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Bengal raises VCs' retirement age
On July 3 West Bengal state assembly pass a bill raising the retirement age of the state university vice-chancellors from 65 to 70.

The first beneficiary of the bill is Dr Suranjan Das, the Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University whose term expired on June 23.

The West Bengal University Laws (Amendment) Bill 2019 aims at revising the acts of all the 28 state-aided universities where the “upper age limit of retirement” of vice-chancellors is fixed at 65.

The retirement age of the university heads is being raised to 70 so that institutes can retain the experienced academics, a higher education department official said.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had first announced about the government’s plan to raise the retirement age of vice-chancellors from 65 to 70 in January while addressing the convocation of Calcutta University at Nazrul Mancha.

The state government promulgated an ordinance in March as the Assembly session could not be held in view of the Lok Sabha polls so that vice-chancellors on the verge of completing 65 years could continue till 70, the higher education department official said.

The bill, however, says the five-year extension till 70 will not continue at a stretch. He/she will be allowed to continue office for two years at a time in consultation with the education minister.

Governor has no say in West Bengal private varsities
From Our Correspondent
: Like most other states the private universities in West Bengal too will get a free run in the state with Governor-Chancellor's role limited to visitorship.

According to the draft of the proposed private universities act the key executive posts of Chancellor and vice-chancellor will rest with university's owners/promoters while the
governor-chancellor will have a rather decorative post of Visitor.

Experts say that inclusion of governor-chancellor's name as Visitor will essentially go to the advantage of private players as it would lend credibility to the private university and hold out a
semblance of government participation in an otherwise private business.

In Central universities, the President of India is ex officio Visitor and head of all Central universities and wields executive powers. In West Bengal's proposed private universities' bill the Visitor's post will be decorative with no powers but a grave responsibility to ensure students' future in case the university owner/promoter flys by night as was the case with a Delhi private university just before the Supreme Court judgement was delivered in the famous Chhattisgarh private universities case (Prof. Yashpal & Anr. Vs. State of Chhattisgarh & Ors.) delivered on
February 11, 2005.

According to the final draft of the proposed bill the Visitor will have the power to call for any paper or document of the university and inquire into anything he deems fit. But the head of the university will be the Chancellor, selected and appointed by the management of the private university.

The Chancellor will appoint the Vice-Chancellor and the other officials.

The first private universities in the state were established on July 6 when the West Bengal assembly passed the Techno India University Bill 2012, along with the Kazi Nazrul University Bill, 2012 and The Coochbehar Panchanan Barma University Bill paving the way for  private investment in higher education.


 AICTE chief slams Jadavpur varsity domicile quota

CALCUTTA : Jadavpur University should not have implemented the domicile quota in engineering courses and shut the door on brilliant students from outside Bengal, said Anil Sahasrabudhe, the Chairman of the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) said here on July 22.

Talking to The Telegraph Sahasrabudhe hoped that the university would wake up to the pitfalls of the new system and scrap the quota because with the quota in effect 90 per cent of the B.Tech seats in the general category across all departments would be reserved for students domiciled in Bengal.

Sahasrabudhe pointed out that the institutes in the US flourished because they welcomed students from all over the globe. He said now the university must decide whether they want more vibrant students or they want to be very closed-door.

Speaking to the newspaper correspondent he said that "this is not a progressive step,"  and added that "when you open up and expand, the quality improves. At the IITs, students come from all over India. That is how they get better students. You go to the US, there institutes enrol students from as many as 145 countries. They are still better. JU should understand this logic. Their standards will decline and they will lose out on bright students if they become closed-door," he added.

Jadavpur University officials said it was too early to predict whether the domicile policy would lead to a decline in standards. "The domicile policy was introduced this year and it will take at least a couple of years to find out whether the impact is adverse," said Chiranjib Bhattacharya, the dean of the engineering faculty at JU.

The university decided to introduce the domicile quota following protests from teachers over the rise in the number of students from outside Bengal being admitted to the engineering courses.

The executive council, the highest decision-making body of the university, had in March proposed that 90 per cent of the engineering seats in the general category be reserved for domiciled students. The Mamata Banerjee government approved the proposal on the ground that students from Bengal should get priority in a state-funded institution.

According to the rules of the state joint entrance examination board, only those candidates are treated as domicile of Bengal who are residing in West Bengal continuously for at least for 10 years as on 31.12.2018; or whose parent(s) is/are permanent resident(s) of West Bengal having permanent addresses within the State of West Bengal.

Sahasrabudhe, while expressing the apprehension about a fall in the standards following the implementation of the domicile quota, was echoing what JU vice-chancellor Suranjan Das had said in December.

Das had spoken out against any such quota saying a university aspiring to the tag of "Institute of Eminence" should not shut its door on deserving candidates from outside Bengal in the name of reservation.

JU is number seven on a shortlist of "eight public institutions" drawn up by an "empowered committee" of the University Grants Commission for the tag. The commission had picked up three universities in July last year and said the rest would be considered later.

If and when JU makes the cut, it will receive a grant of Rs 1,000 crore over five years.

Das had said the introduction of the domicile quota would erode the institute's regional diversity, one of the rating parameters followed by the Human Resource Development Ministry. Regional diversity is indicative of a university's outreach and inclusiveness and is ascertained with the help of percentage of students from other states pursing a course in that institute.

