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Answers for Presi in student questions

- University pitches for brightest in two-day quiz session

Presidency University, often accused of resting on its laurels, has woken up to the potential of hard sell.

The fledgling university that was built on the foundations of a 197-year-old institution on Monday took prospective science students for a walkthrough to show them what it has to offer.

Heads of seven departments — physics, bioscience, chemistry, statistics, geology, geography and economics — were present at the historic Derozio auditorium to explain to anyone who wanted to know why Presidency was a better choice than many other institutions.

Tuesday will be the turn of the arts stream to tell those who aspire to study at the institution what it takes to be a Presidencian and how the experience would enrich them.

The initiative was an admission of the reality that a glorious past might not be enough anymore to make a university acceptable to the best and the brightest.

Anwesh Bhattacharya, who came all the way from Kharagpur and wants to study physics, was among the bold and the bright who directly or indirectly asked: “Why Presidency?”

“I would like to know why I should study physics at Presidency, ignoring an offer from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER),” asked the former student of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Kharagpur.

Anwesh’s counselling session at IISER is scheduled for July 20.

Going beyond academics, some of the prospective students who visited Presidency on Monday wanted to know whether politics on the campus had ever affected education.

Dipayan Banik, who passed his ISC exam from St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, asked a physics professor: “I want to concentrate on studies and, therefore, want to know whether politics has disrupted studies here.”

Dipayan, who has already joined the statistics department at St. Xavier’s, didn’t say whether a seat in Presidency would make him leave.

If some of the questions were uncomfortable and proved that many students pick institutions based on their present rather than past, their response to the answers gave Presidency hope.

There was a time when any student doubting Presidency’s standing in the pecking order would have been cast aside with contempt. On Monday, the teachers did everything they could to allay the doubts of students.

Somak Raychaudhury, head of the physics department, said: “Many students asked us why they should join Presidency over IISER. I explained to them that our curriculum was ahead of what the IISERs offer. Now it is up to the students to take a call.”

Physicist Bikash Sinha said there were answers for Presidency in the questions from prospective students.

According to the alumnus of the erstwhile Presidency College, students would earlier join the institution solely because they were sold on its glorious past, peppered with stories of how scientists like Satyendra Nath Bose did exemplary research there.

“These days, prospective students take decisions based on what an institute has to offer. You just can’t lure them with the bait of outstanding work done by some in yesteryears. One has to realise that when Satyendra Nath Bose and Amartya Sen studied here, everything was different. Students of the present day have different aspirations and the institute has to cater to those,” said the former director of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics.

Presidency mentor Swapan Chakravorty found in the interactive session a “proactive approach” to tap bright students. “It’s always good for an institute to counsel students. A student should always join an institute taking into account what it has to offer now,” the professor of English at Jadavpur University said.