Corridors of excellence

Updated: Apr 22 2007, 06:10am hrs
1857, momentous for its political upheavals, was also marked by another, almost as influential change. The first three universities under the modern systemMadras, Bombay and Calcutta, started that year. The three universities, set up by Sir Charles Woods epoch-making Dispatch of 1854, the Magna Carta of English Education in India, suggested creating a properly articulated system of education from the primary school to the University. A process that till date is expanding, already having produced millions of trained personnel, credited with driving the rapidly changing economy. Whether the massive general universities like Bombay and Madras, or the ultra specialised ones like All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, these universities today churn out thousands of degree holders at different levels. And the number is still inadequate for the burgeoning demand for seats at these seats of learning. India is seen globally as a centre of educationwhere right from the beginning, the universities of Takshashila, Nalanda and Ujjain attracted students from every nook and corner of the world. Medieval India too saw its institutionalised centres of learning, and Delhi was the most important city in the world after Baghdad. The decline of dynasties invariably saw a decline in state funded education, and the twilight years of the Mughal dynasty saw the decline of many such centres of higher education. The revival, post 1857, saw the establishment of other universities, notably Lahore (1864), Aligarh (1877) and Allahabad (1887). The initial attempts to formulate a national system of education in India began in 1944, with the presentation of the Sargeant Report, technically the Report of the Central Advisory Board of Education on Post-War Educational Development in India, which recommended the formation of a central system. Following its recommendation, the University Grants Committee, was formed in 1945 to oversee the work of the three central Universities of Aligarh, Banaras and Delhi. In 1947, the Committee was put in charge of all the then existing universities. At that time, only a few thousand students were enrolled in higher education. Today, as India boasts of the second-largest system of higher education, nearly eight million students are enrolled in about 300 universities. And this is just about 6% of the total population in that age group.

Calcutta / January 24, 1857
Rohit Khanna
The walk up the stairs at the historical Dwarbhanga building at the university campus leads to a corridor, archaic in design, boasting of the glorious past of a universitymodelled on the University of London. Talk to the students and they speak more of the university's making it to the first 50 list of the worlds top arts and humanities universities in The Times Higher Education Supplement on November 10, 2005

The state-controlled institution of higher learning, Calcutta University managed a decent peer score of 42.3, while sharing the 39th position with Sussex University of UK. Delhi University, with a peer score of 31.8, only managed the 87th place.

The urge for a modern university in India prompted the British to pay attention to what a handful of liberals were asking for-spreading modern education among the masses. A proposal to establish Calcutta University came from the Council of Education in 1845. The design was to have a university with the Governor General of India as chancellor and Visitor, a vice-chancellor and fellows. A despatch from the Court of Directors of the East India Company paved the way for establishment of three universities in India. The Calcutta University was founded on January 24,1857 by the incorporation of an Act of the Legislative Council.

The first Vice-Chancellor of the CU was Sir James William Colvile . The ex-officio fellows of the university comprised of the Lieutenant Governors of Bengal and North-Western Provinces, the Chief Justice of Bengal, the Bishop of Calcutta and members of the Supreme Council of India, all for the time-being. 29 Ordinary Fellows were also nominated. Interestingly, The University Act of 1857 received the Governor-Generals assent on January 24, 1857. But it came into existence prior to that as the first meeting of the senate was held on January 3 the same year.


The university has
65 post-graduate departments
Around 200 doctorates are awarded each year
The University has collaborative research with at least 25 overseas universities
More than a dozen courses started before the 150 years celebration
A new campus at Salt Lake would start functioning from mid-2008

The university library started with a corpus of Rs 3500 from the surplus received of the University for the year 1873-74. Joykissen Mookerjee of Uttarpara had donated Rs 5,000. With funds coming in bits and pieces and donation of books received, the university library was formed which evolved into the University Library system later on.

