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Prepare for entrance exam, students told

K. Ramachandran

University authorities say Dr. Viswanathan's advice has a legal basis; concern over spread of coaching agencies The Centre has to take an early decision regarding next year's admissions and pass the Private Professional Colleges Bill soon to help millions of engineering and medical aspirants countrywide

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    CHENNAI: An interaction with Anna University Vice-Chancellor D. Viswanathan on a private television channel on Wednesday had an interesting interlude. Some questioners asked him whether the Tamil Nadu Professional Entrance Examinations (TNPCEE) would be held in 2006 and sought possible dates.

    Dr. Viswanathan replied that students should prepare for TNPCEE 2006 regardless of policy decisions or dates of the examination. This in effect has rekindled interest in entrance examinations, a subject argued upon and litigated this year.

    University authorities say Dr. Viswanathan's reply has a legal basis: the AICTE and the Medical Council of India Acts state that wherever aspirants to professional courses come from more than one examination board, then entrance test is mandatory. The High Court and Supreme Court too, while dealing with the litigations earlier this year, had pointed this out and reversed the State Government's decision to scrap the TNPCEE.

    University officials say preparing for the TNPCEE would help the students because they will be the first batch to take on the new, upgraded syllabus of standard XII Board next year.

    Last month, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had, in the Assembly, pointed to the legal status of entrance tests and sought a clear policy direction from the Centre for the coming year.

    While legally, the private institutions may argue that the State has little role in grant of approval, the State's contention is that the statutory bodies continue to grant approvals for institutions or change the intake even as late as August or September, upsetting the time table set by the university or the State authorities.

    Recently, the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development circulated a Bill to regulate admissions and fee structure in private professional colleges. Its provisions say that unaided minority colleges could reserve for themselves "not less than 50 per cent" of the sanctioned intake under management quota and the unaided non-minority institutions the management quota could be up to a maximum of 50 per cent seats.

    The other seats go to "general category" to be filled in as prescribed by the State's appropriate authority (the affiliating university or the State Government).

    According to the Bill, the private colleges should make admissions to the general category on the basis of one or more qualifying examinations notified by the "appropriate authority" or its designated agency.

    While in the present circumstances, an entrance test for the general category seats look inevitable, the State Government's concern over the spread of coaching agencies can also be addressed by one solution, say academics. A former Director in Anna University, P.V. Navaneethakrishnan, says the State should hold the TNPCEE just days after the Plus-Two examinations end, thus addressing the concern. The question paper format alone needs to be different from that of the Plus-Two subjects, so as to test the students' ability to enrol in a professional course.

    Trainers note that the all India examining agencies have announced the dates of national level entrance tests for professional education institutions. If the Centre is able to pass the legislation in time, the State can set its agenda for the coming year. The Tamil Nadu general elections are slated around April-May 2006 and an early decision would help the students, educationists say.

    But for the present: aspirants to professional courses need to prepare for the TNPCEE.

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