The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Policy shift on private colleges
- Degree courses in conventional subjects okayed

The state government has decided to allow self-financing private colleges to offer general degree courses in conventional subjects. Till now, such colleges could only offer courses in emerging subjects.

The move is aimed at addressing the growing demand for seats in top-rung city colleges. Frustrated by the dearth of quality educational options in Calcutta, more and more bright students are leaving for Delhi and Mumbai after their school-leaving examination.

The government’s hand has also been forced by the fact that more than two lakh students are competing for about a lakh seats in colleges in and around Calcutta this year.

“We need to change our policy immediately and allow self-financing colleges to run general degree courses in conventional subjects like physics, chemistry, mathematics, English, Bengali, history, geography and economics,” said Shyamapada Pal, member of the West Bengal Higher Education Council and the Calcutta University syndicate. The council frames the higher education policy.

Currently, only state-aided colleges can offer degree courses in traditional subjects. Self-financed private colleges have to remain satisfied with emerging subjects, like microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, bachelor’s in business administration, bachelor’s in computer application, journalism and media production.

“We have realised that our policy was wrong and needs to be revised. It is not possible for any private college to survive by offering courses only in emerging areas. Hence, investors are not opening colleges here,” said a senior official of the education department.

The members of the council recently met to discuss the shift in stand. “Two groups have approached us with proposals to set up two colleges with modern facilities. They want to offer courses in conventional as well as emerging subjects. The proposals are being examined,” said Pal.

The government has so far stressed the need for control over colleges that offer degree courses in conventional subjects to ensure that they meet a standard. The fear was that in private colleges, money — and not merit — would be the primary consideration.

The best students, however, are not interested in taking admission to the nearly 40 colleges that the government has set up in and around the city in the past three decades. The reason: The institutions do not have proper infrastructure.

The government, however, had been turning down proposals of private companies to set up general degree colleges for conventional subjects.

“We had set up a college with state-of-the-art facilities in 2004. The government allowed us to offer only computer application and business administration courses. We had invested crores in the college and now it is running at a loss,” said Basudev Tikmani, one of the owners of Agrasain College in Howrah.

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