Even as education tsars advocate a move towards greater decentralisation, 185-year-old Presidency College will have to close its chapter on an independent admission procedure, if the government takes the Ramen Poddar Committee report seriously.
The one-man committee, comprising the former Calcutta University vice-chancellor, set up a year ago to suggest ways to improve the state’s dismal higher education system, has recommended that Presidency College now take in students from a centralised pool controlled by the state government. If the government heeds the suggestion, Presidency will have to do away with its exclusive entrance tests and, instead, take in students from a procedure shared by other government-run colleges, like Maulana Azad, Lady Brabourne, Goenka and Bethune.
Poddar, a former CPM parliamentarian in the Rajya Sabha, feels the step is necessary to ensure that all government colleges have the same number of teaching days in an academic year. University Grants Commission rules stipulate a minimum of 180 teaching days for every “higher educational” institution. “Several academic days are lost because the process of admission in different colleges is different,” the report states. “We strongly recommend the introduction of a computer-aided, centralised admission procedure for all government colleges, after drawing up a suitable action plan in consultation with the affiliating universities and individual colleges.”
Presidency College principal Amitava Chatterjee says “sufficient care” must be taken if a common admission policy for all government-run colleges is put in place. “The system now being followed by us is a very scientific one. It enables us to get the best students,” he adds.
Some Presidency teachers were more forthright in protesting the recommendation for a “centralised” admission procedure. “The proposed system will make it difficult for us to maintain the high academic standards of the college,” they say. “The fact that Presidency has produced the “best talents” from Bengal owes a lot to its exclusive admission procedure.”
The Ramen Poddar report, however, is convinced a centralised admission policy is one path out of the present rut. The academic calendar for all government-run colleges “must be identical”. And the centralised admission will allow enough room for the authorities to prepare their annual schedule, the report says. The Poddar panel also recommends a drastic cut in the number of holidays and examinations during vacations.