Several colleges are scrapping government-aided courses such as philosophy and languages citing the money provided by the State to run the courses is insufficient.

A B.A. degree in psychology or philosophy may not be the best bet for a job, when so many B.Com and B. Tech graduates abound — this line of thinking has increasingly taken hold of students as they observe trends and choices made by seniors and friends.

But when colleges start following this logic and scrap traditional courses, it becomes a matter of concern. Three professors in Tiruchi went on an indefinite hunger strike last week, to protest the National College management’s decision to scrap post-graduate philosophy courses. The management had refused to admit applicants and removed the details of the course from its prospectus.

The Joint Council of College Teachers’ Associations condemned the move, which apparently, was due to lack of applicants. The M. A. Philosophy programme is completely State-supported, and the salaries of teachers are borne by the government. “It is not true that there are no applicants. There are nine students willing to take up the course,” says M. Ravichandran, a member of the Council and head, department of English, Dr. Ambedkar Govt. Arts College.

This is not a unique case — many colleges in the city are thinking along similar lines. College managements now feel there is no point in having government-aided courses when they can offer the same courses on a self-financing basis” says Dr. Ravichandran. “Several colleges began and finished admissions for self-financing courses before their government-aided courses, which is not permitted. Students are often misled into choosing only the paid courses where fees are over Rs. 40,000 while seats in lesser-known government-aided courses are not filled,” says Dr. Jaya Gandhi, secretary of the The All India Federation of University and College Teachers’ Association.

Affected courses include philosophy, psychology, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and history. “Minority language departments in certain colleges have disappeared because of this practice. Managements feel it is better to use the infrastructure for their self-financing ones,” says Prof. Ravichandran.

Dr. Gandhi points out that self-financing courses were only started to make use of college infrastructure that lay idle in the evening. “But they should not be developed at the cost of government-aided courses which offer the only route to higher education for students from economically weak backgrounds,” she said.

College managements, however say, the money obtained from the government is hardly sufficient to run government-aided courses, which is why many need to be restarted again with better facilities.

“For instance, we spend nearly Rs. 8,000 per semester on chemicals alone, while the government gives us just Rs. 2,000. There is no way we can maintain and run a chemistry department with that much,” says the principal of a government-aided college in the north Chennai.

Or, the managements will have to step in. “Our management has been giving salaries to teachers and investing in government-aided courses for the last few years. But not every management can be expected to take such a move,” says a professor from RMK Vivekananda College.

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