State’s oldest engineering college is poorly managed

Set up in 1917 by the legendary Sir M. Visvesvaraya, the University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering (UVCE) was the fifth engineering college in the country, and first in the erstwhile Mysore State. But, today, as it approaches its centenary year, this institution, which has created some of our best engineers, is a monument of neglect.

A common joke among students — often said with exasperation, even anger — is that time has stood still on the campus since the time of Sir Visvesvaraya. A visit to the campus, the poorly maintained buildings and the appalling hostel facilities, backed by students’ accounts, confirm that not enough attention has been paid to this constituent college of Bangalore University. With 4,000 students enrolled in seven undergraduate and 24 postgraduate courses, this college accounts for two-thirds of the students enrolled in the university.

In a shambles

Students across departments told The Hindu that infrastructure is crumbling, classrooms stuffy and damp, and the roof leaky. Many said that they were shocked to see its state when they first joined, considering the institution draws top talent from the State every year. Being the oldest and most centrally located government college, and, significantly, among the few affordable options for a technical education in what is a private sector-dominated ecosystem, top-ranking students join the college every year.

“And when we come here we find that there are no facilities. It is unbelievable how little attention is paid to such a big and reputed college,” fumed a fifth semester, electronics and communication engineering student. They all grin and bear it because of the 100 per cent placements. But, as his friend pointed out, this had more to do with the fact that the students are some of the best brains, and little to do with the training offered here.

Ill-maintained

Students complained that laboratory equipment leaves much to be desired, and that in many older laboratories the machines are “faulty and ill-maintained”. As far as faculty goes, many complained that they are being taught for the most part by M. Tech. students. Out of 175 sanctioned posts, only 100 are filled, sources said. A third semester student said that seniors had warned them that most of their course would be self-study.

The toilets, students complain, are worse than public facilities and poorly maintained. The situation is similar at the college hostel, where the building is crumbling and many rooms are simply uninhabitable. In several rooms, six or even eight students are crammed in space meant for four.

Bureaucratic issues

The state of affairs can be blamed on red tape. All development work has been on the backburner as administrators have been toying with ideas that are mostly bureaucratic decisions: from shifting UVCE’s campus to bringing it under the Visvesvaraya Technological University.

For decades, a kind of stagnation has afflicted the campus, concedes UVCE principal K.R. Venugopal, himself an alumnus. UVCE subsists on “minimal funds”, and the entire Rs. 6 crore it earns from students’ fees is handed over to Bangalore University.

He alleges that over the decades, fund allocations to UVCE have been “nearly zero”. The technical laboratories, as he points out, saw some much-needed upgrading owing to World Bank funding.

“How can I fix things without any money?” asked Prof. Venugopal, pointing to a stack of proposals he has sent to Bangalore University seeking funds and planned financial assistance. The proposals include a classroom block, a hostel for 1,500 students (the boys’ hostel houses 350 students) and an infrastructure overhaul of the old buildings.