The first MA examination was held in 1861 and the university moved to its own house in 1873. The University Act of 1904 empowered CU to make necessary arrangement for the instruction of students, and though most of the teaching continued to be imparted in the affiliated colleges, teaching in some post-graduate courses started functioning under the University management. The University College of Law was established in 1909 and the University College s of science was established in 1914. CU started conducting 10 PG departments by 1920, including Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Psychology.

Justice Gooroodas Banerjee became the first Indian VC of University of Calcutta in 1890. Sir Asutosh Mukherjee, one of the most illustrious VCs of the university headed for four consecutive two-year terms (1906-1914) and a fifth two-year term (1921-23). His son Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of Bhartiya Jan Sangh, became the VC in August 1934.

By that time, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Prafulla Chandra Ray, Satyendra Nath Bose and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan joined the post-graduate teaching departments of the University and established the basic infrastructures for research in frontier areas of science and arts. The atmosphere of teaching and research was so conducive that the basic research work of C V Raman was done at the university, which led him to the Nobel prize. Later on, Satyendranath Bose established the identity of Boson through his remarkable work appreciated by Albert Einstein.

The socio-political scene in West Bengal started to change in the late 60s as discontent was brewing inside the youth. Joblessness coupled with strikes and lockouts at the factories was adding fuel to the fire. A big chunk of students of CU always had a leaning towards Marxism and radical thoughts.

As Sujash Bhattacharya, a student of the universitys English department pens it down in a study (The Domain of the Dreamersa study of the Department of English, University of Calcutta): The early 1950s was to witness the Tebhaga Movement, the Morich-Jhapi Movement, and the coming into their own of the various scattered union movements. These changes were to influence a lot of intellectuals of the time, including Jyoti Bhattacharya, a noted Professor of the Department later on. As a member of the Workers Party, he had to go to jail following the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962.

The naxal movement of the early 70s gathered support from both students and teachers. The turbulent decade has seen reflections of genius from the students and professors in almost every form of art. Life in CU has always been charming and provocative of intellectual fervor. As Bhattacharya writes... M y friends and I had a grand time both within and outside the classes. The repercussions of our class experiences often spilled over to our local hangoutsRallys (sherbat shop), Rakhal-Das canteen at CU, Ratan-Das canteen at Presidency college, Putiram's (sweetshop), and the Coffee Houses of College Street and Central Avenue.

With the funds pouring in, CU is creating a Techno Campus at Salt Lake campus with an investment of Rs 30 crores. The aim is to bring the engineering and technical departments like radio physics, computer science, applied physics and chemistry under one roof. The Techno campus would consist of three towers-administrative building, common faculty centre and a techno tower. It has received Rs 10 crore from the State Government, of which Rs 6 crore is being utilised for the construction of campus. The Centre has also granted Rs 15 crore through the UGC.

The vision document for the university states that basic thrust in research is on micro level issues like health and education of minorities and marginal groups in South Asian countries with special emphasis on minority social groups in West Bengal. Projects like studying position of women, especially widows and children and other marginal groups along with social problems, political processes institutions and the nature of governance in post-colonial India are also in the pipeline.

In the science faculty, the thrust is on developing parallel computing resources for structural genomic, proteins, molecular sequence analysis and simulation of biochemical networks. The university plans to develop a collaborative research centre for the development of Biocomputing, Biophotonics, Optical Networking, Micro lithography and Laser cooling and their applications in non-material and microelectronics.

The thrust area in technology is on developing Biosensors, studies of space weather in relation to Space-based communication, Millimeter wave and microwave technology and soft computing. The mettle of a university in the countries like US is judged by the research work it has done, the number of peer reviews published and the amount invested in research. Even the departmental rankings are also done on the basis of publications in journals.

At a conference with the bigwigs of the academia in West Bengal recently in Kolkata, Mani Bhaumik, co inventor of Laser eye surgery, pointed out at the lack of relationship between the industry and institute, especially in applying research findings to professional demands.

