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Beeline for Pune

Print edition : Dec 30, 2005 T+T-

A high rate of literacy, the presence of a large number of industrial and business centres and an ability to adapt itself to change, are the key factors in Pune's success as an educational centre.

BRIJESH KUMAR, 24, has a basic degree in Commerce, is a resident of Lucknow and has behind him two years' experience as an agent with the Life Insurance Corporation of India. Now he is in Pune, pursuing a full-time management course at a leading institute because he would like to work his way up the ladder of success. About his choice of Pune, Brijesh says: "When applying for a job, the institute you have graduated from matters. Also, I came here because I was assured of a placement right after the completion of my two-year postgraduate course in financial management." Such views are common among the large student fraternity of Pune district, spread across 15,642 square kilometres, which includes rapidly developing industrial and business belts such as Chakan, Narayangaon, Baramati (known as the sugar belt), Pimpri-Chinchwad and Junnar. The reason for this collective cheer for Pune as the "true Oxford of the East" is simple: there has been an amazing proliferation of educational institutes across the district that offer courses not just in technology but also management, Information Technology, architecture, medicine, languages, insurance, banking, media, law, film-making and education.

"Pune has truly grown as both an educational and a business city. And the good part is that the majority of the institutes have adhered to very high standards of education, which in return ensures placements for students in any field, in any city of the country and even abroad," says Professor (Colonel) A. Balasubramaniam, president of Sri Balaji Society that manages the reputed Indian Institute of Modern Management. While its over 80 per cent literacy rate has provided a perfect setting for the sustenance and growth of more than 170 officially recognised institutes in the city, the presence of more than 3,550 industries ensures job for graduates with specialised skills and knowledge. The IT sector, of course, is a major player that has placed Pune alongside cities such as Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. This sector absorbs people trained in computer engineering and software programming and management graduates to run the show.

As Atul Kirloskar, president of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), puts it in a note written for the Directory of Information Technology Industry, "there have been good investments coming into the city's IT sector and software exports have jumped by over Rs.1,000 crores to a level approximating Rs.3,100 crores and above. The city has been a forerunner in the IT sector, having set up one of the first Software Technology Parks in India. Pune also offers a comprehensive pool of expertise in diverse areas". The business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, too, has witnessed a tremendous growth that is automatically reflected in the rising demand for those with management and technical qualifications.

Deepak Shikarpur, chairman of the IT Sub-Committee of MCCIA, said: "Pune has one of the largest pools of low-cost English-speaking scientific and technical talent and BPO has been the latest mantra. The entry of players such as Tata, Godrej, Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) and British Airways is an indicator of Pune's top position in the list of outsourcing countries."

Over the years, both established and new educational institutes have been quick to adapt themselves to the commercial growth of the city. Most of them have tie-ups with various industries to enable their students to gain project-based experience even while they are gaining theoretical knowledge. Moreover, career prospects are becoming brighter. One indication of this reality is the upcoming International Convention Centre (ICC) in the heart of Pune, which is slated to be South Asia's largest composite trade and convention centre. Spanning 1.2 million square feet of prime real estate, ICC comprises three main sections: trade towers, an IT park and a huge convention centre with a 200-room five-star hotel, 70 service apartments, auditoria and conference halls. The key to the success of Pune as an educational centre is, therefore, its ability to be in tune with the rapidly changing times.

Talking about the need for flexiblility when it comes to providing education, Dr. Ashok Kolaskar, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pune, said: "We have taken steps to develop IT manpower at various levels with a view to increasing productivity. Recently, IT courses are being introduced for undergraduate students of Science, Commerce and Arts faculties. A large number of students have also benefited by Internet-based education programmes." In fact, tie-ups with foreign universities have also added to the strength of the educational institutions in the city and it is now possible to obtain a management degree from a university in Britain.

Going further, many established educational institutes in Pune are now keen to set up centres abroad to cash in on the city's status as an educational powerhouse.

The Symbiosis Society, for instance, has finalised plans to set up a Knowledge Village in Dubai while the Bharati Vidyapeeth is looking at options in West Asia. Nepal is another country that may soon have collaborators with institutes in Pune. What has helped in the expansion of ideas and proposals is the keen interest of the University Grants Commission in marketing Indian institutes abroad, many of which have their headquarters in Pune. Meanwhile, associated factors have also helped make Pune a prime destination in terms of academics. These include a good climate, easily available board and lodging facilities for students, a pool of immensely professional tutors and industry experts, entertainment facilities, easy communication with other cities and a genial academic atmosphere.

Asked why she chose to study engineering in Pune, Seema Kamdar of Nagpur says that nowhere else would she have access to the kind of infrastructure that the College of Engineering of Pune offers. "It is important for me that what I study is of value so that I can apply my knowledge when I get a job," she says, putting in a nutshell the success story of Pune as an educational centre.