How sports universities are changing the game in ‘physical education’

The last 10 years have seen a boom in sports universities offering not just BPEd, MPEd but also coaching, management, BSc courses.

Sports education is no longer 'extracurricular', getting attention like science, humanitiesSports education is no longer 'extracurricular', getting attention like science, humanities

Pritha Roy Choudhury | July 22, 2022 | 02:57 PM IST

NEW DELHI : Sports are not treated as “extracurricular” activities anymore. About half a dozen sports universities have come up in the past decade and several more are in the pipeline.

Ananya Gogoi from Biswanath district, Assam, was always interested in sports but was pushed into studying science after Class 10 board exams. “Till about the last three or four years, many people did not know about sports as a subject or stream,” she said. Sports was treated as “extracurricular”, situated on the sidelines of education and offering little by way of a career for anyone other than professional sports persons.

Parents, relatives and friends pressured Gogoi to start preparing for engineering entrance tests or seek admission in a nursing school. “I was struggling with myself to do something against my wish. I wanted to study the subject I would enjoy and there would not be much mental pressure,” she said.

For the younger of twin siblings, it was a moment of triumph when she was finally able to convince her parents and enrolled herself in a Bachelors of Physical Education course, a 4-year integrated programme at Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education (LNIPE) Guwahati in 2016.

The LNIPE Guwahati is the northeast regional centre of the Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. LNIPE Gwalior itself began as the Lakshmi Bai College of Physical Education (LCPE) in August 1957 and was upgraded to its current status as a deemed-to-be university in 2009. This was one of the first institutions of higher education to be dedicated specifically to physical education. The 2000s have seen several more coming up including ones in Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Punjab, Manipur, Assam and Gujarat.

Gogoi is currently pursuing a Masters of Physical Education (MPEd)) at Swarnim Gujarat Sports University which she joined in November 2020. She aspires to do a PhD in sports physiology and finally, be a teacher.

Ananya Gogoi 2 (2)Ananya Gogoi, student Swarnim Gujarat Sports University

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More students in sports

Sports was offered as a structured undergraduate programme in colleges affiliated to conventional, multidisciplinary universities across the country. However, awareness about these was low and educational institutions and sports institutes at the school level failed to motivate students to see sports as a profession for anyone other than sportsmen themselves. There was little understanding of professions as coaches, managers and sports scientists.

But there’s been a gradual change. More students are showing interest in all levels of programmes and there are enough applications to choose from.

P Kumaravellu, assistant professor, department of physical education, Tamil Nadu Physical Education and Sports University, Chennai, said that the university received 300 applications against 100 seats for undergraduate programmes in physical education, and 250 applications against 40 seats for the postgraduate programme.

“Every year we see an increase of around 30 to 40 applications for the undergraduate programme. Nearly everyone wants to do a postgraduate degree but we have only 40 seats for the physical education programme,” said Kumaravellu.

The experience is much the same at Swarnim Gujarat Sports University (SGSU). “We are getting a good response,” said Kunal Desai, assistant professor, department of physical education. “Around 2,000 students are studying in various programmes in the university which has 14 affiliated colleges.”

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Sports university India

Over the last decade, four state universities dedicated exclusively to sports and physical education have come up. New sports universities are in various states of establishment in Delhi, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Haryana.

Tamil Nadu was the first state to have a public sports university, setting up the Tamil Nadu Physical Education and Sports University (TNPESU) in 2005 – the first sports university in India. The SGSU in Gujarat was the second, followed by Sri Aniruddhadeva Sports University in Chhabua, Assam, in 2018 and Maharaja Bhupinder Singh Sports University in Patiala, Punjab, in 2019. All the state universities offer undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral programmes.

Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education and the National Sports University in Imphal, Manipur, established in 2018, are the central universities which are functional.

The Delhi Sports University, Major Dhyan Chand Sports University in Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana Sports University in Sonipat, are yet to start functioning. The International Sports University in Pune, Maharashtra, also a state institution, will likely induct its first batch this year.

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BPEd, MPEd and beyond

The SGSU mainly offers physical education courses including an integrated BPEd-MPEd that lasts three years. This has been approved by the National Council for Teachers Education (NCTE).

“The student will earn a master’s degree in physical education and the total duration is only three years,” said Sudhir Kumar Sharma, controller of examinations, SGSU Gandhinagar.

Sharma explained that a student completing the three-year integrated programme will also be an expert in sports management and adventure sports administration as these topics are being covered as well. “With the courses that we offer, instead of preparing a student for teaching only, also prepares a student to be a manager, administrator, coordinator etc.” The total intake capacity for the programme is 55.

The International Sports University in Maharashtra (ISUM) will start its academic session this year with two undergraduate programmes, bachelor of sports management (BSM) and bachelor of sports science (BSc). The university has been established at Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Balewadi, near Pune.

“The intake capacity will be 60 for each programme,” said Om Prakash Bakoria, sports commissioner, Maharashtra department of youth, sports and services.

Sudhir Kumar Sharma, professor, Swarnim Gujarat Sports UniversitySudhir Kumar Sharma, controller of examinations,, SGSU Gandhinagar

A reformed curriculum was worked on and after deliberation with University Grants Commission (UGC), ISUM was granted the permission to start four programmes, two each at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The master’s degree programme will start only after the initial batch completes their bachelor’s degree.

“After a long discussion with UGC, they have given us permission for new nomenclature. So, in future, we can also start a bachelor of sports science and nutrition or a bachelor of sports science in biomechanics or a bachelor of sports science in kinesiology. Similarly, we will be able to start a bachelor of sports management bachelor of sports media management and sports law management,” said Bakoria.

Explaining the “international” tag in the university’s name, Bakoria said the standards, curriculum and all other activities are being designed following global norms. The university has also started the process of collaborating with the top 15 sports universities across the globe. “Our main target is to collaborate with the Loughborough University UK at the earliest.”

Delhi Sports University which is yet to start functioning has already signed an agreement with the University of East London. The two universities will work together to develop new courses and careers for sports.

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Jobs in sports

Students emerging from physical education programmes are recruited as physical education teachers in schools and colleges.

Other students are recruited as coaches in institutions, sports managers, coordinators and administrators. “We have nearly all the students placed always,” said Desai.

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