Centre of learning

Published : Dec 17, 2010 00:00 IST

The National Defence Academy in Pune.-THE HINDU

The National Defence Academy in Pune.-THE HINDU

Pune is home to one of India's oldest colleges and several government and private educational institutions.

HISTORICALLY, Pune has been known as a knowledge centre. The city has the distinction of being home to one of the oldest colleges in the country, Deccan College. It was founded in 1821, and later the Deccan Education Society was set up in 1880. Over time several government and private educational institutions were established across the city.

Lore has it that India's first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, called Pune the Oxford of the East. Over the decades it has continued on the path of providing quality education, not just to Indians but to international students as well. Each year hundreds of students from all over the world seek admission in Pune's many specialised colleges. The city has a charming cosmopolitan quality because of the variety of students it has hosted.

Pune is the top education destination in the country as its universities, institutes and training academies offer qualifications in branches ranging from engineering to linguistics to the liberal and applied arts to management and insurance. Maharashtra has a 77.27 per cent literacy rate, and it can safely be said that Pune has contributed immensely to the overall level of education in the State's population. Although Pune was once a centre for traditional courses, the city's institutes introduced new courses relating to, among others, information technology, biomedical technology, civil aviation and the retail industry. Several big companies have set up business processing outsourcing (BPO) operations in Pune so that they can take advantage of the city's pool of graduates. After Bangalore, Pune is the hot spot for the BPO industry.

With regard to universities in Pune, the most prominent one is the University of Pune. Founded in 1949, it is spread over a beautiful 400-acre campus right in the middle of the city. It has 46 academic departments, 46 graduate departments, 269 affiliated colleges and 118 recognised research institutes. According to the university, it has about 1.7 lakh students. The College of Engineering, Pune and the Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Medical College are also attached to the university.

Symbiosis International University (SIU), which is privately run, has a reputation for being a multi-institutional university that provides quality education. Thousands of students seek admission there every year in the 19 academic departments spread over several campuses in Pune, one campus in Nasik and another in Bangalore. Over 1.5 lakh students from 64 countries are enrolled in its various courses.

Fergusson College was founded by the Deccan Education Society and boasts a long history, but it is also a successful contemporary centre of education. Considered the birthplace of the Indian socialist movement, Fergusson is well known for its liberal arts courses, particularly those that involve political science.

Several excellent linguistic schools are flourishing in the city. It is the largest centre for learning Japanese. The University of Pune has had Japanese language training since 1978, making it a major centre for training and recruiting Japanese language teachers. Subsequently, the Germans and French set up linguistic and cultural centres in the city. The Max Mueller Bhavan in Pune is one of the first German cultural centres in the country. It started offering courses in the late 1950s and continues to be a hub of cultural activities. The Alliance Francaise of Pune has been instrumental in conducting French studies.

Military academies

Pune is also a cantonment area. The army has a big presence in the city, so it is natural that several top military academies and defence-related institutes are located in the city. Topping the list is the National Defence Academy, or NDA, which is located in Khadakwasla, just outside Pune, and trains men and women to become officers in the armed forces. The Defence Institute of Advanced Technology (DIAT) was established in 1952 and made a deemed university in 2000. Its primary aim is to provide higher education in science and technology associated with defence requirements in general and weapons systems in particular.

The Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) based in Pune is one of the country's most prestigious medical colleges. It is responsible for providing the armed forces with medical specialists, nursing cadets, paramedical staff and dentists. Patient care forms an integral part of the AFMC training curriculum and the hospitals attached to the college benefit from the expertise it provides.

Another major military establishment is the College of Military Engineering (CME) located at Dapodi. This is a premier technical and tactical training institution of the Corps of Engineers that encompasses the Combat Engineers, the Military Engineering Service (MES) and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).

The Army Institute of Physical Training (AIPT), formerly called the Army School of Physical Training, is also based in the city. It has the infrastructure to impart systematic and comprehensive instruction in physical training. Select candidates from all ranks of the Army, students from the police and paramilitary forces and from friendly foreign countries attend various courses on physical training and allied subjects at the AIPT.

Wards of Indian Army personnel can pursue engineering degrees at the Army Institute of Technology, which was started in 1993. A special tie-up between the Ministry of Defence and the SIU enables defence personnel and their dependents to pursue a management degree.

Research institutes

Pune also boasts several research institutes. The National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), which is a member of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), specialises in polymer science, organic chemistry, and catalysis and material chemistry. Close to 200 scientists work on its campus.

The University Grants Commission set up the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) to promote nucleation and growth of active groups in astronomy and astrophysics in Indian universities. Research at the IUCAA spans fields from classical and quantum gravity to instrumentation.

The National AIDS Research Institute, the National Institute of Virology and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) are also situated in Pune.

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