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If you are serious about social sciences, you should be at Tiss, or the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Established in 1936 by the trustees of the Sir Dorabji Tata trust, this Mumbai institute is considered one of the best in the field. Tiss was given the status of a deemed university in 1964. Over 40 years later, it crossed another landmark by restructuring and transforming its setup. The changes, which started in 2005, are still taking shape.

The institute now has five schools and four independent centres. It has added five new MA programmes in developmental studies, education (elementary), disaster management, globalisation and labour, and social entrepreneurship. Almost all the existing programmes have been revamped. In 2008, three diploma programmes — for disability studies and action, media and culture studies and public health — were introduced as degree courses. There is a proposal to set up a school for habitat studies next year.

“We are not only extensively expanding but also repositioning the institute in the current framework,” says Tiss director S. Parasuraman.

When you walk into Tiss, as you tread the path that leads to its main foyer, you forget the hustle and bustle of Mumbai. The ambience lends itself to introspection, with over 11,000 trees providing shade and colour to the campus. Tiss boasts of a massive library with about 1,04,050 volumes and over 300 research journals.

There are two campuses — the new campus houses a residential block and has a swanky new conference hall. Tiss has added new hostel blocks for both boys and girls.

The programmes offered at Tiss are divided between the two campuses in Deonar, Mumbai. Currently, Tiss offers four MPhil and PhD programmes, 12 masters degree programmes, six diploma courses, BA in social work and three certificate courses.

Learning at Tiss is not about cramming. “At Tiss, we value research, and it plays an integral role in the curriculum. We have mandatory weekly fieldwork, which helps us understand classroom lectures,” says Febna Raheem, a student of social work from Kerala. The social work course structure was revised in 2006.

The human resource department has been reframed as human resource management and labour relations, in keeping with the changing job market — for which it has also shifted focus from industrial labour to the corporate sector. “We do everything,” says Rohit, a second-year student. “It’s hardcore HR — recruitment, training, labour laws.”

The director praises the management school which, he says, has “similar management programmes” as those offered in schools in Brazil, South Africa and Germany. “In the era of globalisation, job security is an issue, so we are looking at the enormous labour force in India, especially in the unorganised sector. We deal with social entrepreneurship which aims at generation of wealth by the poor, backward castes, classes and tribes.”

The current faculty consists of professionals and experts, not just those in the field of social sciences but also in medicine and technology as there are courses closely related to these disciplines. The institute brings in experts from different fields for lectures.

Recognising the growing impact and role of the media, Tiss introduced a degree course in media and culture studies two years ago. “The idea is to explore, develop and disseminate knowledge and train students to ask questions. We want them to be thinking doers and doing thinkers,” says Manjula B., chairperson of the media centre. A sum of Rs 3-4 crore has gone into building the media centre which includes a media library, production and editing studio, latest software and computers.

For admission to the new session — which starts in August — you have to sit for an entrance exam that is held on the second Sunday of December. Based on the results, you will be called for an interview. Total marks are 200 — the written test carries 100 marks, 70 per cent weightage is given to the interview, and 30 per cent to undergraduate scores. Ten students get shortlisted for every seat before the interview. “We judge a student’s general knowledge and socio-political understanding. Beyond a certain level we do not hold marks as a criterion for ascertaining a student’s aptitude,” says the director. Most applicants apply for more than one course.

Placement doesn’t seem to be a problem here. “In the months of December and January, we get more firms looking to recruit than than there are students graduating,” says Parasuraman. “Our students can afford to be choosy,” he adds.

Some students rue the fact that Tiss’s faculty-student ratio has been upset because of the increase in students. They are, however, enthusiastic about the different backgrounds students come from. But Swagat Deshpande, a student from Nepal, hopes that Tiss will provide special assistance to students who come from poorer or backward nations.

Students, however, believe that the “teething problems” that the restructuring may have led to will soon be ironed out. “In the long run, I am sure something good will come of it. It’s just a matter of time,” says Arundhati, a student.

Vital Statistics

WHAT IS IT?

A premier institute for higher studies in social sciences

WHO’S THE BOSS?

S. Parasuraman is the director

What is the course fee?

Varies from course to course. Hostel fee is Rs 1,000-1,500 a month

Where is it?

V.N. Purav Marg,

Mumbai-400088

Phone: 022-25563289

Website: www.tiss.edu

Kajri Akhtar

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