors of our universities need the benefit of a new kind of light? In these globalized times, running a university throws up challenges that cannot be ignored or wished away; a world-class university must be both at the cutting edge of change and also a guardian of tradition. This wide ranging collection of essays addresses important questions that face us today: Do we need professional managers to run universities? Should caste-based reservation be replaced with bursaries for economically backward students, making merit rather than religion or caste the benchmark of admission?
How can we preserve the autonomy of our universities while setting in place appropriate standards of accountability for teachers and heads of educational institutions? Should foreign universities be allowed to enter into partnerships with Indian universities and colleges? How can we de-politicize and revive our university campuses and prevent the flight of the best from our campuses? Some of India's most eminent educationists and thinkers come together for the first time to identify and resolve these and other problems. Their views, and vision, will go a long way in generating a public debate on the real issues that have destroyed our institutes of higher learning.
Ira Pande is a well-known editor who has worked with Seminar, Biblio, Dorling Kindersley and Roli Books. She is currently chief editor, IIC Publications. She is the author of Diddi: My Mother's Voice and has recently translated Shivani's Apradhini: Women without Men.