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Friday, March 27, 2015


                                                               Marie Joseph Gerard Rassindren

Reg. No. 1444401

Every branch of knowledge acquires its content, methodology and form through a process of accretion over time and is eventually transacted in the context of institutional arrangements.  The accumulation of its content takes place predominantly through renowned personalities that are the stalwarts of the intellectual component of any discipline.  But even they function through institutions and not independently.  So the entire evolution and transmission of any body of knowledge operates through institutions, which is none other than universities.  This essay intends to trace the progress of Economics as a branch of knowledge within the institutional framework of Christ University.  It will be covered by achieving two objectives namely by first tracing very briefly the evolution of Christ University from an affiliated college to a deemed university and second by the movements as well as shifts that have occurred in the content and position of economics in the institution through its transition. 

Christ University now officially designated as a 'deemed to be university', began as a college affiliated to Bangalore University in 1969.  Historically while the idea of affiliated colleges under a state university had been borrowed from model of the University of London, the choice of offering triple major courses at the undergraduate level was an adaptation of the Cambridge Tripos model.  At the post graduate level it is single subject majoring courses. So while at the undergraduate level a student can choose between programmes offering a B A in History, Economics and Political Science or B A in Economics, Political Science and Sociology, when it comes to post graduate programmes it is single majoring courses like M A. in Applied Economics or an M A in Applied Sociology etc. 

When the institution was an affiliated college the content of Economics was prescribed by Bangalore University.  Any creativity was possible only in the manner in which the content was taught in the class room.  If any modification to the content of the syllabus was sought to be done, it would have go through the rather circuitous process dictated by the university.  Collegiate teachers in the field could not exert any significant influence to modify as well as update the content of economics education in the affiliated institutions including Christ University then called Christ College.  However this trend underwent its first major shift when the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, initiated in a very proactive manner the granting of autonomy to affiliated colleges if they fulfill certain criteria.  An autonomous college would now have the liberty to modify 20% of the syllabus content and the state university would continue to be the degree awarding body.  It would have to be ratified by a Board of Studies consisting of the members of the subject department, in this case the department of economics, and two external subject experts along with a representative from the university.  This process was introduced into the Indian education system as a corollary to the larger paradigmatic shift in state policy in the 1990s, from being an interventionist state to a facilitating state that propagates greater freedom of markets and initiatives in the private domain.  In line with this paradigmatic change in the policy of the state, many changes were introduced into the economics syllabus at Christ since it was given autonomous status in 2005. 

At this time the Masters programme in Economics was started.  One additional element to the background of the starting of the post graduate studies in economics in Christ College was that the college already had a very vibrant Masters in Business Administration (MBA) programme which had two full courses in Economics.  Further it was also a time when the MBA course was perceived very positively by the public of the city as a professional course capable of creating employability in individuals.  It created a mood of trepidation as to whether the M A Economics programme could attain popularity and so be sought after, considering the public affinity to management courses.  So within the masters in economics programme a management stream of specialisation courses was introduced.  But over time the department began to acquire good quality and young human resources which enabled it to shed away its dependence on typical management courses for its academic and market standing and this was institutionalised by Christ College being granted the 'deemed to be university' status by the government of India in 2008.  With the academic freedom this structural institutional change provided, two specialisation streams, one focusing on finance and the other on development studies were put into the postgraduate economics programme.  In the last three years two important changes were also brought in – induction of cutting edge courses in the domain of political economy and institutional analysis. 

Parallel to these trajectories taking place at the post graduate level, the undergraduate syllabus also experienced transformation.  One of the most important has been the introduction of an honours stream in the final year of the undergraduate programme.  Students would be selected through a rigorous selection process from the triple major programmes of history-economics-political science, economics-political science-sociology and psychology-sociology-economics.  The number of student intake was limited to 40 and this programme eventually became a competitive branch of the undergraduate programmes in the institution.  In fact following the lead taken by the Department of Economics, other departments such as psychology and English began to adopt the model.  The unique proposition in this programme has been the introduction of a thesis as a full-fledged paper in an undergraduate programme, which would have to be defended by the student in an open defense observed and evaluated by an external research expert. 

A few years after the honours stream was introduced some major changes have been made to the traditional triple major programmes having economics as one of the subjects.  While the traditional courses that transact the dominant received knowledge in economics have been retained, new skill and research based courses have been brought in specifically for the senior third year undergraduate students.  The undergraduate students in Christ have been enduring a disadvantage with respect to their quantitative capability in comparison to students in the rest of the country.  At the same time the faculty of the department knew that although quantitative capability helps to capture evidence for claims made in economics, it is not economic theory.  It means quantitative capability does not have an independent existence but is useful within a framework of organised search i.e. within a research paradigm.   So a super specialisation course called Health Economics was replaced with another compulsory course - Research Methodology along with Statistics.  As this course is compulsory it would benefit all students who take up the undergraduate economics programme.  Further to enable some students who may develop a fascination for computational economics through these experiences, two new specialisation optional courses are being offered and they are Econometrics and Financial Economics.  At the pedagogic domain many new initiatives have been started such as guided library reading, journal writing, course work assignments and tutorials for weak students.

Thus the discipline of Economics in Christ University has passed through several milestones and transformational shifts in its evolution.  It has moved from a very mundane area of study to a vibrant domain of intellectual engagement.  One of the most vital reasons for this is the innate desire and passion for teaching as well as research that members of the faculty possess.  The hope is this transformation in the academic components of economics in Christ University will begin to inform serious research questions in the future and eventually contribute to elevating the Department of Economics into a School of Economics.

The above essay has been written as a chronicle of experiences in the evolution and movement of Economics as a discipline of knowledge in Christ University.  The traditional form of date based chronological chronicling has not been used.  Dates have been very sparsely used.

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