Dr.Sudhakar Prasad Singh

Member, Syndicate, Patna University

At present Bihar has two upcoming central universities, Central University of South Bihar, Bodhgaya and Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Motihari.  Before the establishment of these two central universities, many universities of Bihar including Patna University staked their claim to be converted into a central university. Much before the establishment of the above central universities in Bihar, Patna University has been an aspirant of a central university. It has submitted the proposal to the central government for conversion into central university several times during last two decades. We have come to learn that the issue of making Patna University a central university has been doing rounds for over 4-5 decades.

Patna University is the first and foremost university of Bihar and the 7th oldest university in the country. This prestigious university has played a very significant role in shaping the social, political, and economic development of Bihar. The achievement and aspiration of Bihar have been closely linked with Patna University. Although Patna University lost its sheen to some extent due to various reasons whose roots lie in the university itself and also in the fading support by the state government and increasing erosion of institutional autonomy, still it is the lone hope of common students of Bihar to get the higher education of relatively better quality. Patna University being a state university caters to the needs of socially disadvantaged sections of the society as per social context of Bihar.

Here we would be making a discussion on the issue of conversion of Patna University into a central university.  At present, the country is having as many as 47 central universities. Some of them were state universities which were converted into central universities. It is difficult to say that all central universities are centres of excellence. The only difference in most of the central universities and state universities is a number of grants made to them. Being central university is no guarantee of its quality. Demand for central universities by teachers and other employees are often made mainly due to better monetary benefits. There is nothing more than that. In the emerging centre-state relations, the state is increasingly making assertions of its role in social, political, economic and educational affairs.  The growth and excellence of higher education system are only possible through decentralized state machinery.

Every state has its own social composition of its people. It is the duty of the state government to make higher education of comparable quality approachable to all its eligible citizens. The state government can better ensure education to all sections of the society, especially marginal and weaker sections. For example, nearly 30 percent of Bihar's population is Extremely Backward Class (BC-I) which is a conglomeration of over 100 castes and widely differs from BC-II in social, economic and educational status. In a state like us, OBC reservation of 27 percent in central universities is mainly enjoyed by BC-II due to their better socio-economic and educational status in comparison to BC-I. In state universities, BC-I has a provision of 18 percent reservation separately which help them to get entry into universities of Bihar including Patna University. If Patna University is converted to central university, their entry to this premium University of the state, Patna University, will be further limited due to an altogether different policy of reservation in central universities. In such a situation, the centre, instead of converting  Patna University which has been maintained by the state for a century and is still the best institution of higher education in the state, should grant sufficient funds to the state government for its better maintenance.

The conversion of Patna University into a central university is not a solution towards restoring the glory of Patna University.  In fact, there is a need to protect this prestigious university that has been maintained by the state all along. There is a need to take all possible measures to remake it into a university where quality is abounding with equality. We hope that the control of this prestigious state university will always remain with the state as it is the best ideological apparatus of the state and the state will respect its autonomy, take measures to appoint teachers against existing vacancy, increase sanctioned strength of teachers, open departments in professional and emerging disciplines, improve infrastructure and learning resources etc. The expenditure on higher education needs to be not only increased by managed efficiently with all promptness.

It is important to note that three earliest universities of the country- Bombay (Mumbai), Madras (Chennai) and Calcutta (Kolkata) universities are not central universities. The respective state governments preferred to keep their prestigious and historic universities under their own control. The basic issue is that state and central governments should try to develop Patna University into the centre of excellence. The making of Patna University is a bigger question instead of handing over this prestigious university to the control of the central government. Most of the central universities are struggling for excellence whereas many state universities have earned enviable reputation. Let the pride of Bihar be with Bihar.