In 1932, the then Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who later went on to become the first Vice-President and the second President of the country, had inaugurated the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies in the university.
The founder-Head of Department was Prof. Saileswar Sen, who had been hand-picked by Radhakrishnan. The department had produced many a stalwart such as Padma Vibhushan K. Satchidananda Murty.
But today, due to lack of teachers in the department, the nine-decade-old institution that is also the biggest public university in the State, is forced to close down the department. The departments of Archaeology and Sanskrit too have been closed.
This apart, many courses, or specialisation, have either be shutdown or merged into core courses, primarily because of lack of teaching staff.
However, Vice-Chancellor P.V.G.D. Prasad Reddy says the departments of Philosophy and Sanskrit have been closed only for a period of one year.
“We have shut down the two departments on the campus and transferred them to the A.U. School of Distance Education (AUSDE). The number of those opting the courses has dwindled to a single digit over the years, and we do not have faculty too. This is also impacting our NIRF ranking. We will revive the two departments on the campus once we are in a position to recruit teachers,” Prof. Prasad Reddy says.
He cites the same reason in respect of other courses as well.
The fisheries course in the Department of Zoology has been shifted to the Marine Living Resource, as it is more relevant there. Similarly, M.Sc (Horticulture) and M.Sc (Agriculture Biotechnology) courses have been merged into M.Sc (Botany) as specialisation.
“The takers for these courses too are few and there are no teachers. And, most importantly, these courses have not been recognised by many government departments. To accommodate all the students, we have increased the sections from one to two,” he says. “On the same lines, M.Sc. (Nuclear Chemistry) and M.Sc. (Physical Chemistry) have been merged into the core degrees such as M.Sc (Inorganic Chemistry) and M.Sc. (Organic Chemistry) as specialisations,” the Vice-Chancellor says.
“The departments, as a result, now have more number of specialisations. Instead of having a number of courses that do not have takers and teachers, we now have core degrees with options for more specialisations,” Prof. Prasad Reddy reasons.
Faculty shortage has been plaguing the university since two decades as recruitments have stopped. The university had once a permanent faculty strength of about 1,000 teachers and each department was flush with experienced professors. But, over the years, with the retirement of teachers, the strength of permanent teachers now is barely 216.
“By the time this government completes its term, the strength will further drop to 60,” according to a senior professor. In this backdrop, the university has been managing with about 102 contract teachers and a few guest faculty.
Recruitments have been affected because of court cases and delay on the part of the authorities concerned in the government.
To augment the depleting strength, the university recently inducted on deputation 113 teachers, whose services were surrendered by the aided college managements to the government.
“Though there is some resentment on the campus, especially from the contract teachers, this is a win-win situation, as the university does not have to pay salaries and all are Ph.D holders with over 20 years of experience,” says Prof. Prasad Reddy.