Mahatma Gandhi University, one of the four affiliating universities in Kerala, is the premier educational institution that strives to fulfil the higher educational needs of the people of Central Kerala. Set on the sprawling 110-acre campus called Priyadarshini Hills at Athirampuzha, 13 kms off Kottayam, the University also has seven satellite campuses in parts of Kottayam and the neighbouring districts. The University was established on 2 October 1983 and has jurisdiction over the revenue districts of Kottayam, Ernakulam, Idukki and parts of Pathanamthitta and Alappuzha. It is a University that conducts a range of programmes at the undergraduate, postgraduate, M Phil and doctoral levels through its 16 University Departments, 7 Self-Financing Departments, 82 Aided Affiliated Colleges (of which 8 are Colleges with Potential for Excellence), 158 Unaided Affiliated Colleges and 73 Recognized Research Institutes. It imparts education in the conventional disciplines of science, social science and the humanities as well as in the professional disciplines of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering, technology, pedagogy and legal studies. The University has also made its educational presence felt outside its territorial jurisdiction through the Off-campus Centres of the School of Distance Education.
From its inception and through the last two decades Mahatma Gandhi University has taken immense strides in the fields of inter-disciplinary teaching and research in the areas of pure and applied sciences, social sciences and the humanities. The teaching programmes conducted under the Credit and Semester System (CSS) in the statutory departments of teaching and research, organized as interdisciplinary Schools, are marked by their innovative curricula and their learner-oriented approaches. CSS is a student-friendly system that fosters interactive acquisition of knowledge in a multi-disciplinary context. The students are made familiar with the latest developments in their subjects of study. The University has always promoted the healthy practice of designing and revising its curricula and syllabi through discussions and deliberations carried out in a democratic way among the members of the academic community. The faculty of the University comprise outstanding scholars, many of whom have made original contributions in their respective fields of specialization. The faculty and research scholars of several departments have gained widespread recognition for the commendable quality of their research publications. The research journals published by some of the Schools have garnered international recognition.
The University’s adoption of interdisciplinarity as the basic conceptual plank for the organization of individual departments is prompted by the understanding that interdisciplinary knowledge is path-breaking, far reaching and non-linear in its effect, compared to what conventional forms of knowledge are capable of doing within the confines of discrete disciplines. Appreciating the trend of several non-conventional areas of knowledge emerging across physical, natural and social sciences, the University has chosen to organize its academic departments as interdisciplinary schools where multiple disciplines co-exist and interact with one another. Teaching and research in the interfaces of conventional disciplines has been an idea promoted by the UGC too. Nevertheless, the overall academic practice of a majority of our universities is still structured by the dominance of discipline-based teaching and research. It is true that the disciplinary paradigm continues to maintain its hegemony over the University system all over the world and that it does this through its various institutionalized forms and practices. The organizational practice of creating institutions of interdisciplinary knowledge itself has been a great learning experience for the academics in Mahatma Gandhi University. One has to come to terms with the emergence of micro areas of knowledge that turn themselves into sub-disciplines, each of which in turn, aided by such factors as institutions, laboratories and journals, transform into a new discipline. As part of our effort to overcome this stalemate, we have initiated the constitution of Centres of Convergence around integrated knowledge areas. Knowledge generated beyond disciplines and across interfaces is strikingly fresh, regenerative and convergent. The convergence, however fast the process may be, is yet to throw up identifiable institutions of transaction and channels of communication commensurate with the needs of the academia. However, a good deal of the research output from Mahatma Gandhi University bears the stamp of non-conventional knowledge produced in the interface of conventional disciplines.
At present Mahatma Gandhi University offers research programmes in over forty disciplines through its own Schools as well as through its approved research centres. The University has close collaboration for academic, research and extension programmes with a number of national agencies and institutions including the UGC, FIST, DRS, ISRO, COSIT, CSIR, DAAD, STEC, ICMR, BARC, MOEF, ICCR, ICHR, IED, IIFT, Institute of Chinese Studies and the Sahitya Akademi. The University is also involved in active collaboration with research institutions of international reputation such as the Max Planck Institute of Technology, Germany, Brown University, USA, University of Nantes, France, California Institute of Technology, USA, University of Toronto, Canada, Catholic University, Belgium, Heidelberg University, Germany, and the Institute of Political Studies, Rennes, France. Some of the members of the faculty have proved to be frontrunners in the development of indigenous technologies and are holders of as many as twenty patents, including four US patents. A considerable percentage of the alumni of the University are comfortably placed in the country and abroad as academics, scientists and professionals.
The University has been able to make these gains thanks to the healthy environment of academic interaction that exists on the campus. The students will vouch for the atmosphere of cordiality and fellowship that marks the campus life here. All components of the teaching-learning system contribute toward making the process of learning a memorable experience. Though the rural, tribal and underprivileged background from which a good majority of the students come might pose some initial hurdles before some of the students, they smoothly overcome the hurdles and catch up with the environment. This is due mainly to the student support and other services available on the campus. The web-enabled University Library with its large collection of books, journals and e-journals, the online Theses Digital Library that provides open access to its enviable collection of digitized Ph D dissertations, the publishing unit which has brought out hundreds of titles in Malayalam, English and Hindi, the facilities available at the School of Physical Education and Sports Sciences for developing physical culture, the ecologically sensitive extension programmes initiated by the University Departments and the National Service Scheme, the Students’ Web Centre that provides round-the-clock web-support to the campus community, the coaching and placement services provided by the Department of Student Services and the University Employment Information and Guidance Bureau, and the general administrative support that the academic community receive from the University administration – all these work in tandem with the academic business transacted in the University Departments and make the learning experience a holistic one.
Mahatma Gandhi University is one of the earliest among the universities in Kerala to move towards a degree of financial sustainability by starting in a big way self-financing departments that, while answering the need of the society for quality education in the professional sector, would also take the University out of the crisis that it had found itself in the context of the state’s severe resource crunch. The University has been conducting a number of innovative and vocational courses in the professional disciplines of technology, applied sciences and paramedical sciences that has also to some degree satisfied the society’s increasing demand for new and competitive courses and degrees that can be acquired at moderate rates of fee.
In doing all this, Mahatma Gandhi University is moving forward with a clear vision of its educational objectives.