We are emphasising more on the acedemics-industry tie ups, said Dr Samir Bandyopadhyay, registrar of CU. Many of the research projects in the fields like biotechnology and computer science are funded by the state government. Multi-national Information Technology companies like Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS) have shown interest in funding research projects in the university, he said.

The university has partnered in fields across the disciplines for collaborative research with the likes of Boston University, Max Planck Institute of Germany, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory at UK, Chinese University in Hong Kong, University of Brussels, Oxford brooks University, Chongbuk University of South Korea, Hamboldt University, Monash University in Australia and california University of Technology.

According to Dr Bandyopadhyay, the grant of Rs 100 crore would be utilised mainly for the research and development in the field of nanotechnology. Our effort is to build CU as one of the nodal centres for nanotechnology.

The university has also received a grant of Rs 30 crore from the UGC of which nine crore has been allocated for Modern Biology, (that includes bio-diversity and sustainable development, jute biology and genomics, cancer biology and system biology).

The university has planned to spend Rs 2 crore for organising seminars and participation of teachers and research scholars in the seminars. It has also planned to support students through learn while you earn policy, for which at least Rs 100 lakh will be allocated.

Madras / September 5, 1857
S Shyamala

A remnant of the Madras Presidencys colonial history, the abode of higher education in the state of Tamil Nadu and a saga of excellence since 1857stands the University of Madras. Having nurtured higher education for about five generations, the University completes 150 years on September 5, 2007. The theme behind the year-long activities is said to be Celebrating a tradition and evolving to the future.

Assessing the demand for qualified personnel in the British-ruled India and to impart European-style education in the country, the then Government of India set up the University of Madras in 1857. The university was the result of a public petition signed by 70,000 natives requesting the need for a higher education centre, which would cater to the needs of students from Orissa to Kanyakumari, the then Madras Presidency.

Hence, a University Board was constituted in 1840 with lawyer George Norton as its president. This University had twin departmentsa high School for the cultivation of English literature, regional language, philosophy and science and a college providing instruction in the higher branches of literature, philosophy and sciences.

However, a systematic educational policy for India was formulated only 14 years later by the historic dispatch of 1854 (Sir Charles Woods Education Dispatch), which pointed out the rationale for creating a properly articulated system of education from the primary school to the University. The Dispatch recommended the establishment in the Universities of Professorships for the purposes of the delivery of lectures in various branches of learning including vernacular as well as classical languages. As a sequel, the University of Madras, was incorporated on September 5 1857 by an Act of the Legislative Council of India.

The University of Madras kept growing in its capabilities and over the years, research has been given higher priority. The research and teaching functions of the University were encouraged by Sadler Commission and the gains of the University were consolidated by the enactment of Madras University Act of 1923.

About this time, the territorial ambit of the Madras University encompassed from Berhampur of Orissa in the north east, Trivandrum of Kerala in the south West, Bangalore and Mangalore of Karnataka in the west and Hyderabad of Andhra Pradesh in the north. However, post-independence, as separate states were formed and with changes made in the educational system, the University gave birth to several educational institutions including the Mysore University, Madurai Kamaraj University, Osmania University and the Bharathidhasan University.

The setting up of the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 1956 and changes in political, social and cultural environments had brought several amendments to the University of Madras Act of 1923 to permit qualitative and quantitative changes in its jurisdictions and functions. The Universitys policies were formulated to keep furtherance of knowledge in the various disciplines and subjects as its primary goal. The institution strives hard to encourage socially relevant education, to improve its quality and provide an equitable access to all sections of the society to higher education. The University is bent to be responsive to the changes in the frontiers of knowledge, nationally and internationally.

The University is an affiliating body and controls several colleges within Chennai and surrounding districts. It provides affiliation for various courses ranging from BSc to MBA. There are nearly 43 external research institutes in addition to centres of excellence within the University. In 2004, all engineering courses of the University were shifted to Anna University for convenience. The university was the first centre in the country to have been granted the five-status with potentials of excellence, the highest grade given by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council of the UGC.

