The restoration of Anna University’s status as an affiliating university and merging of the regional Anna Universities of Technology (AUTs) with it are expected to bring back the name and quality associated with the premier institution. But the move has given rise to some apprehensions, too.

“There is no doubt that colleges and students will benefit . The University has a premier reputation and will definitely increase the value of the student’s degree,” says the principal of a self-financing college. The merger means that as many as 535 engineering colleges will come under the Anna University’s fold.

The government has argued that bringing all technical institutions under one umbrella would raise standards and provide for a common syllabus, and that the world famous university would regain its glory.

However, a key concern among the academic and student community is if would be possible for one institution to standardise the procedures in and quality of all colleges, and what would be the implications of the move for the conduct of examinations, evaluation, awarding of degrees and administration.

Some academics welcomed the move but said it would be difficult for one university to monitor so many institutions. “Maintaining quality and administration is a big challenge,” says a senior professor at AUT, Chennai.

“There is scope for shortfalls in administration,” says the principal of a self-financing college. He cites an example. “AUT, Coimbatore, uses Electronic Question Papers which are released to colleges on their websites half an hour before the exam, with a lock that can be opened . On the contrary, Anna University, Chennai, still sends a representative with sealed papers to the exam venue.”

There are other questions– “What if one exam gets postponed in one region because of heavy rains? Will the fact that some students’ mark sheets will be in the name of AUT and the degree certificates in the name of Anna University affect those wishing to pursue further studies overseas?” However, many principals of self-financing colleges maintain that it is too early to comment.

A senior professor who was involved with the decentralisation of the process described the move to merge universities as ‘disastrous’ because it would only create “carbon copies of students with no distinct capabilities or distinct perspectives.”

“Nowhere in the world will you find one university in charge of 500 colleges. The ideal solution would have been to divide the colleges and allot them to a university in a specific region. That could have provided us with graduates who have unique and varying capabilities.”

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