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Rocky road to upgrade

Bengal Engineering and Science University (Besu) is set to be upgraded to an Institute of National Importance once the NIT Act is amended in Parliament. Metro lists the hurdles that dot the Shibpur campus’s path as it strives to turn into an Indian Institute of Engineering, Science and Technology (IIEST) and how vice-chancellor Ajay Kumar Ray plans to clear them.

Student strength

Besu has operated for over 150 years as an undergraduate institute where students study four years for their BTech degree. The upgrade will bring with itself the challenge of attracting students for the integrated five-year courses — three years for BTech and two years for MTech — with emphasis on research.

Vice-chancellor: The country needs more MTech degree holders. The IITs, too, are offering dual-degree programmes. The best students will come to us because the IIESTs, being central government institutes, will get huge funds and grants.

The academic structure will be similar to that in the IITs and we will have new and better ideas. There will be an integration of science and technology with more inter-disciplinary programmes. For example, a student who has completed BTech in electronics can do his MTech in an inter-disciplinary course. The courses will be industry-driven and we are inviting industries to set up centres.

Faculty focus

The current faculty members are geared to teach undergraduate courses. They have to update themselves and undergo training to teach a restructured and revised academic curriculum. With the number of students going up, more faculty members are needed to cope with the rigours of teaching in an institute of national importance.

Vice-chancellor: An internal committee has been constituted to restructure courses and syllabi. We have to undertake an intensive faculty recruitment programme. The challenge is to recruit young and talented academicians from the north, south and west of India.

Professor A.K. Mullick, a former head of mechanical engineering of IIT Kanpur, who is now a professor at Besu, is advising us on course restructuring. Professor Amitava Ghosh of IIT Kharagpur is also one of our chief advisers. Dr G Gunasekharan, a former registrar of IIT Kharagpur, and Prof Moloy Ghosh, a former registrar of IIT Mumbai, are helping us too.

In addition, a number of reputable academicians and industry captains have joined us either as adjunct professors or distinguished professors. Professor S.K. Lahiri of IIT Kharagpur has joined the electronics department.

A former executive director of Steel Authority of India (SAIL), Subir Bhattacharya, is going to be the SAIL chair professor. The former director of Indian Association for Cultivation of Sciences, Prof A.K. Baruah, has joined the green energy centre. Prof Kunal Ghosh of IIT Kanpur may join the aerospace engineering wing.

Staff worry

Whittling down the staff is a major concern. There are about 510 employees now. The number has to be brought down to 320. Recruitment has been frozen. A section of employees has misgivings about the pay and allowances once the institute becomes an IIEST.

Vice-chancellor: It is natural for some people to be concerned about such a transformation. The employees, now working for the state government, are used to certain pay structures and allowances. They can either join the IIEST or remain state government employees.

Upkeep plan

As an IIEST, the institute, will have a development fund of Rs 300 crore under “non-plan expenditure”. The fund has to be utilised for setting up buildings, laboratories and other facilities.

Vice-chancellor: We are thinking of outsourcing this to a project management company. We could ask the CPWD to do it for us or we could invite an open tender at the national level. There will also be a project monitoring committee.

Admission procedure

Admission to the IIEST should be through the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) next year, for which a circular needs to be issued by December. With the upgrade not happening before the budget session of Parliament — when a special schedule under the NIT Act has to be passed to create the new IIEST — the state government is unlikely to issue a formal letter of handover to the ministry of human resource development by December.

Vice-chancellor: The executive council of the university will soon meet to decide on the admission procedure for the academic year 2011-12. Personally, I would like to keep the options of admission through both AIEEE and the West Bengal joint entrance open.

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