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"JNU has to be No.1 within the country"


JNU Vice Chancellor Sudhir Kumar Sopory talks about the past, present and future of problems and prospects for the university
TSI | Issue Dated: November 30, -0001, New Delhi
Tags : sudhir kumar sopory | jnu vice chancellor | jnu university | |

How challenging have the last 20 months as the JNU VC been?
There are a lot many things that have not changed in JNU but some things have changed. The open culture of JNU, space for everybody to express viewpoints and interactions have continued over years. But there are fewer interactions between various faculties. Initially because the old schools and centers were of very small size, there was lot more crosstalk. As the number of faculties increased to 500 and students are almost 7000, that interaction and understanding among teachers has slowly reduced. One of the challenges for me since I came has been to bring that culture back. We should have more seminars and discussions. In fact, for the 12th plan we have suggested to create such trans-disciplinary clusters where we can initiate new innovative programmes.

The CAG report says that funds allocated for infrastructure in JNU were left unspent. What have you done?
The performance audit by CAG came just when I joined. We have responded to all the issues. The final report after our response has dropped most of the charges. A system has been built up where accountability for each officer will be there. I think from the financial point of view, we are much more robust but for the rest, it will take time. Infrastructure grant was not transferred; there were certain problems with it. The grant for buildings was utilised. By and large, things are under our control. The teaching positions were vacant because certain people felt there should not be a reservation policy, while others felt there should be. We have reconciled many issues now and out of 85, we have filled 35 positions already.

The student union recently was on a hunger strike with long pending demands. Have you reached a consensus with them?
The students told me that there is some discrimination at examinations. I never felt that faculty can discriminate. There could be discrepancy but not discrimination. However, the data produced by students was compelling. I told them in the last academic meeting that as a scientist, I look at data. Instead of taking only specific cases, why not evaluate the data of last five years. The students wanted me to take a decision on it as an administrator. Even before we could come to any conclusion, they sat on a hunger strike. My personal idea is that such academic matters should not be left in the hands of the administration alone. There needs to be a discussion and a decision with mutual understanding. We have constituted a committee to look into the specific demand of reducing the viva marks. But the students chose to continue with the strike.

You said you would like to see JNU among the top 100 universities in the world. Have you earmarked a deadline?
Each ranking agency has its own parameters. I think this ranking too is something within my mind. I think JNU has to be No 1 within the country in terms of academic output. We need to have some new innovative thought and programmes and the quality of research that we produce has to be good. For any university to excel, its academic output has to be of a very high quality. This has to be coupled with other facilities on the campus. We are going ahead with recruitment of good faculty as it has not taken place for quite some time. Once the faculty takes charge, they will take the university to the top ranking. It is on the path but will take time.

JNU has never had a placement cell. Will there be consensus on it now?
I think we have already been able to convince most people. I had a meeting of all deans a few weeks ago where we decided to have a placement cell. I am happy that this demand has come from the students' union. This time, we are going to put it in place.

The CAG report states that JNU mostly caters to students from UP and Bihar? Can you change that?
Numbers do not tell the real story. We just finished the admission process for the new session. UP, Bihar, Delhi and Rajasthan are areas from which the number of students appearing is large. If you take the ratio of how many appeared and how many got through, the ratio is still small. In quantitative terms, you might see that 5 or 6 states are doing better than the rest. There is no discrimination; students come from all over.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017