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Varsities wage numbers war
- JU rejects request to take in CU arts and science graduates

The twain can never meet. Reaffirming a long-standing academic rivalry, Jadavpur University (JU) has rejected a state government request to increase the number of seats in its post-graduate degree courses to accommodate the surplus honours graduates from Calcutta University (CU).

The decision, say state higher education department officials, is a pointer to the tussle between the city’s two premier universities to grab the honours — and funds — from the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).

Both CU and JU got a five-star rating from NAAC in its last assessment and both institutions are keen on repeating the high score in the next round. But JU has beaten its “rival” by being declared as one of the country’s five best universities by the Centre, say officials.

The “fight” between the two varsities came to the fore during a recent meeting of the West Bengal Council of Higher Education, sources said. A senior CU official urged state higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty to ask JU if it could increase some seats in its science and arts faculties and provide an opportunity to a small percentage of CU honours graduates to pursue post-graduate courses. A heated exchange between officials of the two universities followed, but JU stuck to its stand of not allowing quantity to compromise quality.

Numbers, after all, is CU’s bane. The main reason for the university’s inability to impart quality education is the huge load of students at every level, say officials. “Even though we have the best students and faculty, the ever-rising number is posing a serious problem in our efforts to maintain a high academic standard,” said CU pro vice-chancellor (academic) Suranjan Das. “A comprehensive policy encompassing all other state varsities is required if we have to compete for NAAC and UGC attention,” he added.

Varsities are now keen to get high scores from the UGC and NAAC because allotment of funds to higher education institutions has been linked directly to this; a high rating translates into higher funds, the new policy has decreed. Higher education minister Chakraborty declined comment on the JU stand. JU pro vice-chancellor Ashok Thakur, too, refused comment.

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