Quite often, higher education institutions are hit by strife which are predominantly between the students and the administration or among the students themselves. Many of these prestigious temples of learning across the country have witnessed violence and student unrests as institutional governance failed to ensure sacrosanct academic environment in college or university campuses.
Sometimes the magnitude of these disturbances is so intense that the institutions have to be closed sine die, leading to derailment of the academic schedule and allied activities. Violence in campuses also lead to loss of property of the institution and public, posing law and order problem to both inside and outside academic campuses along with mortification of the institution.
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The reasons for such disturbances vary. Subsequently, in all of the happenings, the institutional governance and other facilitators conduct routine inquiries and seek reports about the cause and prevention of such recurrences, but the disturbances continue unabated, may be due to other reasons.
It may be noted that almost all students in higher education institutions are entitled to adult suffrage which means that the maturity, as well as use of individual wisdom in actions, is there and the involvement in any activity cannot be termed a part of frenzy mob. Also, the present state of gross enrolment ratio is indicative of the fact that the current higher education system is not capable of extending the opportunity to all interested ones, meaning thereby that the admission process does some kind of filtration based on the academic merit of aspirants before admitting them in the respective institution.
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So, the intent of admitted students for serious study cannot be doubted as they seek admission to study for a successful career ahead through the teachers at the core of every education system. Hence, the question arises why the student unrests erupt in higher education institutions whether of the public or private.
An unbiased introspection of student disturbances would reveal the reasons being trivial issues that are ignited to spread violence due to miscarriage at a certain level. Any lethargy on the part of institutional governance in responsiveness to the student concerns and the unavailability of respite seeds the circumstances for the student unrest. In fact, the majority of student issues can be redressed through a proactive approach of the institutional governance which invariably has teachers as an integral part of it.
Frequent student unrests point towards insufficiency of student-teacher interaction. Because the understanding of teachers about the challenges faced by the students through interaction can certainly help to resolve the difficulties faced by them, but the same is not being relied upon usually. Sometimes, the improper handling of student-centric activities because of the absence of teachers in handling also invites trouble. Also, the impartiality and absence of rationality in the actions of the people at the helm in the institution is often construed as a partisan approach, which may even be concluded as the imposition of certain ideologies by the institutional governance that is not convincingly accepted by a section of students or the students and teachers/staff.
Functioning dynamics of the higher education institutions of residential, non-residential or semi-residential type are different, but the similarity lies in the aim and objective of the Institution for imparting education to the students. The academic rigour of teaching-learning processes in the respective institution defines the level of involvement of students, teachers, and staff in various related activities. Inadequate involvement of students in academic and non-academic activities prescribed for their development enables ample time with the students for doing various other undesirable activities.
Apart from above, the various other generic issues responsible for student unrest are the incompetency at the institution’s apex levels, non-uniform application of prescribed provisions, arbitrariness in actions, dilution of academic integrity, unfair practices leading to corruption, inadequacy of infrastructural support, deficient facilities and services in institution, shortage of teachers and staff, lack of inspiring teachers, the decline in mutual tolerance and most importantly the uncertainty about future career after completion of study.
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From time immemorial, the political system of the country has been making an intangible influence on the minds of the senior students in higher education institutions which over a period creates a divide amongst them, and the presence of one or more of the factors detailed above make academic campuses vulnerable for strife.
Eventually, the disturbances in institutions burden the whole of institutional set up to bring back normalcy and combat its adverse effects. It may restore the situation but the loss of academic and research activities leading to poor performance of the institution and the erosion of its’ public perception cannot be reversed.
Any decline in the brand value of the institution is likely to incur larger damage. Bright students and teachers would not want to be a part of the institutions prone to disturbances, and this drift of competence at any level could be disastrous for any institution in due course. Therefore, the governance within and outside institution should make candid assessment of the prevailing situation in higher education institutions and evolve holistic remedy by making systems driven on the premise of quality consciousness and student-centric approach so as to maintain them as real temples of learning with capability of producing responsible citizens to take civilisation forward.
(The writer is founder Vice Chancellor of Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. Currently, he is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur, UP. firstname.lastname@example.org)