The winds of educational change from Delhi have, for now, hit the great wall of Calcutta.
A University Grants Commission (UGC) circular, asking Calcutta University-affiliated colleges to introduce new job-oriented courses for their students to meet the requirements of the current market, has been stonewalled by most, albeit with an eye on the clock.
The UGC circular, which asked colleges to send in their responses by September 10, landed on college principals’ desks last week. But with just a day left to respond, principals of most colleges say a week is “not enough” to decide on such a matter.
“The courses that can be introduced are new and heterogeneous in nature,” Presidency College principal Amitava Chatterjee said on Tuesday. “So we need some more time — at least 20 days — to decide on their prospects for our students,” added Chatterjee.
This summed up the response from principals of most other colleges. “I have spoken to many of them and we have decided to petition the UGC to extend the September 10 deadline,” said Chatterjee.
The UGC notice, officials here admitted, was in tune with the needs of the present generation. The courses on offer — like fashion designing, telefilm-making and videography — would definitely hold students in better stead, they explained. The proposed courses, in the form of three-year certificate courses, also have the advantage of being studied parallel to the more conventional degree courses.
Allowing students to follow two courses simultaneously has been hailed as a novel move on the part of UGC. Also, according to the proposal, UGC would shoulder the financial burden of the new courses, though after inspecting the college infrastructure.
“This is a new concept and we will soon sit with the colleges to discuss how it can be implemented well,” said state higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty.
The minister, however, did not know how the colleges were responding. “We are still busy admitting the first-year students,” said Surendranath College principal Chinmay Shekhar Sarkar. “At this moment, that is far more important to me,” he added, explaining why the college was finding it “impossible” to decide on the UGC circular just now.
“We have convened a meeting of the college administrative body on September 12,” Sarkar went on. “Besides, these courses are going to be introduced only at the start of the 2004 academic session so UGC can be requested to give some more time.”
Asutosh College principal Debabrata Choudhury, too, welcomed the UGC idea, but admitted he couldn’t beat the response clock. “I don’t think we will be able to send in the application by Wednesday,” he said, adding that the college would “soon” get in touch with the UGC for an “extension”.