FAREWELL AND NEW BEGINININGS
As part of its interest in working towards changing the higher education sector in India, the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society (CSCS), established in 1998, set up a Higher Education Cell in 2007 in collaboration with the Sir Ratan Tata Trust. The ground for this had been prepared when CSCS faculty members Tejaswini Niranjana and Mrinalini Sebastian had researched the history and present situation of Indian higher education to write up a Strategy Paper for the Trust.
The Paper listed the possible directions in which independent funding could help address the different kinds of crises in the sector – to do with inflexible institutional structures, outdated and non-relevant curricula, poorly trained teachers, and lack of new resources for students. In light of the Strategy Paper, the HE Cell devised a five-year work plan with a focus on developing digital resources, regional language resources, initiatives for integrating science education by bringing into it issues and debates from the social sciences and humanities, and initiatives for addressing questions of access and equity in undergraduate and post-graduate education. The Cell’s brief was to set up collaborations with key institutional partners, and to help them design new initiatives as well as raise funds for them.
In 2011, following differences with the Trust, we became HEIRA: Higher Education Innovation and Research Applications. As HEIRA, we continued our work of designing and implementing new interventions across the country. Through 2011-12, we also took part in the policy deliberations at Yojana Bhavan, Delhi, headquarters of the Planning Commission, and made significant contributions to two policy notes for the 12th Five Year Plan, one on Indian language resources and the other on community engagement of HE institutions. The final Plan contains a number of our recommendations: http://planningcommission.gov.in/plans/planrel/12thplan/pdf/12fyp_vol3.pdf. We worked with the British Council in 2011 to conduct a poIicy dialogue on innovations in contemporary higher education (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdXP1QtXnhI). With the Karnataka Knowledge Commission, we produced a research report in 2012 on mapping the higher education system in Karnataka (http://cscs.res.in/dataarchive/textfiles/final-report-submitted-to-karnataka-jnana-aayoga-karnataka-knowledge-commission-government-of-karnataka). In December 2013, we concluded the successful Ford Foundation-supported programme Pathways to Higher Education which we had developed across three states.
In the last seven years, we were fortunate to have worked closely with some of the most innovative and well-regarded higher education institutions in the country, including the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore; the Information and Library Network of India (INFLIBNET), Ahmedabad; the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSS), Kolkata; the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB); School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata; Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), New Delhi; Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies Centre, University of Pune; Department of Translation Studies, Kannada University, Hampi; Centre for the Study of Local Cultures, Kuvempu University; Institute for Socio-Economic Research on Development and Democracy, Delhi; Departments of Comparative Literature and of Translation, University of Hyderabad; the leading Marathi social science journal Samaj Prabodhan Patrika, Belgaum; Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram; the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune; the Central University of Jharkhand (CUJ); the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), Bangalore; and a host of colleges across Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.
Through much of 2014, HEIRA has been searching for ways of re-housing the key initiatives incubated over the years.
The work on Indian language resources is now embodied in the Centre for Indian Languages in Higher Education (CILHE) at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (http://www.tiss.edu/TopMenuBar/academic/centres-of-schools/centres-of-school-of-education/centre-for-indian-languages-in-higher-education), and also at the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore (http://cis-india.org/a2k). CILHE’s mandate is to help create new resource materials in Indian languages and work towards curricularising them. Faculty and doctoral level training is also offered in the deployment of such materials and in bilingual pedagogy. The Access to Knowledge programme at CIS is working to increase open knowledge digital resources in Indian languages on the Wikimedia platforms.
The integrated science education project has found a home in the Undergraduate Humanities programme at the Centre for Contemporary Studies, IISc, Bangalore, where we helped design and teach the mandatory humanities courses offered to science and technology students (http://www.iisc.ernet.in/ug/humanities.html).
These far-reaching initiatives have been built up through HEIRA’s collaborations and networks, and continue to draw on those connections.
On August 15, 2014, HEIRA will cease to exist under that name. Our reports, publications and visual material will continue to be available at http://cscs.res.in/irps/heira. Soon we will be publishing two volumes with Orient Black Swan under the CSCS Book Series on the Integrated Science Education project and on our undergraduate interventions. We look forward to continuing our higher education work in the new locations where it is now housed.