Innovative courses

Print edition : August 26, 2011

K. Nirmala Prasad (left), principal, M.O.P. Vaishnav College, interacting with students. - V. GANESAN

Madras University is redesigning its courses to make them more job-oriented and making efforts to help rural students find placement.

G. THIRUVASAGAM, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Madras, is passionate about making students of arts and science courses employable in the information technology industry and ensuring that students from rural areas get placement after graduation. He has set about achieving these goals by redesigning several courses and requesting companies to go for recruitment to colleges in rural areas.

Innovative courses are a must to make the students more employable, Thiruvasagam said. After three decades, there is a major thrust towards redesigning courses. The courses should be training-oriented and interdisciplinary. There should be a thorough change in the delivery system, he said. For instance, this year the university has introduced BCom (Honours), which will have 12 papers more than the normal course.

Only those colleges accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council will be eligible to run this course. Or the colleges should have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with corporate organisations, which have a minimum share capital of Rs.5 crore, so that students of the course can be attached to that industry for their training programme. This is a highly industry-oriented and interdisciplinary course, the Vice-Chancellor said. Five colleges affiliated to the university have been granted permission to start the course with a limited strength of 30 each.

Other redesigned courses introduced in select affiliated colleges are BSc Physics with Computer Applications, with 12 additional papers, and BSc Mathematics with Computer Applications. Fifteen colleges have been granted permission to offer BSc Physics with Computer Applications as they have the required infrastructure. These courses are a trial. We want to see whether we can introduce degree courses in Botany and Zoology with stress on computer applications. We have to provide the students computer knowledge, Thiruvasagam said.

He is concerned that rural students are ignored in placement programmes. He said he was shocked to find that only 5 per cent of the rural students found jobs in placement drives. The university has made it compulsory for its affiliated colleges to appoint a placement officer. The university has signed an MoU with HCL Technologies, under which HCL managers will visit colleges in rural areas to recruit students. Out of the 1,600 rural students identified as eligible for jobs, 300 were appointed on the spot. Another 1,000 were appointed later. All the 1,300 received three months' training at HCL. Thanks to HCL, 1,300 rural students are employed now. This will be a continuous process, he said.

Since aided colleges in rural areas did not have enough finance to appoint teachers who could provide soft skills such as the ability to write and converse in English, preparation of resume, demonstration of skills in group discussions, answering questions during interviews, and so on, the university has set apart a budget to send teachers to colleges in rural areas to teach soft skills.

Thiruvasagam is upbeat that there is a 30 per cent increase in the number of students applying for humanities and science courses this year. This is borne out by the rush for admissions in Chennai city colleges.

Presidency College received 5,000 applications for 80 seats in BCom (Corporate Secretaryship) course, P.S. Raghuraman, Principal-in-charge, said. There is good demand for seats in science subjects, especially for BSc Physics and Chemistry. There is a massive rush for BSc Mathematics, with 750 applicants for 40 seats, he said. The college received 1,200 applications for 40 seats in BA English Literature.

In MCC, 55 students have joined BA Tamil Literature. Moses Michael Faraday, Head of the Department of Tamil in the college, said: There is generally a fluctuation in the demand for BA Tamil Literature. We wanted to peg the limit at 45 but we admitted 55 students. This is the trend that has been obtaining for the past three years. Interestingly, there were not many takers for MA in Tamil Literature in MCC. This could be attributed to the fact that a few other colleges in Chennai started the course.

There are plenty of job opportunities for those who study Tamil Literature, Faraday said. They could take up teaching jobs in schools or colleges, become mediapersons, or join the cinema as dialogue writers or assistant directors.

Presidency College offers 20 undergraduate, 20 postgraduate and 18 MPhil courses. The BSc courses include those in Geology, Geography, Psychology, Plant Biology and Plant Bio-Technology, Advanced Zoology and Bio-Technology, Statistics, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics. There are BCom and BCA courses for the hearing impaired. The college received more than 10,000 applications for 900 seats in various undergraduate arts and science courses, Raghuraman, who teaches Sanskrit, said.

If these colleges offer conventional humanities and science courses, M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women offers job/application-oriented courses such as BCom in Accounting and Finance, Marketing Management and Corporate Secretaryship, BBA, BCA, BSc in Computer Science, Mathematics, Visual Communication, Electronic Media, Food Science and Management, and BA in Journalism, and Sociology.

K. Nirmala Prasad, the principal, said: The demand for seats in engineering courses can never affect the demand for humanities courses. The growth of engineering colleges can only affect science courses. She does not agree that there is a growing demand for humanities courses. In the past 15 to 20 years, there has been a decline even at the school (Plus Two) level for admission to humanities courses, she said. There are no takers for the humanities group in the State Board. So they have scrapped these [humanities] courses in Plus Two. That is the tragedy, Nirmala Prasad said.

In our college, we package the courses. In BA (Sociology), we offer Corporate Sociology. Every course is packaged with industrial content, she said. BSc (Mathematics) is packaged with papers in risk management, finance, insurance, and so on. There is a craze for Visual Communications even among students scoring high marks, she said. The college offers MA (Media Management), which is one of its kind. The BSc course in Electronic Media trains students to become radio and television journalists.

The college has an entrepreneur development cell, which trains students right from their first year. There are practice schools which convert students' knowledge into skills. For instance, students of BSc (Food Science and Management) run a cafeteria and bakery on the campus, those studying BSc (Information Systems Management) manage the college's information systems, students of BSc (Electronic Media) develop the e-content and run the campus television channel.

An evergreen course is BCom. M.O.P. Vaishnav College received 8,000 applications for 400 seats for BCom. There is good demand for BCom in Accounting and Finance and Computer Applications, said Ishari K. Ganesh, founder-Chancellor, Vels' University. The demand is so much that we are not able to meet the aspirations of several hundreds of students. Students are also keen to study BBA, he added.

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