Mrunal Manmay Dash

Utkal University was the topic of discussion across the State on Tuesday after the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) degraded the premier University’s rank from A+ to A in the recently released rankings.

The degradation affected all across the spectrum; from students to teachers and intellectuals fuelling debates on the possible reasons.

While some experts put the blame on the excessive interference of the State government in the University affairs, some put the blame squarely on the shortage of teaching faculties, poor infrastructure, a very few number of research scholars and non-participation in international conferences.

“The government is indirectly responsible for this because the autonomy has been taken away from the University. There is no point in appointing OAS officers as Registrars. An educational institution should be run by academicians only and not by bureaucrats. I fear, if the current trend continues, a time will come when we will see IAS officers as Vice-Chancellors,” said former VC of Utkal University, Binayak Rath.

Rajesh Swain a student said, “The number of research scholars has dropped because there are not sufficient professors in the University. Whatever the infrastructure we have, the University has failed to utilise it optimally.”

To put the facts straight, Utkal University has hundreds of vacancies in teaching posts. As per the data provided by the Higher Education Minister in Odisha Assembly, the university has a sanctioned strength of 257 that includes Professors, Associate Professors, and Assistant Professors. Out of that 129 positions are currently lying vacant.

Similarly, out of the sanctioned 980 non-teaching staff, 667 positions are lying vacant.

However, some students denied the shortage of staff in the University.

“There is no dearth of research scholars nor the University lacks infrastructure. If the rating has been downgraded then, it is due to a conspiracy,” said a student, Biswajit Jatin Patra.

Meanwhile, the University is reportedly preparing to file an appeal with NAAC to re-evaluate the grade.

Speaking to reporters, the advisor to the Higher Education Department, Tanmay Swain said, “We lost our previous grade by just a few points. The University authorities are discussing the matter today. I think they will appeal for a re-evaluation, and I am sure this will restore our previous rank.”

It is pertinent to mention here that the University could score 3.16 Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) in the assessment to secure A grade. The varsity was last accredited as A+ in an assessment by NAAC in 2016.

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