The organisation structure of Madras University consists the Senate, the Syndicate, the Academic Council, the faculties, the finance committee and the Board of Studies. The governor of Tamil Nadu is the Chancellor of the University. The vice chancellor, who is appointed for a term period, is the principal executive officer and in his absence, a committee of three members of the Senate, takes charge. Prof S Ramachandran is the present vice chancellor, who took charge in this academic year. The registrar of the University, who is the secretary of the Syndicate, is the custodian of all records and he is also the chief administrator. Prof M Ranganathan is the present registrar-in-charge of the University.

The institution offers teaching and research in four campuses in the city. The universitys department of study and research has 68 departments and is organised into 18 schools that offer post graduate courses in respective specialisation as part-time and full-time Ph D, diploma and certificate programmes.

Assessing the need for the broader reach of higher education, the University offers both under-graduate and post-graduate education through correspondence. The Institute of Correspondence Education (ICE) of the University of Madras offers courses under both the regular and the open-university schemes.

With several pioneering activities in imparting higher education to the masses to its credit, the University has the distinction of producing some of the great minds of the country. Its alumni speaks volumes about the relevance of its motto, Learning promotes (ones) natural (innate) talent.

From Nobel laureates Sir C V Raman and Sir B S Chandrasekhar to former President Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and incumbent President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, the University has opened up wider arenas to several intellectuals who have carved a niche for themselves in the history of the nation.

The Universitys completion of 150 years marks its evolution as a global institution. The sesquicentennial year is meant as a means to broaden the universitys perspective and to provide access to its students to the globalised world, says Prof Chitra Krishnan, professor and head of the department of French, who is also an active member of the committee for the 150 years celebrations.

The activities associated with the celebrations are three-fold: the grandeur part, of holding cultural and social activities, where all the affiliated constituent colleges take part; broadening the vision of the university by establishing and maintaining relationships with foreign universities, and activities undertaken by individual departments that consist of initiating research projects, sensitising students and the public about social issues and working with external bodies including non-government organisations to work for the betterment of the society.

The University had announced the plans for the celebrations that also include setting up of five centres of excellence namely: Centre for Ocean and coastal studies, Centre for Environmental Sciences, Centre for Population Studies, Centre for Herbal Science and Center for Infrastructural Management Studies. The centres are a means to keep in pace with time to enable our students to compete with the global population, says Chitra.

The former vice chancellor S P Thyagarajan had also proposed to set up a Rs 17-crore nanotechnology and nanosciences centre in the University. The centre would offer post-graduate and doctorate programmes in this area. The project is undertaken in consensus with the Mumbai and Kolkata Universities. Under the collaboration, Madras University would concentrate on nano-biometrics, Kolkata on nano-chemical materials and Mumbai on nano-nuclear materials.

The Universities have also started awarding joint programmes since 2005-06 as part of the memorandum of understanding. The joint programme has also been extended to foreign universities.

Madras University has signed MoUs with several varsities including the Moscow University, Leeds University, Sourbourn Paris III and Sourbourn Paris IV Universities for joint programmes. Over the years, Madras University plans to sign MoUs with 40 to 45 such institutions, says Chitra.

As part of the agreement, students will be able to take Ph D courses partly here and partly in the foreign country during alternate semesters. This wont be just an exchange programme. The system will offer seamless mobility through various education systems and offer barrier-free higher education.

The programme also helps to prove our students capabilities and to announce to the world that we are as good as they are, if not better, she asserts.

An education system fails when it does not keep in pace with changing times, she says. University of Madras will truly evolve into a global institution once the MoUs are religiously kept, she says. One hundred and fifty years of glory will steer the university towards this goal, she adds.

