A leader in education

Print edition : August 01, 2003

The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. - COURTESY TIFR

Maharashtra has an impressive list of colleges and other institutions that offer quality higher education in various disciplines.

FOR a developing country, India has a higher education system that is vast and impressive. According to the Department of Education of the Union government, the country has 234 universities, 12,600 colleges and approximately 7.1 million students.

Maharashtra is one of the States that are in the forefront in the matter of higher education. The State offers numerous graduate and post-graduate courses of study in the arts, science and commerce streams as well as in professional courses such as medicine, engineering and management.

Apart from Mumbai, the State has colleges in Navi Mumbai, Thane, Nasik, Pune, Ahmednagar, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Sangli, Osmanabad, Vasai, Jalgaon, Dombivli, Kolhapur and Karad districts. The Bharatiya Vidyapeeth colleges form a prestigious group in the State's educational network. Medical colleges including colleges of Ayurveda and Unani, engineering colleges, law colleges, colleges for arts and fine arts, and institutions offering courses in pharmacy, management, commerce, home science, social work, physical education, architecture and education (Bachelor of Education or B.Ed) have earned Maharastra a premier place in the educational map of the country.

The growing importance of Information Technology (IT) made the State government launch the Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation, investing Rs.5 crores. The main objective of the Corporation is to provide IT-enabled education in all universities, colleges and other educational institutions. Efforts are under way to impart computer and IT-related knowledge and skills to the poor and underprivileged rural youth at reasonable costs. The State government has established, with private participation, Network Access Centres in all educational institutions. The centres offer the Maharashtra State Certificate Course in Information Technology (MSCIT) to build basic computer skills in young people. In the academic year 2001-02, around 6,000 additional seats were introduced in IT and related courses in engineering colleges and 3,000 additional seats in polytechnics. Five training centres were set up at the Mantralaya, the State's seat of power, and a programme for training one lakh employees was launched.

Software Technology Parks such as the International Infotech Park, New Mumbai; Millennium Business Park, New Mumbai; Pune Infotech Park, Pune; and the Santacruz Electronic Export Processing Zone (SEEPZ), Mumbai, were also set up. A hardware park is being established near the Jawaharlal Nehru Port in New Mumbai. It has been decided to link Pune and Mumbai through a `knowledge corridor' by means of optic fibre cable.

The Mumbai Educational Trust (MET), established in 1989, is a professionally managed educational organisation in the State. Its fully integrated complex in Bandra houses its institutes of pharmacy, life sciences, IT and management studies. Its founder member and Vice Chairperson Sunil Karve says: "When we started, we realised the need for good, quality education. The vision was to develop an institute that would be a temple of knowledge." A chartered accountant by profession, Karve now spends all his energy for the institution, "where the thrust is not just on academics but on the development of personality and the inculcation of values," according to him.

The institute offers a diploma as well as a degree programme in pharmacy, a master's degree course in management studies, and a postgraduate diploma programme in management and business administration. A one-year course in medical laboratory, a diploma course in optometry technology, a personality development course for medical representatives, and hi-tech courses like Diploma in Advanced Computing (DAC), Diploma in Advanced Computing Arts (DACA), Diploma in Information Technology, and Master of Computer Applications (MCA) are also offered here.

The MET plans to set up a nursing college, which would be attached to the Leelavati Hospital in Mumbai, and also an Institute of Sustainable Development, which would include in its syllabus subjects such as environment development and pollution control.

"MET has been granted the United Nations Economic and Social Council's special consultative status - a first-of-its-kind achievement for any educational institution in the country. The status was granted at the 22nd meeting of the U.N. Committee on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), held recently at its New York headquarters," said Karve. This means that the institute will "help the U.N. to formulate policies for the uplift of rural areas through the participation of civil society," he said. At the U.N. meeting, MET presented a paper on the uplift of the tribal people of Vasai taluk in Thane district.

This January, MET was given an ISO: 9001-2000 certificate for its quality education system. Says Karve, "Here, we believe that just growing big is not enough. Growing strong is what we aim for."

AMONG the Parsi trusts catering to higher education is the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, which was established in 1932. The trust promotes six pioneering institutions of national importance. Four of these were established in Mumbai: the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (1936), the Tata Memorial Centre for Cancer Research and Treatment (1941), the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (1945), and the National Centre for the Performing Arts (1966).

The Tata Institute of Social Sciences is considered to be a pioneer in the Asia-Pacific region in the field of social work education. It has made significant contributions in social policy, planning, intervention strategies and human resource development. It offers post-graduate and doctoral programmes in social sciences, personnel management, industrial relations and health, hospital management and social work. The institute is well-equipped, and has nine teaching departments, eight research units, two resource units, and resource cells.

The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research offers graduate studies and research opportunities in mathematics, natural sciences and computer science.

The Tata Management Centre, inaugurated in 1966 by J.R.D. Tata, is one of the leading management training institutes of the country. The centre aims to improve organisational performance through the dissemination of up-to-date knowledge and skills among practising managers, development of learning organisations, and facilitation of their attitudinal and behavioural changes.

Yet another Paris trust, named after the founder of the Tata Group is the Jamshedji Tata Trust, set up in 1974. It bestows grants in areas where innovative efforts are made. The J.N. Tata Endowment, established in 1892, funds higher education for deserving Indian scholars. The latter trust has supported 3,500 scholars and awarded more than Rs.68 million to promising students from various strata of society.

The Lady Meherbai D. Tata Education Trust, set up in 1932 by Sir Dorabji Tata in memory of his wife, Lady Meherbai Tata, helps women graduates go abroad to study social work. It has thus far supported 228 women (with a total disbursement of Rs.30,70,000). The Sir Ratan Tata Trust, established in 1918 in accordance with the directives in Sir Ratan Tata's will, utilises its funds in five areas including basic and advanced (post-graduate) education; primary and preventive health; rural livelihoods and communities; arts and culture; and public initiatives. Preference is given to projects based in rural India, and those that involve the advancement of women and children. The R.D. Tata Trust, set up in 1990, promotes the advancement of learning by way of institutional grants, apart from backing social welfare projects and philanthropic activities.

Among the institutes offering higher education in technology are the Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI) and the Vivekanand Education Society's (VES) Institute of Technology. In architecture, the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and the Pillai's College of Architecture offer quality education. The Mumbai-based S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research is among the top management colleges in the country. It offers courses in marketing, information management, international business, finance and so on. The institute also offers courses in family-managed business programmes, and e-commerce. The Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, which was awarded the Best Management School of the Year Award in 1999-2000, is another much-sought-after institute. Among the other institutes offering management courses are the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research and the N.L. Dalmia Management Institute of Studies and Research.

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