Readers’ Take: PU’s stakeholders must loosen purse strings

Continue to strive for central varsity status

Fund crunch is the bane of Panjab University, but the long-term solution does not lie in resorting to fee hike, raising funds from alumni, or partnering with the industry, but in getting central university status for the prestigious varsity. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an alum of the university, also saw the wisdom in the scheme, which is why he also tried to make PU a central university in 2008. However, the Punjab government withdrew the no-objection certificate at the last minute, stalling the move. Besides, one should not be discouraged by the Central government’s response in the Rajya Sabha as it said that the Centre had taken a policy decision that no state university will be declared central university, but PU is not a state university, but an interstate body corporate, in which around 90% funding comes from the central government. PU’s future is very much alive thanks to the high court observation in the matter, Haryana evincing interest in restoring affiliation of its colleges with the university and, more importantly, the implementation of central services rules for Chandigarh employees including colleges.

Gurmeet Singh, Chandigarh

Partner up with the industry

Increasing the university fee will have an adverse effect on higher education in the country at a time when emphasis is being laid on re-skilling and upskilling. We must promote higher education rather than limiting access by increasing the fee. The university may also secure financial aid by collaborating with the industry for funding research, innovation and patents. It should bank on its vast alumni network to build professional ties to help students develop start-ups, and invest in their own business through incubation centres. Sports and cultural events could also be held with the sponsorship of industrial partners.Grants from the University Grants Commission (UGC) and administration will also go a long way. Civil society, state, industry, entrepreneurs and NGOs must contribute to its funding.

Shammi Bhatia

Ticketing events can help raise funds

It is imperative that the university raise funds without resorting to a fee hike as it will bead to an outburst in protests from both students and parents. PU can raise funds by organising university fairs, which will allow PU to raise funds in three ways – charging participation fees, ticketing the fairs and selling its merchandise. Holding talent shows will help increase its popularity. Outgoing students may consider donating their belongings, which may be sold to newly enrolled students at a reasonable price. International food courts such as McDonald’s and Dominos could be opened in the university, and the rent earned could help the cash-strapped varsity. Setting up food stalls and book fairs will prove beneficial for both the university and students.

Ishita Nara

Punjab, Haryana, UT should pitch in

The central government has clarified that they have no intention to convert Panjab University into a central varsity, indicating that the Centre did not want to take over the institution because of its shaky financial position. Moreover, the university is one of the oldest, most reputed and highly ranked educational establishments, which serves students from Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh. As such the Punjab and Haryana state governments and the Chandigarh administration should provide grants to the university. The Centre and University Grants Commission should also increase the aids being given to PU. The university should also consider starting night classes for working professionals.

Subhash Chugh

Cost cutting may be the answer

A recent statement in the Parliament has dashed all hopes of PU getting central status. Now, PU will solely have to depend on the Punjab government and its own resources to tide over the financial crunch in the university. The fund crunch will cause further slide in the ranking of the already beleaguered university. Unless stakeholders agree to a fee hike, PU will not be able to generate additional resources. It has to be bold enough to shed the extra baggage of unproductive staff and make it more lean and thin. More automation of the work process is the need of the hour. It can generate more revenue by conducting management development programmes, renting out its infrastructure to others for conferences, and hiking fees in its niche programmes.

Anil Kumar Yadav, Chandigarh

Privatise the varsity

It is a shame the prestigious Panjab University is struggling for its survival. Colleges in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh are affiliated to PU,but no one seems to be willing to help it improve its financial health. With the University being situated in Chandigarh, the capital of two states, and depending on central and federal grants, it seems that the varsity is no body’s baby. If the centre does not want to give the university central status, it should be privatised instead.

Kundan Lal Sharma, Mohali

Follow the PGI model

Panjab University is the mother university for all the universities in the northern region, and has been the primary source for the growth of education and culture of the region.Since Partition, the quality of life of people in the region has improved due to the university. It used to be a world-renowned university till colleges of Haryana left the university in 1997 on a flimsy ground, and stopped providing it its share of grants. The Punjab government never considered it as its university though more than 200 colleges in the state are affiliated to it. The government has never contributed in the decided 60:40 ratio, as stipulated. It has been contributing less than 8% and that too in an irregular manner. It should have followed PGI’s footsteps instead.

PP Arya, Chandigarh

Money makes the mare go

After the Partition of the country, Panjab University was established in Chandigarh with affiliation to colleges from united Punjab.With the Re-organization of Punjab, the university was known as an interstate corporate body and the funds were to be shared between Panjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, respectively, and 40% was to be given by the Union government. With the withdrawal of colleges by Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, the budget share was reallocated between Panjab and Union government in the 40:60 ratio, respectively. Unfortunately, both governments have not honoured their commitment fully and the university has failed to leave a mark in respect of its rankings, and has consequently lost its past splendour. Low spending by the government has led to two harmful consequences – growing inequality in education and a a decline in quality of education. The Punjab government as well as the Union government which are the actual stakeholders should provide requisite funds for the university immediately to enable it to regain its lost glory.

SK Khosla, Chandigarh

PU must reduce expenditure

The fund crunch at Panjab University is not showing any signs of improving. There is little scope for it to be converted into a central university or to hike its students’ fee. However, it can solve this problem by reducing its expenditure. It should also probe corruption and mishandling of funds. This can be done through regular audits and regularly changing officials of all departments.

