Hub of learning

Published : May 22, 2009 00:00 IST

The Crawford Hall on the University of Mysore campus. The administrative offices of the university are located in the hall built in 1947.-Photographs: M.A. SRIRAM

The Crawford Hall on the University of Mysore campus. The administrative offices of the university are located in the hall built in 1947.-Photographs: M.A. SRIRAM

MYSORE, the city of palaces that is commonly referred to as the cultural capital of Karnataka, is a popular tourist destination in the State. A visitor to the city, which was the capital of the erstwhile princely state of Mysore, will be impressed by the many places of interest as well as the slow pace of life here. In the past, the city had nurtured great traditions in the field of art, architecture, education, literature and progressive administration. The canopy of trees and broad avenues add to the charm of the city. Above all, Mysore has established itself as a leading centre of higher education in the State as well as the country.

Major Central government research institutes and private colleges flourish in this city, which has a population of about 10 lakh.

The University of Mysore, established in 1916 in Mysore city, was the first university in the region and the sixth in the country. The Karnataka State Open University (KSOU) was set up in the city in 1996 because the University of Mysore had been conducting distance education programmes since 1969. The city also has two autonomous Central institutes the All India Institute of Speech and Hearing (AIISH) and the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI).

The most recent addition to the list of private institutions in the city is the Agriculture and Food Management Institute (AFMI), which was established in 2007 with the intention of combining the studies of business management and food processing.

An engineering college for women, established by the Geetha Shishu Shikshana Sangha (GSSS), is the first institute of its kind in Karnataka. Another engineering college that has made a mark in the State is the 63-year-old National Institute of Engineering (NIE). The JSS Law College is the first law college in the country to become autonomous.

Before Independence, enlightened kings and their far-sighted Diwans the likes of Sir K. Seshadri Rao, Sir M. Visvesvaraya and Sir Mirza Ismail made Mysore one of the most progressive states in the country. A modern system of education was established in Mysore in 1833 itself. Maharajas College, affiliated to the University of Mysore now, was founded in 1864 and became a first-grade college in 1894.

The University of Mysore was founded by the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV, to promote higher learning. It is situated on a beautiful campus called Manasagangotri, which is close to the heart of the city and offers a panoramic view of the nearby Chamundi hills.

The administrative offices of the university are located in the majestic Crawford Hall, built in 1947. Planned originally to house the Representative Assembly of Mysore, it now hosts university convocations and other important functions.The colleges located across the districts of Chamrajnagar, Hassan, Mandya and Mysore are affiliated to the university. With close to 80,000 students (including 63,000 in affiliated colleges at the undergraduate level) under its fold, the university has won international recognition if the presence of over 1,400 foreign students on its rolls is any indication.

Says V.G. Talawar, Vice-Chancellor of the university: Mysore university is a comprehensive university. It has various academic departments, laboratories, libraries, sports facilities, folklore museums, and so on. Its geology and zoology departments are well known nationally.

The university plans to establish a placement cell, strengthen research facilities, increase the number of hostels, revive the publications division, extend online education and seek more collaboration with foreign universities.

The KSOU has established itself as one of the leading centres of distance education in the country. The university, which has more than 100,000 students across the country, has over 500 study centres and seven regional centres, including one in Delhi. Its Bachelor of Education (BEd) course is very popular among primary school teachers. The university also offers a BEd course in Special Education. Its Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme is also popular with its alumni working in commercial establishments across the country. Other popular courses include MA in Journalism and Diploma in Food and Nutrition, which is offered in collaboration with the CFTRI.

According to Prof. B.A. Viveka Rai, Vice-Chancellor of the KSOU, one of the main strengths of the university is that it caters to a section of society that would not have managed to get educated otherwise. Our students come from different sections of society especially the socially backward classes. Women form a major part of our student body; so do working people and members of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities. Physically challenged persons and prisoners also opt for our courses, he said.

The university plans to develop online systems of distance learning and increase the number of courses as well as the study centres across the country. A series of innovative certificate programmes that will teach basic skills in handicrafts, pottery, wood carving, and so on are planned to be introduced soon. The main reason for people opting for distance education is its flexibility. The KSOU offers quality distance education and our popularity can be gauged from the fact that for some courses we get more than 10,000 applications for 500 seats, said Viveka Rai.

The AIISH, established in 1965 under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is an autonomous body imparting training in the field of speech and hearing. The CFTRI was established in 1950 because of the vision of V. Subrahmanyan, the founder-director of the institute. Its emphasis is on training scientists and technologists in the area of food science and technology.

The AIISH aims to provide high quality training to young people, to uphold the cause of people with communication disorders and to encourage research in the field of speech and hearing.

Apart from being a premier institute in its area of research, AIISH is a one-of-a-kind institute in Asia. Affiliated to the University of Mysore, it shares the lush green Manasagangotri campus with the university. The institute has been conducting public awareness programmes on speech and hearing impairments. The institute has nine departments. Its postgraduate course in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology is popular.

According to Vijayalakshmi Basavaraj, Director of AIISH, the institute will soon offer two unique postgraduate diplomas in Forensic Voice Science Technology and in Clinical Linguistics. Admission to the BSc. courses and MSc. courses is through a national-level entrance test and all the students admitted to the AIISH are offered a monthly stipend. Apart from its focus on manpower development, the institute offers diagnostic and rehabilitation services to people with all types of communication disorders such as hearing impairment, stuttering, learning disability and mental retardation. Basavaraj adds, Apart from all these services we are trying to spread awareness in public about communication disorders.

