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A pioneer’s take on tech

The West Bengal University of Technology (WBUT) celebrated its seventh birthday just a few months back but in this short span of time, the university has been successful in carving out a niche for itself. And it is not resting on its laurels.

“When we started, we offered very few in-house courses and there were a little over twenty colleges affiliated to WBUT, but in these last seven years we have traversed a lot of ground, both in terms of quality and quantity,” says a proud Ashok Ranjan Thakur, vice-chancellor, WBUT. The university today has around 50 faculty members teaching more than 500 students from its current location at Salt Lake and 123 colleges affiliated with it, out of which 56 are recognised by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

As part of its in-house programmes, WBUT offers a BTech in computer science and engineering and another one in information technology. Apart from several postgraduate courses, including ones in biotechnology, bioinformatics and software engineering, the university also offers an MPhil course in management and material science. Admission to all the courses offered by WBUT and its affiliated colleges is through entrance exams the university holds. WBUT also conducts the state-level Joint Entrance for Management Aptitude Test (JEMAT).

WBUT is a pioneer in the introduction of new courses, whether in-house or through its affiliated colleges all over West Bengal. Some of these courses are bachelor in business administration (BBA), bachelor in insurance and risk management (BIRM), bachelor in supply chain management (BSCM) and bachelor in sports management (BSM).

“Our vision is to have a fully residential university campus, which can accommodate around 2,000 students. This dream will be realised after our new campus on 40 acres of land on the NH-34 at Haringhata near Kalyani is complete,” says the vice-chancellor (VC). The university has already been granted Rs 100 crore to set up the new campus.

Once the university shifts to the brand new campus, Thakur says that besides the 2,000 in-house students, affiliated colleges will account for another one lakh. “Once we reach that figure, we plan to stabilise. We will then concentrate on improving, in terms of networking, excellence, research and sharing of ideas,” he says.

With the aim of emerging as a “centre of excellence” the university has created three schools of studies, the School of Information Technology, the School of Biotechnology and the School of Management. The schools, according to the university authorities, will function on the lines of those at the famous Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, with all of them enjoying full academic autonomy.

Abhimanyu Singh, a former BE-IT student who is currently doing his MBA rates the faculty and the laboratory facilities at WBUT very highly. “The faculty members are mostly full-time academicians and they understand the needs of the students very well. I learnt a lot during my stint here,” says Singh who cleared his BE exam early this year.

“Our placements are nearly on a par with some of the best engineering colleges in this part of the country,” says Syed Rafikul Islam, the registrar of the university. According to Islam, almost all the students who will appear for their final year exams in 2008 have been offered jobs through campus interviews.

WBUT also claims that the research work done by its faculty is being acknowledged across the world. “Papers presented by our faculty members are very well received, and we even send our students abroad if their papers are accepted by international seminars,” says the registrar.

Being a biophysicist himself, Thakur has taken special interest in nurturing the School of Biotechnology. If the achievements are anything to go by, the department has indeed brought laurels to the university. While two students of the school presented papers in Singapore, faculty members’ research studies have been well received by peers.

To further enhance its reputation, WBUT has established an incubation centre which has been awarded “Technology Business Incubator” status by the National Science & Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board, department of science and technology, Government of India. “We have been given a fund of Rs 4.3 crore and we plan to have many more incubation centres so that interested researchers can create and develop technologies for the greater good,” says the VC. According to Thakur, WBUT wants to build a strong partnership with the industry through its incubation centres.

In another pioneering move, WBUT is planning to connect 102 affiliated colleges through Edusat. “Students from these far-flung colleges can watch important lectures and other programmes held on the WBUT campus as well as participate in them,” says Thakur.

All the students enrolled in WBUT and its affiliated colleges are covered under a unique group insurance policy, Chhatra Bandhu. Under the scheme, in the event of the sudden demise of a parent or guardian, the insurance company will pay the student’s fees so that his or her studies are not hit by the financial crunch. The university pays the premium for this policy.

WBUT has a huge library with around 25,000 books, including 13,500 e-books. The library subscribes to more than 150 national and international journals. It also boasts a well-equipped gym within its campus.

“We have made a huge difference to the quality of technical education in West Bengal and I am sure that we will continue to usher in more changes,” asserts the VC.

Vital Statistics

WHAT IS IT? A technical university.

WHO’S THE BOSS? Ashok Ranjan Thakur is the vice-chancellor.

What does it offer? BTech in computer science and engineering, BTech in information technology, postgraduate courses in biotechnology, bioinformatics and software engineering, MPhil in management and material science.

Does it have a hostel? WBUT provides separate hostel facilities for boys and girls.

where is it located? BF-142, Sector I, Salt Lake, Calcutta-700064.

V. Kumara Swamy

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