Centenary year: Patna University faces cash, teacher shortage

As Patna University readies to celebrate its centenary, teachers complain that it wasn’t able to clear its electricity bills last year and, some departments have been running without a single teacher

Photo courtesy: patnauniversity.ac.in
Photo courtesy: patnauniversity.ac.in

Navendu Sharma

Deteriorating teaching standards, lack of funding and “neglect” by the Bihar Government are plaguing Patna University, as the country’s seventh-largest institution gears to celebrate its centenary year.

The University’s Teachers’ Association complained that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s eleven-year-old promise of turning the institution into a central university still remained unfulfilled.

“CM Nitish Kumar had announced on January 17, 2006, at a convocation at SK Memorial Hall in Patna, that efforts would be made for turning Patna University into a central university, or facilities similar to one would be provided at the PU. But, 11 years later, the promise remains unfulfilled,” said Patna University Teachers’ Association (PUTA) President Randhir Kumar Singh.

Singh noted that plans to turn Patna University into a central institution had been floated by successive administrations, including those before Kumar’s, but they remain a pipe dream.

“PU has lost its standing as a premier educational hub due to sheer negligence of the state government,” he said.

The university boasts of high-profile alumni, including Nitish Kumar, the state’s Education Minister Ashok Chaudhary, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, among others.

Cash and faculty shortage

The university has been facing a serious financial crunch and, was even unable to clear its electricity bills last year.

“Instead of varsity buildings being illuminated on its centenary, the power supply to the PU office, Patna College and its hostels, Darbhanga House and, the Centre of Post-Graduate (PG) Teaching in Humanities and Social Sciences, was cut-off due to lack of funds,” said Singh.

According to Shiv Jatan Thakur, the head of the PG Department of English, the teaching quality at the university has also taken a hit as it has been unable to appoint enough faculty in its course offerings.

PUTA’s Randhir Kumar Singh highlighted that despite the university grappling with faculty shortage, politicians didn’t shy away from engaging the teachers in election-related work.

“There are only 274 regularly-appointed teachers, against the sanctioned strength of about 1,000, for nearly 22,000 students in the varsity,” said Singh. The University Grants Commission (UGC) norm is of having one teacher for every 30 undergraduate students has been openly flouted. Some ad hoc teachers are engaged, but their number is inadequate. Despite this, varsity teachers are drafted for work related to elections for the Lok Sabha, state assembly and municipal bodies, apart from the various censuses.”

Singh also said that courses in the History Department, which are a major draw for incoming students, didn’t have sufficient teachers to carry out their day-to-day activities.

“History draws a large number of students. Yet, PU has only seven history teachers – five in the PG section and one each in BN College and Patna College. Patna Women’s College and Magadh Mahila College have no regular teachers for the subject,” he said.

Singh added that there were no specialised teacher for medieval and modern history. There are several one-man departments – like in Economics in Magadh Mahila College.

“The situation is no better in case of support staff – science labs have no laboratory assistants. Some libraries have books but no librarian or assistant librarian,” he said.

Situation getting worse

Further, some departments apparently had no teachers at all, some just had a single teacher managing departmental affairs. The situation in other schools isn’t much better either.

“The English Department doesn’t have any faculty. There is only one teacher each in the Statistics and the Hindi Department. The Zoology Department has just two. The Maths and Geology schools have three each, while there are four academics in the Physics Department,” an official at the Patna Science College said.

“Even in Physics, there are no teachers for specialised papers. Incidentally, PG teaching in science subjects is also done at the college,” the official added.

The Principal of Magadh Mahila College, Dharmshila Prasad, said that the last recruitment drive for appointing teachers was held back in 2003.

“Faculty shortage has adversely affected the quality of teaching and people with enough resources have been sending their wards outside the state for pursuing studies,” Singh said.

Despite the problems, an official at the Science College said that the university was maintaining its academic calendar alright. “Admissions, teaching, examinations and publication of results are done on schedule,” he said.

Bihar’s Education Minister Ashok Chaudhary washed his hands of the state of affairs at Patna University, saying that varsities were autonomous bodies that functioned under a Chancellor. “The state government’s role is only advisory,” he said.

Commenting on the acute faculty shortage facing PU, he said, “Universities have the power to engage retired teachers. It is also for them to come up with any proposal.”

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