“Social sciences need multidisciplinary research”

By: Staff Reporter
Interviews

New Delhi, Jan 13: Dr. Prithvish Nag, the vice chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith, Varanasi, on his way to Lucknow for the meeting of Vice-Chancellors of Uttar Pradesh, engaged in a brief chat with Shatakshi Gawade, the G’nY correspondent. Dr. Nag fielded questions about higher education with ease and voiced the need of making research in social sciences multidisciplinary. Following are the edited excerpts of the interview.

Dr. Prithvish Nag

What are your views on reforms in higher education?
There is a gap between institutions in backward areas and metro cities in terms of resources and quality of teaching – the paucity of funds is the biggest problem. Funds, however, are not a problem in state run universities and affiliated colleges, IITs and the like. The Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development has recently launched the Rashtriya Ucchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) through which funds will be made available to state universities and affiliated colleges to bring them up to a certain level. Higher education, 80 per cent of which is under the purview of the state government, needs to be developed urgently to ensure better education.

The UGC has approved 20 universities all over the country (under the 12th Plan Period document of University of Grants Commission) exclusively for women. The Governor has asked me to initiate one such university in Uttar Pradesh (UP). The female literacy rate in UP is low, and the women here do not get a chance to pursue higher education. But, I believe that women constitute an integral part of the society and by keeping them separate, you are depriving them from learning how the society functions.

What do you think of the efficacy of the four-year undergrad programme in Central Universities as opposed to the three-year model?
Students who go through a four year programme will be more mature. On the other hand, adding a year in these programmes means a burden on the infrastructure – classrooms, teachers and the like – in each university. Extra funding will be needed in this case – from the state as well as from the individual’s families. I think a three year course is better in this competitive environment. A four year course will make sense only if there is an assured job; but for a student passing out of a mediocre university, the opportunities after a four year course will remain the same or maybe less.

Do you think student feedback is important for improving quality of teaching?
It is important to take the reactions of students into account and this feedback should be published on their (the college’s) website. National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) insists that feedback should be collected from the students.

What is the status of research in pure sciences as well as social sciences as per the current standards?
The research in the field of science in India does not lead to industry and commercial exploitation. The research is not connected to the society in general, and to the industry in particular. As opposed to this, an American or Japanese researcher will always be linked to the industry, and his research might lead to commercial exploitation.

As for social sciences, research has reached a plateau. Though the periphery of the subjects is strong, research within that periphery is limited. Research in social science should become multidisciplinary now – it should involve several guides, universities as well as countries. There should be generation of knowledge, not repetition or recycling. Researchers do not take into account the dynamic nature of social sciences.

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