The Senate House

Chances that you will pass the Madras Universitys Senate House without admiring its grandeur, are ten to one. You cannot miss the imperial-style arches, the wooden stairways and winding staircases. But, a year ago, the Senate House was in a pitiable state with dilapidated structures, leaking ceilings and broken windows. An integral part of the 150-years celebrations is the renovation of the Senate House. Work was started last year. The Senate House was the first building within the campus. Standing tall in red sandstone, this piece of history was inaugurated in 1869. This masterpiece was designed by Robert Fellowes Chisholm, who is said to be the greatest architect of 1800s. He blended the Indo-Saracenic style (Hindu and Islamic styles) with European architectural features.
Every square inch of the Senate House is history, says Prof Chitra Krishnan, professor and head of the department of French, University of Madras. She is also a member of the renovation committee. Standing on the Houses corridor on a January morning and taking in the cool breeze is a lifetime experience. Its like going back in time and living in the colonial ages. The building adjacent to the Senate House was the marine villa of the Nawab, who used to come to it to bathe in the Couum river, she says. We are working hard to create awareness among students and the public on the importance of this historic landmark, she adds.
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, Sir C V Raman, S Chandrashekhar, R Venkatraman, P Chidambaram, Dr G Ramanchandran, Sudha Ragunathan, M K Stalin, Kalanidhi Maran, C Subramaniam, Srinivasa Varadhan, Jayanthi Natarajan, Vai Gopalswamy, Cho Ramaswamy

Mumbai / July 18, 1857
Sulekha Nair
The gothic structure has been part of the Mumbai skyline for over a century now. It is Mumbais prestigious seat of learningThe University of Mumbai at Rajabhai Towers. For every student who has seen, passed through and finished his/her graduation, the Universitys Brit building has left an indelible mark on their memory.

Says Ashwin Dani, vice-chairman & MD, Asian Paints Limited, who studied at the University from 1959 to 1965: When I remember those wonderful university days, the big laboratories, the huge library, the archaic structure of the college... everything about the university has left a lasting impression on me. Later, I enjoyed every moment of my study days at the University Department of Chemical Technology (now known as MUICTMumbai University Institute of Chemical Technology). Im still in touch with some of my colleagues.

HISTORY At a meeting held in August 1852, attended by such prominent citizens and visionaries like Dadabai Naoroji, Bhau Daji, David Sassoon, Jagannath Shankarshet and others, a decision was taken to establish an association to articulate the political demands of the native people. The Bombay Association persuaded the Government to establish a University in Bombay, which was established on July 18, 1857, after a fight with the Government for 35 years. Four students were the first degree holders in 1862Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade, the first graduate and also one of the founder members of the Prarthana Samaj; historian and social reformer Dr Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar; Bal Mangesh Wagle, Chief Justice of the Baroda Presidency; and Waman Abaji Modak, who made a significant contribution in the field of education.

CHANGE With a change in the name in the city of Bombay to Mumbai, the University of Bombay became the University of Mumbai, as it is now known. Granted a Five Star status by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), the university boasts two campuses, has two post-graduate centers, 354 affiliated colleges and 36 departments. From four students who passed out from its first graduation examinations, the University has, in the last five years, seen a 104% increase in under-graduate students, 112% increase in post-graduate students and 147% increase in the number of distance education students. An overwhelming 156% increase has been noticed in the number of research papers published in International journals. More than 80 teachers of the university are on various professional bodies. In the last five years, its 18 teachers have won various national and international awards.

CHALLENGES Says a University official: It is time the government gave a thought to the phenomenal number of colleges affiliated to the University. Is it possible for one University to manage this huge burden With unmanageable expansion, quality of education suffers. The supervision of university functionings, monitoring of examination, among other issues, take a backseat with extensive administrative problems.

In the past, the University has had erudite scholars of economics like Prof Brahmananda, Prof G C Banerji in English, Prof Venkat Rangaraja in Economics, to name a few, and now there are hardly any such names of repute. The official says that it is time the administration paid more attention to improve the quality of the faculty.

