Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Degree of Levity.

Universities are like the stereotype white-coats who appear in toothpaste advertisements. They need to appear credible. They need to sound academic. And above all, they need to be visibly boring.

Being ‘effortlessly uninteresting’ is the true hallmark of a good university. Jog your rusty memory and you’ll solve the puzzle of ‘why your college life sucked’. Because Profs are meant to look constipated. Courses are preordained to be colourless. Classrooms have to recreate that assembly line feel. Journals are deliberately engineered to be slumberous. Mottos have to be profoundly unintelligible. And every little trapping associated with the university needs to conform to the carefully cultivated image of gravitas.

The ardour to maintain a weighty veil of solemnity is probably why universities have dreadfully ho-hum names. And to give them their due, that’s probably why the world takes varsities seriously.

In this milieu of soberness, it is rare to spot a dash of frivolity. But the oddballs do exist. Turn your gaze to Lovely Professional University in Punjab. Yes, the beauty parlouresque name happens to be ‘India’s largest private university in one campus housing 25,000 students’ offering degrees in Arts to Aviation!

Lovely makes Arindam Chaudari’s IIPM seem like Harvard. I am sure that the embarrassed alumni will be typing out their resumes with the abbreviated LPU instead of the bizarre moniker chosen by the Punju promoters (Lovely Group of Companies).

If Lovely raised a chuckle, teleport yourself to Transylvania University (TU). Lest you assume it to be the campus featured in the vampire romance ‘Twilight’, TU is very much a 48-acre brick and mortar campus in Kentucky that has educated many thousands including two US vice presidents and fifty US senators. Nestled in the heavily-forested regions of West Virginia, the founding fathers chose Transylvania as it meant ‘across the woods’ in Latin. Considering Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula hadn’t been invented then, you could pardon the name.

But how do you condone the outlandish UFO University in Tirana, Albania? The deceptively paranormal name apparently is a contraction for ‘Universitas Fabrefacta Optime’ which means ‘university to forge the good’. If you found that too surreal, you should perhaps queue up for admissions in ‘Beijing Normal University’ in China!