A range of options

Published : Jun 04, 2004 00:00 IST

The University of Madras has an effective system to guide students in choosing courses of study and careers.

A WHOLE range of courses with good career prospects is available for students these days. That is what Dr. Susila Mariappan, Director, University Students' Advisory Bureau, University of Madras, tells every student and anxious parent who visit her office for guidance. Every working day one would find at least 50 students waiting outside her office, and she does not turn away any of them. Dr. Sushila keeps tabs on the latest trends in education, the courses in demand, students' predilections and career prospects. She patiently answers their questions about what courses are on offer and what they should opt for. In the process, she explodes the myth that "general courses" such as a degree course in Physics, Mathematics or Chemistry do not promise a bright future; or tells them how a diploma in radiation technology, optometry, physiotherapy, respiratory therapy, audiology and speech therapy, ECG technology or dialysis therapy can get them jobs abroad; or how it is better to study Biotechnology at the post-graduate level than at the degree level.

"A course in Biotechnology is in great demand now. The Central Department of Biotechnology, however, feels that the course will be more effective at the master's level because the infrastructure and facilities available at that level will be better and there can be a quality programme," she says. In Tamil Nadu, the University of Madras, Bharathidasan University, Madurai Kamaraj University and Bharathiar University, among others, offer post-graduate courses in Biotechnology. However, new deemed universities offer B.Tech in Biotechnology. Students can do B.Sc. in Zoology, Botany or Microbiology and study Biotechnology at the master's level, she says.

Dr. Sushila says a student graduating in Physics or Mathematics has a lot going for him: he/she can pursue M.Sc. in Nuclear Physics, Biophysics, Astronomy or Astrosphysics. "These subjects are science-oriented and, of course, they are tough subjects. But students want an easy walk," she says. She points to how a post-graduate degree holder in Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy or Astrophysics can have a good career if he or she were to join the Department of Atomic Energy's (DAE) Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) or the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, or the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai.

Students have a wide choice, as a number of new professional courses are available now. They include post-graduate courses in Remote-sensing, Geo-Information Technology, Plant Genetic Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Plant Biotechnology, Animal Biotechnology, Eco-Biotechnology, and Genomics. Madurai-Kamaraj University pioneered courses in Biotechnology, Plant Genetic Engineering, Microbiology, Experimental Genomics and Proteomics and Biochemical Technology. The University of Madras has courses in Criminology and Forensic Sciences and Geographic Information Systems Management at the master's level. Periyar University offers a B.Sc degree in Bio-Informatics.

Other professional courses that are sought after include B.Sc. in Visual Communications, M.Sc. in Financial Management, Master's in Foreign Trade, International Business and Corporate Secretaryship. At the graduate level, a student can obtain a degree in Information Science and Management, Plant Biology and Plant Biotechnology (a single course) or Electronic Media.

There appears to be a general decline in the students' preference for engineering courses in view of the dull job prospects. But the demand for engineering courses in Information Technology is stable. "The Army, the Navy and the Air Force wish to recruit graduates in mechanical, civil, electrical and electronics engineering. But graduates from South India generally hesitate to join the Services," she says.

There is a clamour for the integrated five-year course in Computer Science and Technology that is offered by several colleges. A student who has passed Plus 2 is eligible for admission to this course. Seventeen colleges under the University of Madras and Anna University offer M.Sc. in Computer Science and Technology.

The Alpha Arts and Science College, located in Porur, is recognised for excellence in academics and the overall personality training that is imparted to undergraduate students. The syllabus is up-to-date, reflecting the current trends in the field of the arts and sciences. The industry-academia interface programmes hosted by the college and supported by leading industries have helped the young institution secure a place among the well-known colleges of arts and science in the city.

At Alpha, the boom in biosciences is felt intensively. The Department of Biotechnology and the Department of Bioinformatics, which offer post-graduate courses, introduce experts from the fields to garner maximum knowhow and to minimise the gap between theory and practice. Research projects occupy a prominent place in the curriculum. Conducted tours to leading institutions in the field of science and Information Technology and the corporate sector each year help students to keep abreast of the latest advancements in science and technology. IT personnel frequently deliver lectures to scholars enrolled in Computer Science and allied disciplines.

For students who have passed Plus 2, there is a whole range of two-year diploma courses. The Christian Medical College, Vellore, maintains goods standards in paramedical courses, Dr. Susila Mariappan says. These are in leprosy treatment, physiotechnology, radiation technology, optometry, neurophysiology, respiratory therapy, audiology and speech therapy, dialysis therapy, dietectics, ECG technology, mental retardation, and medical virology. "There is a lot of demand in the United Kingdom for students passing these courses, and also for medical technicians," she says. Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute, a deemed university near Chennai, offers M.Sc. in Nursing, M.Sc. in Human Genetics, M.Phil. in Clinical Psychology and B.Sc. in Allied Health Sciences.

The University Students' Advisory Bureau holds an annual exhibition, Informex, on the various courses available in colleges and university departments in Tamil Nadu in order to enable students to plan their studies and chart their career. In short, it is an exhibition on career guidance. About 60 institutions took part in the Informex 2004, held from April 21 to May 2, and about one lakh students, including students from interior Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, visited it.

Engineering colleges and institutions such as the National Institute of Fashion Technology, the Central Leather Research Institute, the Central Footwear Training Institute and the Small Industries Services Institute, belonging to both the Central and the State governments, had put up their stalls. The State government was represented by the Directorate of Employment and Training, the Social Welfare Board and the Women' Development Corporation. These agencies provided information on how to mobilise money, how to start an industry, how to market products and so on.

Dr. Sushila Mariappan has compiled an exhaustive reference book, Academic Profile of Tamil Nadu. It contains information on all the universities in Tamil Nadu, the colleges affiliated to them, the myriad courses they offer, the scholarships available to students, the competitive examinations conducted by various agencies, and career options. The book is updated when new courses are introduced. "The book has been brought out to make students aware that plenty of avenues are open for them and that they are the creators of their destiny," she says.

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