Record of excellence

Published : Feb 13, 2004 00:00 IST

A centre of learning from olden days, Mysore continues its romance with academics.

MYSORE has always been known as a centre of learning and excellence, both in academics and in the fields of arts and culture. A succession of maharajas, advised by shrewd and far-sighted dewans like Sir Seshadri Iyer, Sir M. Visvesvaraya, and Sir Mirza Ismail, invited the best of scholars from around the world as teachers for themselves, other members of the royal family and even the common people. The royal court was studded with musicians, dancers, painters, theologians, academicians and sculptors.

Today Mysore University, set up on a 320-hectare is reputed for being one of the best in the country. It was established in 1916 by Krishnaraja Wodeyar after two of his educational experts C. R. Reddy and Thomas Denham, undertook a five-year study of higher education around the world. It was only India's sixth university. The structure of the university was designed after a thorough analysis of the functioning of those universities that had as their chief aim the promotion of original research (Chicago University), those that laid emphasis on the extension of knowledge among the people (Wisconsin University), and those that combined intellectualism with an educational system calculated to give training for political and social life (Oxford and Cambridge Universities).

Mysore University secured autonomous status in 1956, and in 1960 the university's post-graduate (P.G.) centre was set up in the picturesque environs of the Kukkarahally lake. The national poet and the Jnanpith award winner, Dr. K. V. Puttappa (Kuvempu), a former Vice-Chancellor of the University, christened the campus `Manasagangotri', meaning the eternal spring of the mind. Though initially all the nine southern districts of Karnataka were under the territorial jurisdiction of Mysore University, the setting up of Bangalore University (1964), Mangalore University (1980), Kuvempu University (1987) and the Karnataka State Open University (1997) has meant that today its activities are confined to the districts of Mysore, Mandya, Hassan and Chamarajanagar. There are two additional P.G. centres, at Mandya and Hassan. In all, Mysore University have five constituent colleges, 122 affiliated colleges and 49 recognised research institutions, offering certified, diploma, under graduate and post-graduate courses in the faculties of arts, science and technology, law, education and commerce.

Taking pride of place among the university's 39 facultywise research areas are applied botany and seed pathology, which attract students from all over Asia, and geology and physics, both of which are designated as `national facilities'. The university also boasts one of the largest university libraries in India. It library, established in 1918, has a resource collection of around 800,000 documents and a membership of 6,000 users. It is also no surprise that among the university's faculty members have been such luminaries as Professor S. Chandrashekar (Fellow of the Royal Society), Prof. K. V. Puttappa (Padma Bhushan), Prof. U. R. Ananthamurthy (Padma Bhushan) and Prof. C. D. Narasimhaiah (Padma Bhushan).

And not for nothing has the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, an autonomous body of the University Grants Commission (UGC), accorded Mysore University five-star status. In addition, the Eighth Plan Review Committee of the UGC after inspecting the university, while appreciating its all round development, recommended to the State and Central governments its upgradation as a `National Centre for Excellence'.

Currently nearly 58,000 students study in Mysore University. Among the university's future plans are `outreach education', where the university would give a thrust to off-campus education in places like Delhi, Hyderabad and even South-East Asia. Explained N.D. Tiwari, its Registrar: "This will be a collaborative programme in Information Technology, Computer Science (M.Tech.), management and in biotechnology, run with institutions in other cities. They will run the colleges following our syllabus and academic regulations. So far we have signed memorandums of understanding with Edutech of New Delhi and Sawant of Singapore."

Over the years there have also been noteworthy initiatives in private education in Mysore. Started by three retired senior government engineers - S. Ramaswamy, D. V. Narasimha Rao and T. Rama Rao - in 1946 with a batch of 86 students sitting in a make-shift thatched -roof classroom in Mysore's Laxmipuram, NIE was Karnataka's second and Mysore's first engineering college. Though initially only a diploma was offered to students, by 1953 the first batch of civil engineering graduates had passed out of NIE. And by 1956 the State and Central governments had recognised NIE as one of the institutions listed for development during the second and subsequent five year plans. In 1958-59 NIE was accorded the status of a private aided institution under the State government's grant-in-aid programme.

