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Seats vacant, Presidency comes down to market

Calcutta, Sept. 23: For the first time in its 147 years of existence, Presidency College has taken the unusual step of soliciting applications to fill vacant seats after realising that many students were turning their backs on it.

Presidency’s desperation to fill the vacant seats in BA and B.Sc courses was evident today when principal Amitabha Chattopadhyay took out advertisements in some newspapers, asking selected applicants to complete the formalities of admission.

The college authorities woke up last week to the perceived disinterest of the students in the institution after many of the chosen applicants figuring on the second and the wait lists did not formalise their admission by September 2, the stipulated date.

The advertisement was a subject of intense discussion in academic circles. It happened at a time when all undergraduate colleges in Calcutta — none with the reputation of Presidency — have completed the admission procedures and are well over a month into academic activities.

The selected applicants’ staying away was not the only factor that bothered the college authorities. There were reports that most of the chosen students were going away to undergraduate streams at Jadavpur University, drawn by modern syllabi, the advantages of a home university and the quality of campus environment.

“We are flummoxed at the trend, because the number of applications for admission this year was very high,” said Anik Chattopadhay, a senior teacher and convener of the Presidency admission committee.

Concerned by the drop in demand for admission, the committee will meet soon to discuss the matter.

“It is a mystery. We must find out why so many students who figured on the second list did not bother to turn up. It has not happened before,” said Chattopadhay.

Principal Amitabha Chattopadhyay was unavailable for comment, but senior teachers attributed the trend to the obsolescence that marks the syllabi of Calcutta University and the delay in publicising the increase in the number of seats in various streams this year.

“It is wrong to assume that they are going away because JU offers better facilities. The truth is we (Presidency) have an edge in terms of facilities but what is to be blamed are the syllabi and guidelines in vogue at CU,” they said.

According to them, high-performers stopped pursuing Presidency before the college authorities, presumably under pressure from the government, decided on enhancing the number of seats and notified it late last month when admission had ended in most colleges.

The argument does not wash. There was no enhancement of seats in the department of statistics, yet two seats are still lying vacant.

In the English department, however, the capacity went up from 20 to 30, of which five are vacant. Thirty-five of 60 shortlisted candidates went away from Presidency to JU and other institutions to study English.

Students felt the increase in admission fees in most colleges could be another reason for the vacancies.

Sujoy Ray, general secretary of the Presidency students’ union controlled by the SFI, said that earlier if students found their names absent from the Presidency first list, they took admission in the second-choice college but returned if they got places on the second list. They were then prepared to pay admission fees twice, but not any more.

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