August 3, 2016 @ 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Royal Bombay Yacht Club, Anchorage Hall
Gateway of India
Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001

Wednesday the 3rd of August 2016, saw V Citizens Actions Network holding its interactive talk show, Social Sanchar, at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club. The choice of speaker for the event, Dr. Sanjay Deshmukh, Vice Chancellor, University of Mumbai, marked the first time that VCAN has forayed into the field of education.


Mumbai University, as commonly known, is a giant name in the education sector, and has under its jurisdiction seven lakh students in dozens of colleges and premier educational institutes. Despite its name, it also has a presence outside the city, over seven districts, with a satellite campus in Ratnagiri.


A distinguished academician, Dr. Deshmukh, the youngest Vice Chancellor in the University’s long history, has taken over the reins of the University at a time when several critical issues, from delayed evaluations to syllabus changes, are increasingly being brought to the forefront. As the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Deshmukh is the man responsible for keeping up the high standards of the University, as the Chancellor of the University is ex-officio the Governor of Maharashtra.


As part of a recurring theme, in addition to Dr. Deshmukh, the Sanchar also featured the ‘Ashoka Fellows Connect’, a unique joint-initiative with the Ashoka Organisation, a worldwide network dedicated to the support and encouragement of Social Entrepreneurs in countries all over the globe.


Mrs. Indrani Malkani, Managing Trustee of VCAN, and also an Ashoka Fellow, began the session with a Welcome Address, introducing the audience to both V Citizens Actions Network, and the Ashoka Organisation. She subsequently informed the audience about the how the Social Sanchar would be conducted.


Mr. V. Ranganathan, a Trustee of VCAN, as well the former Chief Secretary of Maharashtra, then welcomed Dr. Deshmukh, and went over his distinguished qualifications before sharing some of his own views on the topic, and asking in particular that while it was said that Goddess Laxmi was freed from her chains after the economic liberalisation in the 90’s, when would Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and learning, be freed.


The session began with Dr. Deshmukh first thanking the organisers for giving him an opportunity to interact with the public, particularly the many students who had come to the venue. He spoke about how just as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule began his efforts to educate girls with only four students, the first graduating class of the University had only four students as well.


He also spoke of the contributions of educational and social reformers like Shahu Maharaj, Babasaheb Ambedkar, and others, who believed in an inclusive approach to education in order to uplift society. He stressed that the new formula for advancement would not be E=mc2 but E=F or Education equals Future.


He addressed the challenges of increasing the number of educational institutions despite infrastructural handicaps as well as the high rates of dropouts among female students. Online education was an exciting new development which he wanted to develop in the Mumbai University.


After Dr. Deshmukh’s opening remarks, the audience, both those present in the room as well as those who had joined in online, were then invited to interact with Dr. Deshmukh.


Before the first question of the evening, Mrs. Malkani read out some issues that had been flagged before the event, from value based education to the role of the university in the Prime Minister’s Skill India Programme. Dr. Deshmukh replied that the values of nurturing knowledge and learning have remained the same throughout India’s history. He agreed that they may have evolved, from the Gurukul system prevalent in the past, to the semester and choice based credit systems being introduced today.


He said that there must be both a core syllabus as well as traditional learnings for skill development to be a reality. He linked this to the recently changed curriculum of the Undergraduate and Post Graduate Programmes, as well as the encouragement by the University of specialised programmes for diplomas and vocational development by private institutions.


The first question of the evening was from Twitter, where in response to the query on the need for engineering courses to be more industry oriented, Dr. Deshmukh mentioned the project and internship requirements in most of the University’s engineering courses in the fourth semester.


In reply to a question on doping in the sports programmes of the University, he mentioned the need for both stringent checking of athletes as well as an inculcation of ethics.


A pertinent question was about the lack of disabled friendly facilities in the University facilities especially for disabled students. Dr. Deshmukh replied that a lot of the facilities were built at a time when disabled friendly access was not prevalent. He admitted that the University was making provisions for the differently abled in its existing infrastructure, and that all new buildings were being built to be disabled friendly.


Mr. Ranganathan also made a point of the Persons with Disabilities Act of the Government, the provisions and guidelines of which were unfortunately not being followed in many cases. There was also a lack of awareness among citizens about their rights as well.


About the controversial issue of Private Classes, Dr. Deshmukh replied that it was both a question of ethics as well as what one’s goals towards education were. He also said that children were being influenced by both parents and friends to believe that tuitions and private classes were necessary to score marks.


To a question on the lack of education in the field of Real Estate, he spoke about the Garware Institute of Vocational Education, and invited the audience member who raised the question to help develop a diploma course with the Institute.


To a Skype call asking about providing autonomy of the Institutes under the University, he said that while there were challenges associated with the huge size of the University, they had promoted the concept of autonomy for both individual Institutions as well as for ‘Cluster Universities’.


In response to a question on the need for a correspondence course in Law, as well as the need for better teaching standards in the Law Colleges, he said that there were challenges for getting full time teachers as well as the qualification requirements set by the Bar Council of India.


When asked about the role of technology in teaching, Dr. Deshmukh said that there was no substitute for full time courses, although virtual and online courses did have a role to play.

On the subject of student politics, he mentioned that many political leaders originated from students movements and that he welcomed the resumption of direct elections to student councils in the University.


When asked about how the University was going to tackle issues such as leaked question papers, delayed results and administrative inefficiencies, he admitted that there were problems and that the University had to ensure accountability among its staff, as well as ensure that standards were adopted and kept.


In response to another question about overcrowded classrooms and incompetent lecturers in some colleges, as well as the need for a continuous or periodic training and development of lecturers, the Vice Chancellor spoke about while Staff Colleges were in place to train Undergraduate and Post Graduate Colleges, there were no such programmes for Junior College Teachers, which the Mumbai University was one of the first to organise.


Although there were some questions which were not answered during the event due to a lack of time, the audience was informed that their questions would be forwarded to Dr. Deshmukh, and that he and his office would go through them and reply via email.


Those present were then requested to continue the discussions over the tea and refreshments provided by the Royal Bombay Yacht Club.


To view the photos of the event click here.


To view the video of the event click here.