Wednesday, March 10, 2010

We lead, others follow – VC

Special interview with Prof. Seyed E Hasnain

By Ardra Balachandran and Bipin Sebastian

ICM is coming to Hyderabad. Your thoughts?

This is a great moment for UoH. That India was chosen based on IMU team’s visit to our campus is a great honour.

How do we stand to benefit from the ICM?

The biggest gain will be the revival of Mathematics and its education in the country. The world’s most powerful man Obama said that the world must learn from India and go back to what we are doing to bring back science and mathematics into mainstream. But we feel that we are not doing enough. This meeting is precisely a step in that direction. Of course, the visibility and the recognition the event are the by-products.

There is separate meeting being conducted for women mathematicians on the sidelines of the ICM. Isn’t science a platform to reduce differences?

Oh no, its purpose is not to have parallelism and denigrate women. It could be more to showcase what we have achieved there. Also, whether we like it or not, we are losing out on talented women. After masters, they vanish. This meeting will hopefully address this issue.

It is noticed that our arts departments are lagging behind science.

That is true everywhere, not just here. We do not have comparable benchmarking that we have in science. Most scholars in Humanities and Social Sciences publish their work in journals that are not even indexed on Google. Your work goes unnoticed and you are losing out.

Does this directly reflect on the investment you make as a university authority?

One thing, the very nature of enquiries non science scholars undertake demands less financial inputs. They are not laboratory driven. Even the start up grant that non-science faculty members ask for are meagre amounts. In the beginning, people used to come to me asking for paltry sums to conduct international meetings. I would say, go add two zeroes to your budget and come back.

Shouldn’t fellowship be based on the demands of students’ stream of study? For example, Fine Arts students have to spend a lot on their supplies.

The system does not recognise their needs, not just in our country but globally. If you are doing a PhD in Philosophy and want to attend a meeting in Cambridge, there is no agency in India that will fund your entire trip. But if you are a Physics student, DST will write it off. And that explains why many of our discoveries take so much time in getting integrated to our social system. Unless scientific discovery is transferred to the society through a healthy exchange and dialogue with social scientists, you will have a problem.

We always hear that the science departments in our university feature in the top two in the country. What about others?

The award we received last year was based on publications in scientific journals – number two just below Delhi University. But the NAAC and the Scopus ranking is for all areas of human enquiry. We have received 97% with Scopus. I am waiting to see what rank DU and JNU get. NAAC looks at more than one thousand parameters including wifi connectivity and hostel facilities. We still have been given the highest ranking.

You had mentioned that there is a plan to convert the Department of Economics into a School on the lines of the LSE.

I want it to set a very tough benchmark for us and it should be equal to or better than the LSE. Recently, Jagadish Bhagawati and Aravind Subramaniam were here. Joseph Stiglitz, who won the Nobel will be coming soon. The idea is to learn from these people what makes a good school. We also have an international advisory committee. We have a blueprint ready to make it happen in 2011.

During the inauguration of the tennis courts, you had mentioned introducing a compulsory sports credit course.

Yes, in this academic council, we will take a decision on that.

Considering the stature we have as a university, don’t you think the present sports infrastructure is inadequate?

No, the mindset of students needs to change. How many people make use of the sports complex that is there?

Another academic year is coming up. Is any work underway to solve the accommodation shortage on campus?

We have fulfilled the numbers that were obligated on us regarding the reservations. Every year we used to increase the seats on our own to fulfil a dream of having 10000 students on campus. But you need money to build hostels for all of them. So no more increase in seats from this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment