Enduring appeal

Print edition : August 13, 2010

Presidency College in Chennai.-V. GANESAN

Arts and science continue to be much-sought-after courses in major colleges in the city.

THE general impression that the study of arts and science courses in colleges in Chennai is on the wane is wrong. Take the case of Presidency College, an autonomous institution in Chennai. The admission season this year saw a huge demand for undergraduate arts courses in English literature, economics, political science and commerce.

An identical situation prevailed at Ethiraj College for Women (autonomous). A lot of students from rural areas wanted to join the English literature course. Among the Master's courses in the college, all seats in English literature and corporate secretaryship were filled up in no time. Economics and history, too, had enough takers.

Students who score good marks but who deliberately choose arts and science courses have a definite plan in mind. Many of them want to sit for the civil services examination.

That courses in humanities do not fetch jobs is a myth, said G. Thiruvasagam, Vice-Chancellor, University of Madras. Compared with graduate engineers, students who complete their graduation or postgraduation in humanities found it easier to get jobs that fetched them a salary of over Rs.10,000 a month, he said. They found jobs in the insurance, banking, and transport sectors and in the hotel industry.

To equip its students for the changing job market, the University of Madras is redesigning its courses with a choice-based credit system in which students can study the traditional, major subject of their choice and other value-added subjects. So a student of physics can learn financial accountancy, a commerce student can learn physics or animation, a student of history can learn courses in archaeology or travel and tourism, and Tamil and English literature students can do journalism. Social science students can study physics and vice-versa. All of them should, however, pass a paper in computer literacy. My primary concern is to make them employable, Thiruvasagam said.

In his assessment, multinational companies did not attach importance to a student's course of study but looked for fluency in spoken English, knowledge of computer applications, basic proficiency in finance and accounting, and leadership qualities. The Vice-Chancellor said: We ensure that students acquire skills in these areas irrespective of the subject they major in. This is already a success story.

From the next academic year, undergraduate and postgraduate students of colleges affiliated to the University of Madras will compulsorily have to earn vocational diplomas and do training in subjects connected with their majors. A student of history will have to earn a diploma in archaeology or tourism, a student of English literature should get trained in medical transcription or call centre work. These courses will be taught during college hours. Only then will they be effective, the Vice-Chancellor said.

The University of Madras plans to introduce two new courses B.Sc. in nautical science in collaboration with the Indian Maritime University, and B.Sc. in aeronautical science in collaboration with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in its affiliated colleges. The university also has plans to start a course in publishing.

M. Thavamani, Principal and Secretary, Ethiraj College, noted that students from rural areas and towns such as Thanjavur, Tirunelveli and Madurai preferred to join colleges in Chennai because the city gave them good exposure. It also helped them to prepare for the civil services examination. Such students spent a lot of time in libraries and formed their own study groups. Ethiraj College also conducted classes for civil services aspirants.

Besides, to prepare the students for the job market, the English literature degree course had papers on communication skills and editing. And apart from the traditional B.A. course in History, the college offered a B.A. in tourism and travel management with some focus on history. Thavamani called it an innovative course. The college has introduced the CBCS.

She said it had been noticed that an increasing number of students were dropping out of engineering colleges after a couple of years of study and joining arts or science courses. Three such students had approached her for admission this year, she added.

Ethiraj College will introduce from this year a new postgraduate course in inclusive development studies. The course will lay stress on sociology, psychology, research methodology and so on. The college offered two add-on courses for undergraduate students in tourism and travel management, and in investment management. A postgraduate diploma programme was available for students seeking to become tourist guides.

Government-run Presidency College has 26 departments, including in Tamil, English, Hindi, Sanskrit, Telugu, Malayalam, and Urdu. Plant biology and plant biotechnology, microbiology and biotechnology, geology, geography, public administration, and political science are some of the other courses it offers.

Its corporate secretaryship programme is in great demand. It also offers a B.Com course for hearing-impaired students. Vijayalakshmi Srinivas, Principal-in-charge, rates the college as a premier institution in South India.

Ayurveda colleges

A big surprise is that year after year, all 50 seats in the Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) course at the Sri Jayendra Saraswathi Ayurveda College and Hospital, Poonamallee, 30 km from Chennai, are filled up. It is popular among students from Kerala and Karnataka but there are not many takers for it in Tamil Nadu. The latter prefer studying Siddha medicine to ayurveda. BAMS is a four-and-a-half-year course, with 12 months of compulsory rotational internship.

K.S. Jayashree, Principal, noted that unlike the Siddha system, which used more minerals, the ayurveda system used more herbs and vegetables in its medicines. The college has a 165-bed hospital.

There are two other ayurveda colleges in Tamil Nadu: the Dharma Ayurveda Medical College and Hospital at Sriperumbudur, and the Sri Sairam Ayurveda Medical College near Tambaram. The State government is opening an ayurveda college at Nagercoil this academic year.

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