Sri Lankan Tamil refugee students will henceforth have the opportunity to pursue courses offered by the University of Madras free of cost, according to vice-chancellor G. Thiruvasagam.

Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, he said that several students eligible to pursue collegiate education were scattered across different camps and the initiative was aimed at encouraging them to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate programmes through the distance mode, from where they stay. From the next academic year, affiliated colleges would also reserve a few seats for such students to pursue higher education free of cost, he added.

Sharing the decisions taken at the Syndicate meeting held on Friday, Prof. Thiruvasagam said the University would follow reservation for Ph.D admissions, in the regular as well as part-time programmes. “We are one of the first universities in India to take this decision.”

The University has also constituted a core committee to look into the issue of delay in declaration of examination results. The committee, comprising college principals, representatives of teacher associations and University officials, will draw schedules for examinations, evaluation and declaration of results.

“We have enhanced our manpower, updated our technical tools and also made the decision-making process for the same more participative, including our faculty.” The University has decided to keep colleges closed between December 21 and January 6, 2010, in order to facilitate an uninterrupted evaluation process. “Teachers can concentrate just on correction work.”

Prof. Thiruvasagam said the results for the regular undergraduate and postgraduate examinations would be out on February 7, 2010, and the marking sheets would be made available within 10 days of publication of results. Similarly, the results of the undergraduate and postgraduate examinations taken by students of distance education will be out March 30.

The University has also decided to make its academic programmes more application-oriented. “Hereafter, 60 per cent of the question paper will test students’ theoretical knowledge, and 40 per cent will test the student’s ability to apply concepts practically.”

Among other things discussed at the Syndicate meeting was the convocation being planned sometime during the first two weeks of January 2010, for which the University has invited Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal. “We are yet to receive his confirmation,” he said.

Students with disability could produce a letter and obtain permission to use scientific calculators in examinations. “If a student’s nature of disability warrants it, we will certainly permit it.”

From next year, affiliated colleges will also reserve seats for them