Thursday, September 16, 2004

Sops for the fat cats?

The news that Ethiraj and Loyola have received grants of 1 Crore each from the UGC leaves me with mixed thoughts. The article in the Hindu which harps this news mentions a comment from Ethiraj’s principal almost as an afterthought that 8 TN colleges in total have been conferred with the same status and the award - `College with Potential for Excellence'. So why does the Hindu just mention these two colleges? The article appears in the Chennai sub-section of the page devoted to TN news with no mention of the other colleges anywhere else. And that’s just my grouse against the Hindu!

This `College with Potential for Excellence' status entitles the colleges to Rs.1 crore each from the University Grants Commission spread over the next three years to be used to “upgrade their facilities”, which brings us to my next grouse. Even if the 6 other TN colleges chosen, really deserve a 1 Crore grant, do Loyola and Ethiraj need this?

I think Ethiraj and Loyola are already well established institutions and their existing facilities are excellent enough to turn out well rounded students in every field of academics that they have their eye on. Both these colleges find a mention in any listing of the Top colleges in India, let alone in TN. In 2003, Loyola was ranked 1st in Arts (7th in 2002, 5th in 2001 and 2nd in 2000), 4th for Commerce (4th in 2002 and 11th in 2001), 4th for Science (1st in 2002, 2nd in 2001 and 4th in 2000) in the India Today – Gallup Survey to find the Top Colleges in India. And the same survey mentions Ethiraj as one of the top colleges in the country, though not in the top 10 (information gleaned from various free resources on the Internet).

While this might have started sound like a post lauding these two colleges for their award, my view is that this money could have been better spent by giving it to a mid range or lower range college that is trying to come up. I am sure every single one of us has heard sob stories from friends and relatives about colleges they know that have zilch in terms of facilities, but have an approval stamp from the authorities authorizing them to admit candidates every year. While some of these could be fly-by-night operators just in the business for the money, I am sure there are one or two colleges whose managements want to do something good, but lack the money to do so. Just a hypothetical thought, not necessarily true, but worth the thought, anyways! This idea, of these two colleges getting money like this, seems to just like the tax cuts that the rich appear to be getting here in the US from the Bush government!

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