[As some of us who owe their careers to Osmania University look back, we do feel a sense of pride for being part of a glorious history.]
Osmania University celebrates its centenary this year. The University is celebrated for having pioneered at least two major reforms that the higher education sector saw in independent India. It was Osmania’s distance education program that showed the way for making education inclusive and possible outside classrooms. Millions of people who could not attend regular class benefitted as the University evolved a system that would become synonymous with distance education. People all over the country benefitted as Osmania University’s distance education department developed syllabi and pedagogy that could be sent through mail to various corners of the country.
This learning resulted in the growth of open University systems in the country and G Ram Reddy of Osmania University went on to establish what is the world’s largest Open University today, patterned in large amounts after what he had developed in Hyderabad. The distance education pattern is not only inexpensive, it is also such a convenient learning platform for a large number of working people who cannot leave their work and for women who could not leave their house. Both these groups benefitted hugely from Osmania University
The other development that changed the entire employment and entrepreneurial scene in the country was by way of allowing private engineering colleges to grow and flourish. Hyderabad and Bangalore became the capitals of the Software and the Information Technology revolution across the world, as they first became the hub of engineering education in eighties and the nineties. When Globalization began and firms started looking at developing economies to set up their technology initiatives and factories in, it were the college set up under Osmania University and the like that provided skilled engineers.
It was indeed a visionary change that higher education saw fifty years ago and universities like Osmania took the difficult challenge of allowing private institutions to provide education and skills that would be world class. Very quickly, this model that was developed to ensure large number of students and high quality became an easy one to replicate and other universities followed the example set up by Osmania and the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University.
For the last hundred years, Osmania University has stood for excellence in education and sports, contributing enormously to the development of a highly skilled class in the country. The University has been the hub of several transformations that took place during this period. It was witness to the takeover of Hyderabad by the center, the Naxal movement that began in the sixties and the Telangana movement that went on for nearly sixty years. Despite these disturbances it has always remained one of India’s premier institutions, except for a brief period in time when its reputation fell in the seventies.
It was the first University that had an Indian language, Urdu as the medium of instruction. It is also a coincidence that last week was the 108th birthday of one of the first internationally renowned alumni of Osmania’s M Hamidullah. It was Porf Hamidullah who personified the spirit with which the University was set up as a premier place of learning, with a global perspective. Prof Hamidullah took to Paris the skill of translation that was pioneered at Osmania and served as bridge between the Orient and the West through his prolific writings on Islam and history.
Osmania University for years remained one of the most dominant forces in the sports field. The cricketers that it produced have been widely celebrated and are well known. What is also true is that Osmania University produced a number of individuals who played for the country in football, basketball and volleyball teams. When we were studying at the campus, Azhar, Arshad and Shivlal were playing cricket for India, Abdul Basith was leading India’s volleyball team and Riaz Ahmed had just retired.
A legendary bureaucrat Syed Hashim Ali was our Vice Chancellor. Under him, the University campus was being beautified with large amounts of land getting landscaped with some of the most gorgeous lawns a university campus had seen. There was a great deal of activity on a daily basis, with a number of literary and cultural festivals going on almost through the year. The campus also had a lively political atmosphere and a strong left movement that saw to it that there was a refreshing sense of anti-establishment sentiment, that however always stayed intellectual and mature.
It was really a period during which we saw the University develop all its capabilities to allow us students to handle most of the pressures that a globalized world would bring up. The computer centre, one of the first in the country, was getting ready. New departments were being set up, foreign languages were being taught and it was no coincidence that the Centre for English and Foreign languages was becoming an important centre of learning right next door.
Large numbers of Osmanians were migrating and working with some of the best institutions that were being set up in the United States that would change the world of technology and Commerce. Today Shanatanu Narayan, one of my seniors in the college heads Adobe Inc and a junior Satya Nadella from Hyderabad, who graduated from Manipal, heads Microsoft. While the Mandal Commission protests and the early Hindutva mobilization for demolition of Babri Masjid were creating tensions in the city, the University campus remained a tiny oasis of learning and education.
As some of us who owe their careers to Osmania University look back, we do feel a sense of pride for being part of a glorious history. However, what is obvious now is that the University must gear up for its next phase. It has successfully harnessed public opinion in carving out a new state recently. It must now again return to a focus on world class technology and on a modern tradition of the arts and humanities that will make it one of the best educational institutions again.