The CFTRI has made big strides in food technology research. One of its early contributions in this field was the formulation of an infant food using buffalos milk, which is the basis for Indias flourishing baby food industry today. Research at the institute is responsible for the extraction of plant protein for the nutrition base of a new class of food supplements.

As far back as 1964, the CFTRI was identified as the centre of knowledge and expertise to start the International Food Technology Training Centre (IFTTC). So far, more than a 1,000 students (Indian and foreign) have successfully completed their masters programme in food technology offered at the institute and are occupying prime positions in national/governmental institutions and leading companies involved in food processing.

The institute conducts a certificate course in wheat milling in collaboration with the International School of Milling Technology. It also runs acclaimed short-term training programmes focussing on industry personnel, working scientists, technologists, academics and young researchers. The CFTRIs global reputation is evident from the fact that it is one of the associated institutions of the United Nations University (UNU). More than 160 UNU Fellows have completed their research programmes at the CFTRI.

The Agriculture and Food Management Institute (AFMI) was founded in 2007 in Mysore. Stating that the presence of the CFTRI in Mysore was one of the major reasons for locating the AFMI here, Saurabh Sinha, Director of the Institute, said: Even though the agri-food business in our country is almost $300 billion there is no specialised institute in India that trains people for exactly this industry. The AFMI was founded to fill this gap.

The first batch of students who had come from States across the country were confident that they had chosen the right course and institute. They seemed excited by the many job opportunities that this sector offered. The idea behind setting up the AFMI, which combines studies of management and food processing technology, is that its graduates would be able to take up managerial and administrative positions in the vast agri-food industry in India that currently makes do with a huge number of general management graduates.

Citing statistics, Saurabh Sinha said that at present the agri-food industry in India requires 5,000 management professionals a year at entry level in the organised sector but only 1,200 technical agri-food graduates were going in for management education. Thus, there is a huge opportunity for technical agri-food graduates who do a course in customised agri-food business management. This sector is immune from the impact of factors such as global recession since food production does not decline generally. The Academic Advisory Council for the institute is drawn from among acclaimed academics in the area as well as industry professionals. The chairman of the council is Dr. B.L. Amla, who was formerly director of the CFTRI. Other members include Simon George, Head, Asia Pacific, Cargill Flavours and Arun Bewor, who was formerly associated with Flavours and Fragrance India Limited.

Winning a reputation in six years as a quality engineering college in a State like Karnataka where scores of established engineering colleges are thriving is not an easy task.

The fact that the GSSS Institute of Engineering and Technology for Women, which was founded in 2003, has managed to do this speaks volumes about the vision of its founder, the late B.S. Pandit. It was his perseverance and dream that led to the founding of a college of engineering dedicated to women.

The first batch of engineering students from the college passed out last year and is doing extremely well in the competitive job market. The idea behind this engineering college is that women students can be comfortable here. This is one of the few such colleges in India and the first such engineering college in Karnataka catering exclusively to female students, said R.K. Bharath, chief administrative officer.

Located on a spacious campus a few kilometres from the heart of Mysore, a massive dome like vestibule greets visitors. The serenity of the campus is enhanced by a capacious meditation centre that has been built for students to de-stress themselves. The hostels are modern and look more like hotel rooms with attached toilets. With several students from across the country, the college is attracting attention because of its plans to introduce innovative postgraduate courses and engineering degrees.

The NIE is the second oldest engineering college in the State and the first in the city of Mysore. Founded in 1946, it is one of the premier autonomous technical institutions in the country having been accredited by the National Board of Accreditation, Government of India.

The college offers Bachelor of Engineering courses in seven disciplines and Master of Technology (M.Tech) courses in five disciplines. Six of the departments of the university have been recognised as research centres to offer a Master of Science (MSc.) degree. NIE is only one of the 14 colleges among the 144 engineering colleges (affiliated to the Visvesvaraya Technological University) that have been granted academic autonomy.

Well known for the excellent quality of its academic staff, the college has signed MoUs with internationally known entities such as Bosch Rexroth, Cognizant Technologies, National Aerospace Laboratories and Eicher Motors. Its long list of distinguished alumni includes industry stalwarts such as N.R. Narayana Murthy, Chief Mentor, Infosys Technologies; Mysore Nagaraja, chief, New York Metro; N. Ramanuja, former Chairman and Managing Director, HMT Ltd.; Ramesh Bharadwaj, Chief Engineer, Naval Research Lab, Washington D.C.; M.S. Loknath, Head, Institute of Armament Technology, Pune.

Adding to the variety of higher education available in Mysore is the J.S.S. Law College, an autonomous law college established by the JSS Mahavidyapeetha in 1982. The college has students from 12 States across India and seven countries of the Commonwealth.

Of these, nearly 50 per cent of the students are women. Recognised by the Bar Council of India, it has been accredited with a high grade of B+ by the NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council). The college currently offers two courses at the graduate level a five-year BA course and LLB, which students can join after their graduation. At the postgraduate level, the college offers the LLM, with specialisation in business laws.

The college has regular campus placement every year when leading MNCs, legal firms and legal process outsourcing firms recruit final-year students, said Prof. K.S. Suresh, the principal of the college. The students are not restricted to their classrooms but are encouraged to dabble in the practical aspects of law. The college conducts a regular legal aid clinic to counsel members of the local communities around Mysore.

In the near future we are planning to introduce innovative courses combining other bachelor degrees and law, said Suresh.

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