"The VC feared introduction of the policy could antagonise the UGC and the ministry and would stand in the way of the university making the cut for the tag," a teacher at JU said.

Suranjan Das gets 2 years more at Jadavpurr

CALCUTTA: Dr Suranjan Das, the Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University here got a term extension of two years dashing the hope of many Dr Suranjan Dascontenders who had been lobbying for the coveted post. On June 20 the Governor-Chancellor Keshari Nath Tripathi extended his tenure "for a period of two years or till he turns 70 years", a university official said.

Dr Suranjan's four-year term ended on June 23 but as the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had, on January 7, raised the retirement age of VCs from 65 to 70 years Dr Das turned out to be the first beneficiary of the scheme.

Dr Das, a known historian and essentially a quiet man had to face a tough students unrest some months ago when the angry students all but molested the VC and the pro-VC.

From February 19 to March 19 this year, Das and pro-VC Pradip Ghosh were confined five times. During the gherao on February 19, Das had fallen ill after being allegedly assaulted by students and had to be stretchered out of the campus. He was hospitalised for a couple of days.

Speaking to reporters a day after his reappointment he said that he respected the students' "right to protest, right to voice demands, but while exercising their democratic rights, the students should not infringe on the democratic rights of others".

Asked about his focus areas in his second innings at the helm of the university he stressed the need to improve the profile of the students. "If you do not improve the profile of the students, the profile of the university does not get enhanced," he said.

When asked why he accepted the offer of helming the campus that has given him so much trouble in the form of gherao, Das said: "I was mentally prepared to leave. That was how I charted my future. Once an order comes from the chancellor, it is difficult to say no. It is true that I have been gheroed a number of times. But… I also received support from a large section of students and teachers.

Das said he would take steps so that the university's position improves in the national institutional ranking framework. "But I would say that ranking can't be the sole parameter of an institute's excellence. The race for ranking can lead to homogenisation of the teaching-learning process," he added.

IIEST, Shibpur wants to go the IISER way

From Our Correspondent
The Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST), Shibpur, which had decided to admit students from the JEE (Advanced) pool from this year is still awaiting approval by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

Ajoy Kumar RayIIEST director Ajoy Kumar Ray had told reporters on June 8 2017 that the institute’s executive council had at a meeting decided to pick students from the JEE (Advanced) pool. The decision, he said, was promptly communicated to the MHRD for approval.

The institute has been upgraded from a state engineering university called Bengal Engineering & Science University and used to admit students from West Bengal state level joint entrance examination called Bengal JEE. After its conversion to Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST) its vice-chancellor Ajoy Kumar Ray, running a second term, preferred to go in for JEE (Advanced).

“We want top-notch students for our dual-degree programmes, which aim to build in them a strong research base. Between the JEE Main and the JEE Advanced, the council has settled for the JEE Advanced to ensure we get the best,” Ray told reporters.

This year IIEST will admit students through the state JEE, as was mentioned in the advertisement published by the JEE board late last year, when the Bengal Engineering & Science University was yet to be upgraded to IIEST.

The 15 IITs and the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, are among the institutes that admit students through the JEE Advanced, which candidates who clear the JEE Main are eligible to write. The National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and a few other institutes take students through the JEE Main.

Besides, institutes like the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology, Rae Bareli, the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs), the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology Thiruvananthapuram and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore offer admission by using rank list of JEE-Advanced.

Calcutta, it may be recalled, already has an Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research which runs Bachelor of Science and Master of Science dual degree programme and admits students from JEE (advanced) pool.

An executive council member said the MHRD had suggested to the IIEST to explore the possibility of admitting students through JEE Advanced from the 2014-15 session itself. “But we did not want to tweak the criteria following the state JEE board’s notification on our mode of admission,” said the member.

Roy explained what prompted them to opt for the JEE Advanced ranks. “We are restructuring our programme with an eye to preparing students for the industry. Speaking to industry experts our course curriculum is being drawn up. Only the bright students would be able to cope with such programme,” said Roy.

JEE Main ranks are considered to get admissions in engineering institutes like the NITs (National Institutes of Technology).

Roy has also written to the MHRD to set aside fifty percent of seats at the IIEST for “home (Bengal) students” from 2015-16 academic session.

An IIEST official said the ministry had in a letter to the then Left Front government in 2007 promised to reserve 50 per cent seats for students from Bengal. In the IIEST act, however, there is no mention of such reservation.

“We have written to MHRD that 50 per cent seats be set aside for the state students coming through JEE Advanced exam from next year. Once the board of governors-- the proposed decision making body at the IIEST-- is constituted shortly, the proposal would be resent,” added Roy.

The IIEST has also finalised its fee structure. Registrar Biman Banerjee said a student would be charged Rs 44,500 in the first semester and the fee would come down to Rs 36,500 from the subsequent semesters.

“The first semester fee would comprise a tuition fee (Rs 35,000), institute development fee (Rs 5,000 one-time), caution money (Rs 2,000 to be refunded on completion of the dual-degree programme), examination fee (Rs 1,000), admission fee (Rs 1,000 one-time) and student activities fee (Rs 500),” said Banerjee.

SC and ST students-- for whom altogether 22 percent seats of the 488 berths would be reserved--won’t be charged any tuition fee through out the semesters.


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