Lamenting the increasing interference by the government into the affairs of the university, specially in the field of higher education, he adds that the current norms and regulations are too stringent to allow for progress. For instance, take stiff sanctions, he says.

Though the University has a sanctioned strength of faculty positions, it is quite absurd for it to go back to the government every time for approval to fill up these positions. For instance, it is virtually impossible for academics to undertake huge teaching loads and yet do sizeable research as against other elite institutions in India and abroad. Research needs to be encouraged so that teachers are well equipped to teach recent discourses and nuances in their field. The University has been unable to attracts the best academicians. Unless you have them, education cannot progress, adds the official.

The Institute of Distance Education too has been facing a lot of criticism of late in terms of courses and course materials. Says Aruna Rao, a student of Sociology: The notes are rarely issued on time. This is a black spot which is further sliding downhill, admits the official.

It is not all bleak, however. Informs Dr Vijay Kolhe, vice-chancellor of the university: Much has changed now with government funds and consequently, expansion and modernisation has become possible.

ACHIEVEMENTS The University has a societal obligation of trying to impart higher education with the twin purpose of access and inclusiveness. The University has achieved it: with reasonable success with its affiliated colleges and rural campus, distance learning mode which caters to a large section of employed students, says Kolhe.

Given the complexities of issues, examinations and results are on schedule. Some of our students in the Department of Economics and Sociology have done extremely well securing admissions to top institutions abroad, adds Kolhe.

Says Venkatesh Kumar, member secretary of the coordination committee for the anniversary celebrations: Scholars and eminent persons from various walks of life should be encouraged to give talks to students thus enabling the University adopt a multi-disciplinary approach. We are encouraging eminent people to come and talk to students as a mentoring process.

TRIVIA Says Aroon Tikekar, author of the Cloisters Pale, a biography of the University of Mumbai: As early as 1935, a book was published by Prof S G Warti on What is Wrong With the University of Mumbai. Do you know that the results were bungled in the first University held graduate examinations Seven people appeared for the examination in 1862, and three were declared passed. M G Ranade was the only student who passed with a first class. But the vice-chancellor decided to check the papers again and it emerged that Dr Bhandarkar who was declared failed had passed and that too with a first class!

STOCK OPTION For the first time ever in the country, a University is looking at the possibility of being listed on the stock exchange. We are doing a feasibility study to see whether the University of Mumbai can enter the stock market just as some universities in China have, with the difference being that the universities in China are privately funded unlike in India, says Venkatesh Kumar. However, a more plausible and immediate course of action, subject to approval by various bodies in the University, would be to invest a part of our corpus in blue chip companies so that the returns would be far more attractive rather than putting it in fixed deposits and bank deposits whose interest rates are meagre.

This is in line with Harvard and Princeton which has been doing this now for decades, as a result of which it has a huge corpus. Adds Venkatesh Kumar: We are trying to create alternate methods of finance possible through corporate sponsorship, donations from philanthropists, alumni and invest in blue chip stocks and enhance our corpus.

Says Kolhe: The University of Mumbai has become forward looking. We aim to attract the best of the students and the faculty in our endeavour to make it one of the top ranking universities in the country and abroad. Well, when the University celebrates its bicentenary, history will record a world class educational institution. Perhaps.

University Profile

No. of PG departments/Centres/Institutes: 55
No. of Affiliated Colleges: 463 (approx)
No. of Teaching Faculty: 265
No. of Non-Teaching Staff (Approved): 1309
No. of Non-Teaching Staff (Others): 1090
No. of Students (PG): 14008
No. of Doctoral Students: 217
Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lal Krishna Advani, B R Ambedkar, Jagdish Bhagwati, Anil Kakodkar, Mukesh Ambani, P V Narasimha Rao, Rafiq Zakaria, Sunil Gavaskar, Aishwarya Rai, Shabana Azmi