There are two aspects of this debate as I can think of. One of the good experiences of IITK was that people used to do almost everything. We did engineering and science, we did humanities, we organized cultural and technological festivals – we did marketing for it, we decided the logistics, we designed the information brochure and we did the publicity.
That made the much aspired for ‘overall development’ possible. (Okay, there might be debates about how much of overall development was actually happening with academic rigour etc. etc., but the point is that opportunity was there and if one wanted to use one could use it. You were not contrained from doign something else just because you are studying to be an engineer!)
Enter the MBA and design programme and suddenly only MBAs can do the marketing and only design students can make brochures and websites! Megabucks was the first victim of this attitude. It appeared to be creeping in Antaragni and Techkriti as well, but I do not know how far it went. And this might represent a pitfall of a university system, where your contributions and activities may get limited by your stream of study. From the experience of a friend during summer internship in an European university. To dramatize the experience, “A drama will be done only by the students of the shcool of drama and a music performance will come only from the school of music!”
Now, this is not ideal. So, I had conveniently concluded that the idea of specialized institutes is better.
But recently a different perspective also came in. And it got discussed with Dr. Rahul Varman during the IITK visit. A university system certainly makes you a part of bigger system. You get the opportunity to interact with a larger variety of people, and an opportunity to explore various fields I should say. Having had no experience myself, I do not know to what extent is this opportunity actually used. But it there. The lack of this opportunity becomes very evident at places like IIMs, where the scope is severely limited. It is not as wide at IITs either, but slightly wider with different departments of engineering and science, department of Humanities and Social Sciences and now the management and design programmes almost everywhere. However, the breadth of a university system is certainly missing even there.
And the focus on specialized institute seems to have caused university system in India to almost collapse and we people, in these institutes, use ‘university’ in almost a derogatory fashion. There are some other aspects of the collapse of university system as well, but that later.
Debate is open on the pluses and minuses of the two systems, however.