Today NIE is one of the premier engineering institutions of the country and offers degree courses in civil, mechanical, electrical, electronics and industrial & production (IP) engineering, and computer science and information science; a part-time evening course for practising civil engineering diploma holders; and a master's degree in hydraulics, power systems, production engineering & systems technology, computer applications to industrial drives, computer applications and engineering management. NIE, which is a recognised research institute under the Visvesvaraya Technology University, also offers doctoral programmes in civil engineering, computer science, mechanical engineering and IP engineering. A course in biotechnology is on the anvil.

According to S. L. Ramachandra, honorary treasurer, NIE, the institute's strength lies in its faculty: "We have the best of teachers, who stay on with us because we provide them with all the requisite benefits. And despite the fact that we have no godfathers we have no trouble in filling up our seats. Our civil branch is one of the best in the country." Added M. Sreepada Rao, honorary secretary, NIE: "We at NIE recently revised our vision. This was because the concept of education has now changed. No longer is education classroom teaching, examinations and results. With the requirements of industry itself now different, we have to upgrade our technology and tactics if we are to sell our students. In a bid to retain our teachers we have created a separate fund for their retirement benefits, launched our own incentive schemes, and encouraged them to present papers."

The society that runs NIE also runs the National Industrial Training Institute (which offers a technical job-oriented diploma programme) and the NIE College of Science (which offers a bachelor of science course in electronics and computer science). NIE Society also has plans to start a pre-university college and a high school.

A social organisation which emphasises the need for education is Jagadguru Sri Shivarathreeshwara Mahavidyapeetha (JSSM) established in 1954. The JSSM runs over 200 institutions, starting from kindergarten to professional courses. A key area of focus is the rural child. Spearheading the JSSM's technical education is the Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering (SJCE) in Mysore. Started in 1963, the college, which is located on a 127-acre (51-hectares) campus, offers technical education in formal and non-formal disciplines. At the formal level, the SJCE offers bachelor, P.G. and doctoral programmes in computer science, electronics, instrumentation technology, electrical, mechanical and civil engineering, polymer sciences and environmental sciences.

Said B. N. Betkerur, executive secretary, JSSM: "Maintaining quality in education is the biggest challenge. Teachers are not what they used to be. Teachers are just not going to the rural areas. And the State government's vacillating policy on aided colleges and the filling up of posts is affecting us."

The JSSM has plans to start nursing colleges and schools in the semi- rural environs of Kollegal, Gundlupet and Chamarajanagar.

Vidyavardhaka Sangha, which was started in 1949 by veterans like Sahukar Channaiah and K. Puttaswamy and is currently managed under the guidance of, among others, Prof. P. M. Chikkaboraiah and P. Vishwanath, is committed to imparting education to the have-nots of Mysore. The Sangha runs eight institutions that impart education from the nursery level to law and engineering.

Said Vishwanath, its secretary and an ex-mayor of Mysore: "The Sangha set up its first school in a small marriage hall that was taken on rent. Later the school moved to the Dasara exhibition stall. It was only in the 1960s that we were able to get our own building, near the Mysore railway station. The Sangha was started purely for the weaker sections... Our poor boys' fund subsidises the fees for those who cannot pay." The Sangha's V. V. High School has over 500 pupils and though the intake is of a very average quality, the school has consistently obtained a tenth class pass percentage of around 75 per cent.

The Sangha also runs a Job-Oriented College offering courses in electrical wiring, library science and accountancy. Its Industrial Training Centre trains young people as electrical and electronics technicians and fitters.

Undoubtedly, the pride of place among the Sangha's institutions is the V. V. College of Engineering, set up in 1997. With an intake of 300, the College currently offers five branches - computer science, electronics & communication, mechanical engineering, environmental engineering and information science. The next academic year could see the launch of a sixth branch - electrical & electronics. Said Vishwanath: "Our focus is on providing infrastructure and teachers."

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