'World class' varsity for city

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Delhi
  • Published 28.03.08
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New Delhi, March 28: Left-ruled Calcutta may compete with Harvard, but communist cousin Kerala is unlikely to challenge MIT anytime soon.

Education minister Arjun Singh today announced sites set to witness India’s biggest higher education expansion since the 1960s, capping a tortuous political exercise steered by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh have been chosen for new Indian Institutes of Technology, the minister said, in addition to Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan, which the government had announced as sites earlier.

Calcutta is one of 14 cities picked to set up “world class”, centrally governed universities which the Centre said would aim to compete with the best varsities on the globe.

But demands for new IITs from both Bengal and Kerala — Left-ruled states — have been rejected in a decision that Arjun said was taken by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). After the nuclear deal stand-off, the Prime Minister had changed the rules of engagement with the Left.

The 14 “world class” universities will have humanities sections modelled on the Jawaharlal Nehru University and engineering courses of IIT standards, and will offer management lessons comparable with the Indian Institutes of Management, human resource development ministry officials said.

“The world-class universities will be built to directly challenge the likes of Harvard, Oxford and Cambridge,” a senior higher education official told a group of reporters after the minister had announced sites for the new institutions.

Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Haryana are states where new IIMs will be built, in addition to Shillong, where an IIM has already been announced.

Sources said that while Bengal had been told earlier that it was not going to get another IIT to add to the one at Kharagpur, Kerala was expected to receive a favourable response.

Chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan had repeatedly written to Arjun, virtually pleading for an IIT in Kerala. A proposal to set up the institute at Palakkad was cleared in principle by the Union ministry.

“The selections have been made at the highest level by the PMO. I do not want to get drawn into this,” Arjun told reporters, asked why Kerala had been denied an IIT.

“But Kerala has not been left high and dry. It already has an IIM (in Kozhikode) and is slated to receive an Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER),” the minister added. An IISER — a grade lower than an IIT — has been announced in Thiruvananthapuram.

Madhya Pradesh, Arjun’s home state, also has an IIM — at Indore — and an IISER has been announced for Bhopal. Yet, an IIT has been cleared for the state.

“It is too early to react. But it appears as though our proposal was scuttled for reasons not entirely to do with the viability of the project at Palakkad,” a Kerala government official said.

In addition to the 14 “world class” universities, 16 states that do not have a central university will get one now. “It is not as though these 16 central universities will not be world class,” Arjun said in response to questions why a distinction is being made between the “world class” and other central universities.

“While these 16 varsities are being built to ensure that each state has at least one central university, the sites for the world-class institutions have been picked keeping in mind their role in making India the best in higher education,” Arjun said.