Engineering institutions are resisting an AICTE move that has mandated the subsciptions 

A move by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to make the annual subscription of national and international e-journals mandatory has not gone down well with engineering colleges here.

Most college officials say subscribing to international journals is not only expensive, but is also of not much use, as they do not have residential facilities for students to avail of libraries for long hours.

Since last year, AICTE has insisted that colleges subscribe to journals. This year though, the subscription has been made part of the council’s approval process for new colleges, as well as its renewal of approval process for existing ones.

Sources at the council say only 23 of the nearly 450 engineering institutions in the State subscribe to international journals.

“In residential institutions, students come to the library often, mostly after college hours. So, it is a good idea to subscribe to such journals for their use. However, in most colleges here, students and faculty have hardly any time to read huge journals because they all go back home after college,” said a principal of a private college on Old Mahabalipuram Road.

“Many colleges here have a sanctioned strength but many seats are empty. With financial constraints already burdening us, it is difficult for us to pay for these journals. We have barely managed to get first year books into the library,” said V. Aramugham, principal of a college in Erode.

Senior professors however believe, subscribing to journals will increase the research productivity of institutions. “More than students, it will help faculty members to become updated with global trends and also help in their PhD work. Also, a culture of students publishing their papers in journals can be set only if students are encouraged to read journals,” said R. Andavan, an associate professor of physics in a private city college.

According to AICTE guidelines, an expert committee will verify the actual availability of equipment, computers, software, internet, printers, books and subscription of national and international e-journals in engineering colleges during the approval process. Mere presentation of purchase orders or payment records for subscriptions will not be considered. The council, according to its handbook for 2013-14, will play a regulator and will be further geared up to weed out institutions not fulfilling norms and standards laid out by it.

In Tamil Nadu, engineering institutions such as SRM University, VIT University and Sastra University subscribe to journals through various consortiums, and their annual expense, according to sources, goes beyond Rs. 1 crore.

“For institutions, paying Rs 30-40 lakh annually for journals is not a big expense. But not many technical colleges take library facilities seriously. The focus is more on increasing the number of curriculum books,” said R. Balasubramanian, former professor, Anna University.

AICTE has also warned of action against those failing to meet requirements. But colleges here are not very worried. Last year, many State engineering colleges led by the Association of Management of Coimbatore Anna University-affiliated Colleges took the matter to court which restrained the council from taking any coercive action against any institution for not subscribing to e-journals.

The online journal database, through a consortium drives down prices which are otherwise painfully high, explained S. Vaidhyasubramaniam, dean, (planning and development), Sastra University. But there should be a reasonable customisation for institution types, he said.

“The AICTE is offering an entire set of journals through a consortium which will cost us only 10 per cent of the actual costs. But right now, they are offering an entire suite of journals which might not be useful to us. For instance what will colleges without biotechnology do with journals in life sciences?” he asked.

“If they give us packages we can choose from with the right prices, many colleges would appreciate it,” said the director of another college.

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