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Star turn for study hubs
- Excellence crown for varsity, infotech research centre at ISI

Centres of excellence, new and old, shared the spotlight on Thursday. If a new centre for information technology is being set up by the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), the 150-year-old Calcutta University's status of excellence is now official.

The ISI has set up a national-level centre of excellence and research institute in IT (soft computing), the first of its kind in the country.

The centre, which has already started functioning on the ISI's sprawling campus on BT Road, would soon be shifted to a five-acre site off the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, offered by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government for free.

'It's one of our greatest achievements that we have been able to set up the country's first soft computing research institute here,' said ISI director Sankar Pal.

'Once the institute is in full swing, we will be able to offer certain unique facilities to scientists from all over the country to carry out the most advanced IT-related research, and most importantly, in self computing,' Pal added.

The thrust areas of research would be medical imaging, machine intelligence, web mining, pattern recognition, bio-informatics and related subjects.

The statistics and programme implementation ministry at the Centre, which controls the ISI, has already given its initial clearance for the change of address.

The department of science and technology has sanctioned Rs 5.5 crore for the ISI to running the self-computing research centre and has already released Rs 2.75 crore. This has been utilised for starting operations at the centre on the ISI campus.

The Union government has promised necessary funds to the tune of Rs 20 crore in the subsequent stages for expansion of the centre.

At Calcutta University, meanwhile, the University Grants Commission's (UGC) centre of excellence badge will bring a bounty of Rs 30 crore.

Three years ago, the UGC had awarded the centre of excellence crown to Jadavpur University.

'The status was long overdue. We are happy that the honour has come at a time when we are poised to start our year-long programme to celebrate our 150th anniversary next month,' said vice-chancellor Asis Kumar Banerjee.

The UGC had taken a decision nearly five years ago to identify 25 universities across the country, in a phased manner, as institutions having the potential to be declared centres of excellence.

In round one, Jadavpur University scored over Calcutta University. The College Street campus was penalised for not being able to present its vision for the future in an appropriate manner to the UGC evaluation team.

This time, Calcutta University was one among 10 contestants for the crown. Four have finally made the grade.

Sharing the centre of excellence podium with Calcutta University are Mumbai University, Kamraj University, Madurai University and North Eastern Hill University, Shillong.

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