Saikrit Gulati, Chandigarh

Better budget planning

Panjab University has been one of the best universities in northern India. The administration needs to upgrade the university in terms of infrastructure, other facilities and salaries of the staff. Better budget planning is needed to improve the status of the university. NGOs must be welcomed and the alumni must come forward since it is their turn to do something for their ailing alma mater .

Garv Bhupesh, Panchkula

Release funds regularly

To tide over the fund crunch, the Punjab government and the central government should release regular funds for maintenance, development, and upgrading infrastructure to fulfil the need of employees. PU must reduce some unimportant expenditures and use the funds where they are actually needed to be spent. Regular meetings need to be conducted for chalking out an action plan to solve the problem.Special cell members should appeal to NRIs and other resourceful persons for raising funds. New courses should be started for generating funds.If there is so need to increase the course fees then it must be a nominal amount, which does not burden parents and students. It should take expert advice from economists.

Subhash Nagpal, Zirakpur

Reconsider central status

The HC pointed to a Union home ministry notification dated March 29, 2022, applying the Central Civil Service Rules to the employees of Chandigarh Administration, including the teachers in the government colleges and institutions of higher education functioning within the Union Territory, Chandigarh. However, the said notification did not cover teachers working in either aided private colleges or working at Panjab University, Chandigarh. The net result of this situation is that while the lecturers working in government colleges and government institutes of higher education in Chandigarh would be retiring at the age of 65 years, the professors and lecturers working in the teaching departments of Panjab University and those of its affiliated colleges, would be retiring at the age of 60, as per their existing rules. The HC said mere participation of Chandigarh would not make it an inter-state body because the Chandigarh administration is only the instrument of the central government. Thus, to remove all ambiguities and to clear the confusion prevalent in all the spheres relating to the affairs of the university, the central government deserves to consider the formal conversion of PU into a central university.

Sanjay Chopra, Mohali

Politicisation spelt doom for PU

Panjab University, a premier institution, has a glorious past, which has faded in recent years. As a matter of fact the Government of India has virtually signed the death warrant of the university by declaring that it has no plans to bestow central university status on the ailing university,bogged down due to its politicisation. At the moment, the university is embroiled in a lot of matters, except serious pursuit of academic excellence.The only way to enable PU to regain its lost glory is to accord it Central University status.Otherwise, a slow death of the university is inevitable.

AK Sharma, Chandigarh

AAP must stay true to agenda

As health and education has been the purported forte of the Aam Aadmi Party, the people of Punjab should not worry about the future of PU as AAP is in power in the state. As for the death of funds, the party’s leaders under the leadership of Arvind Kejriwal has already brainstormed a formula for generating thousand of crores from existing resources, as per their statements to news outlets.Thus, there should be no shortage of funds even without external aid. Hopefully, the varsity will flourish under the AAP.

Suresh Trikha, Zirakpur

Centre, Punjab must step up

After the central government finally declared that it had no plans to convert PU into a central university, the first question that arose was how to manage the financial crisis. When the idea of conversion was floated,the Panjab government said that the university had an emotional bond for the people. Now, both the Centre and Punjab government should increase funding to PU . Other stakeholders, too, should help PU. The university’s golden decade was between 1970-1980 when students from far-flung countries were attracted towards the city and the academic excellence offered at PU. Affiliated colleges attracted them as well.

Usha Verma, Chandigarh

Generate revenue from infra

Panjab University needs to create an additional source of income to tide over the fund crunch. The varsity infrastructure can be given on rent to coaching centres in the evening. The university has ample sports grounds that can also be given to sports academies on a rental basis. The university auditoriums should be given on an hourly basis to government and private offices that hire private spaces at exorbitant rates. The alumni should be invited to collaborate with the departments for industry tie-ups to generate income. The varsity library should be opened to the common public on a monthly payment basis. These steps should be immediately implemented to save Panjab University from fund crunch.

Sunny Dhaliwal, Chandigarh

American funding models may save the day

Looking towards any source of public funding is no longer a feasible option for PU. The university should look towards the funding models adopted by American Universities where money is sourced from a public-private partnership. However, the idea of looking towards private sources, raises questions about affordability. We cannot let the burden of funding fall on our students. Our university works according to the tenets of a socialist country, thus we should aim to provide more scholarships and financial aid to all students who need it, rather than place the burden of funding on them.

Vineet Gandhi, Chandigarh

Audit spendings

The Centre is treating Panjab University like an orphan. It is the Centre;s responsibility to take up funding and renovations, but the government is unwilling to provide financial help, going back on its word. The university shoudl not give extensions to retired teachers and only permanent teachers should be recruited. The practice of ad hoc appointments should be done with. The university is in a fiscal crisis, but the vice-chancellor insists on overspending. The varsity’s spendings should be audited.

Opinder Kaur Sekhon, Chandigarh

Charge affiliation fee

To bail out the university from its financial crisis, the Panjab University think-tank must generate funds. The University Grants Commission, Punjab government as well as central government must keep in mind that OU is one of the oldest institutions for higher education and take the initiative to help them out. As PU is a brand name in itself, it must start charging affiliation fees. Courses that my help generate funds must be initiated. Every problem can be solved joint efforts. So with the joint efforts of the PU think-tank, Punjab government, Central government and UGC, the problem of financial crisis can be resolved easily without hiking the fees. New courses must be started to generate funds.

Prabhjot Nagpal, Zirakpur