Back in demand

Print edition : July 17, 2009

At Presidency College, Chennai. There is a run on degree courses in English and Tamil literature.-V. GANESAN

THE humanities are back in the reckoning and these include Tamil literature. Undergraduate, postgraduate and MPhil courses in Tamil literature in Chennais colleges are full. There is virtually a run on degree courses in English literature and journalism. So is the demand for basic science courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry, statistics and geology.

Professor T.R.A. Devakumar, Principal-in-Charge of the 169-year-old Presidency College (Autonomous) in Chennai, is confident about the future of the humanities and core subjects in science.

Today, admissions to B.Sc. in Mathematics, Statistics, Geology, Geography and Psychology were completed in our college. All the seats were filled up. There is a good demand for mathematics and geology, he said on June 15. What perplexes him is the terrific demand for B.Com. seats. The college received 3,000 applications for 40 seats this academic year.

Devakumar, who teaches botany, was glad that there was good demand for courses in the life sciences as well. There is a good demand from students from other States too for seats in life sciences courses in our college, he said.

Founded in 1840, the college today has grown into a premier institution of higher studies, with 18 undergraduate courses and 20 postgraduate courses taught through 24 departments. Most of these courses lead to MPhil and PhD programmes. There are 3,200 students on the colleges rolls.

T.R.A. Debakumar, Principal-in-charge, Presidency College, Chennai.-V. GANESAN

Even for MPhil courses, our college is autonomous. We have accreditation from the University Grants Commission. So there is a good demand for our courses in life sciences from all over the country, said Devakumar. He emphasised that the fee structure in Presidency College was very low and that the majority of the students came from poor families. When asked whether there was a poor response to courses in humanities in his college, his assertive reply was, No, not at all. When students want to sit for Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission or Union Public Service Commission examinations for a civil service career, they feel that they can do better if they opt for courses in history, political science or English literature. There is good demand for M.A. in all majors. There is always great demand for courses in basic sciences, Devakumar said.

A few hundred metres away, in the University of Madras building sits V.D. Swaminathan, Director-in-Charge of the University Students Advisory Bureau, which is celebrating its centenary this year. He echoed Devakumars views: many students have joined M.A. History in the university department because several candidates from Tamil Nadu were selected for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) this year.

Swaminathan is delighted that there is good demand for seats in undergraduate and postgraduate courses in English literature and Tamil literature because English language teachers are especially sought after in Singapore, Malaysia and China. Besides, students of Tamil literature and English literature can branch off to journalism. He called the B.A. in Economics and Computer Science a fantastic combination and a sure gateway to a bank job. (Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, has a big contingent of students from China, doing B.A. and M.A. in English Literature).

Swaminathan classified students into two categories: those who have an academic bent of mind and hence want to pursue basic/core courses in arts, science or engineering, so that they can do research in the same subject or in an interdisciplinary field, and those who are clear that their intention is to make money. The latter prefer to do an MBA. A student should choose his field of study based on his interest, aptitude and temperament. He should not go by what his parents or friends say, he said.

The University of Madras has started from this academic year five-year integrated courses leading to M.A./M.Sc. degrees in Anthropology, Post-Modern Development, Life Sciences and French. The M.Sc. programme in Life Sciences is offered jointly by the departments of zoology, botany, biochemistry and biotechnology. Swaminathan called it a good course because students can use it as a fundamental course or use it to go on and do research. The medical field and the pharmaceutical industry will use these peoples expertise, he said. The universitys Anna Centre for Public Affairs offers the M.A. in Post-Modern Development with emphasis on governance. This would help students to become bureaucrats.

What is happening at Madras Christian College (MCC), Tambaram, is a revelation. There is a rush for seats in B.A., M.A. and MPhil in Tamil Literature. For the past six or seven years, there has been an overwhelming response for admission to B.A. in Tamil Literature, said Moses Michael Faraday, Head of the Department of Tamil. Of the 40 seats in B.A. in Tamil, 30 are already filled up. Faraday is confident that the remaining seats too will be filled up soon. Earlier, we used to feel anxious about not getting enough students to join B.A. in Tamil. We dont have that anxiety now, he said.

Lalitha Natarajan, Principal-in-charge, Quaid-e-Milleth Arts College for Women, Chennai, at a counselling session held at the college for students.-V. GANESAN

Faraday attributed the change in the situation to the Tamil Nadu government giving importance to the study of Tamil. It is compulsory now for first year undergraduate students, who have not studied Tamil up to Plus Two, to do a basic course in Tamil, and those who have studied Tamil up to Plus Two classes, can opt for an advanced paper in Tamil. So more teachers are now required to teach Tamil. Besides, new avenues have opened up for students of Tamil literature.

Journalism offers opportunities for them because several Tamil magazines and television channels have come in to being in recent years. These students go on to become script-writers and assistant directors in Tamil feature films or television serials. Students of MCC, who pursued B.A. in Tamil, have directed acclaimed films such as Kattradhu Tamil, (What we learnt was Tamil) and Madurai Veeran.

Contrary to the past, students who score high marks in Plus Two examinations prefer to study Tamil literature now. Faraday said, It is not true that only students who get poor marks 50 per cent or 60 per cent in Plus Two opt to join B.A. in Tamil. Bright students join the course In fact, MPhil in Tamil in MCC is overflowing with applications. We have to filter them. For eight to 12 seats in the MPhil programme, we receive 20 applications.

A similar situation obtained in Presidency College and Pachaiyappas College, Chennai, with students keen on studying Tamil literature. A college lecturer said an important reason for this could be that the State government had recently appointed several Tamil teachers in high schools and higher secondary schools.

In the assessment of Ishari K. Ganesh, B.Com. is an evergreen course. There is always good demand for commerce, he said. The School of Management and Commerce at Vels University offers BBA, BBA (Insurance), B.Com. (General), B.Com. (Computer Applications), M.Com. and MBA with specialisation in finance, human resources, marketing, supply chain management, and so on. We provide only job-oriented courses. Once the students finish their degree, they should be able to get a placement, Ishari Ganesh said. There are swings in the demand for seats for B.Sc. in Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Microbial Technology and Computer Science, and Bachelor of Computer Applications (BCA), he said.

A. Kanagaraj, chairperson, Jaya Educational Trust, which runs 18 educational institutions, including engineering, arts and science, and dental colleges and schools, has a different view on the subject. There is no demand for conventional courses in economics, English literature, geography and philosophy, he said. There were also not many takers for courses in life sciences such as B.Sc. in Microbiology, Biochemistry and Botany, he added.

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