September 18, 2019
The Institute of Excellence status that the Centre has decided to confer on Anna University may have come with riders, including financial. But it was an opportunity that cannot be missed, says former VC Balagurusamy who has written to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister in this regard
It was a moment of pride for Tamil Nadu when Anna University along with West Bengal’s Jadavpur University recently became the only Staterun varsity to get the Institute of Excellence (IoE) tag. But the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development’s proposal to grant the university the status may not be smooth run.
Former Anna University Vice-Chancellor E Balagurusamy, handpicked by then Chief Minister late J Jayalalithaa to head the varsity, told The Covai Post, that he had written to Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, urging him to approve and support the proposal for the status. It had to be noted that besides private universities which will not receive any financial assistance but mere academic and other support and guidance, the two State varsities would get financial support.
Balagurusamy said there could be hurdles like part funding by the State Government or even losing control of the varsity administration. Even there could be issues with quota for students from within the State. It had to be noticed that Anna University was one where a good number of students were from outside the State, all because of the pride of place it had in the field of education. No other university in the country has 69 per cent students from outside the status. But these were issues that could be tackled as the status would mean much for the varsity, he said.
Sadly, none of the Indian varsities ranked among the 100 top ones globally. But this was an opportunity for the varsity, which already has earned a top place in the country, to take it forward and be in league with the top
ranking ones in the world.
Balagurusamy has reasons to raise the matter with the Chief Minister. He had not applied for the VC post. But Jayalalithaa invited him to take over the reins. “The only thing the Chief Minister then asked me was to do all I can to ensure that the varsity reaches high standards. She wanted it to be the among the best in the country. And in the three years (2002-05) of my tenure, I did all I could and am satisfied that I could ensure that the work done at the university met her expectations,” he said.
The Governments of the two state universities selected by the empowered committee for grant of IoE status have been asked to “indicate their commitment towards their contribution under the IoE scheme”.
Balagurusamy says in his letter: “It is really a matter of great honour and pride that Anna University is one of the only two State universities in India and the only one in South India to receive this distinction (out of 800 State universities in the counry). The IoE status will enable the university to enjoy complete freedom from the control of Central regulatory agencies like the UGC and the AICTE and to implement its own flexible course structure, curriculum and syllabus.”
The status would give the university all the freedom to tie up with global ranking universities abroad for academic programmes and research work. Such activities, especially in emerging areas of science and technology, would help it get to know the best in the world.
“Under the scheme of IoE, Anna University will be groomed to break into the top 100 global rankings in 10 years,” he said.
The sharing of financial burden is a vital issue that has remained a stumbling block. This has led to uncertainty of the status as the Ministry recently finally accorded the status and asked the Tamil Nadu Government to clarify on the matter so that necessary steps could be taken to issue the final orders.
Sources in the varsity said that in the case of Jadavpur University, the Centre offered Rs 1,000 crore though there is still no clear picture on what the Tamil Nadu Government had been offered and what its contribution should be, The 50 per cent contribution rider could be a bone of contention for the State Government. According to sources, it is customary for the Centre to provide around 60-70 per cent of the funds for its schemes. But in this vital scheme, it has restricted its funding to mere 50 per cent.
The Institutions of Eminence scheme of the Centre is to make higher educational institutions and help them become world class teaching and research centres. This was the vital point and the State Government should do all it could not to miss this opportunity, said Balagurusamy.