Priscilla Jebaraj

Anna varsities to become research institutions

Plan to delink research from routine duties

CHENNAI: A proposal to create six technical affiliating universities in the State and convert all four Anna Universities into unitary research universities has been placed before the State Government.

Former Anna University Vice-Chancellor M. Anandakrishnan presented the proposal earlier this month at a meeting of Vice-Chancellors, convened by Education Minister K. Ponmudy. Dr. Anandakrishnan told The Hindu that the purpose was to delink the pursuit of high-powered research excellence from the duties of an affiliating university.

“The original concept of Anna University was to make it an outstanding technical institution, comparable in depth and breadth to premier institutions such as the IITs. That goal has been diluted after it became an affiliating institution. The sheer load of the affiliating colleges kept the faculty too busy,” said Dr. Anandakrishnan.

He pointed out that there had been a noticeable decline in the output of PhDs and postgraduates and national and international technical seminars.

The main goal was to bestow unitary status on Anna Universities in Chennai, Tiruchi, Coimbatore and Tirunelveli and elevate them to research universities. While the constituent college system would remain, they would no longer teach “run-of-the-mill” B.E. courses. Only five-year integrated M.Tech courses would be conducted, said Dr. Anandakrishnan. He said the focus should be on emerging, specialised or advanced technologies such as nanotechnology or pharma biotechnology.

Dr. Anandakrishnan emphasised that each university should develop a distinct research identity. For example, Anna University-Tirunelveli, with its proximity to the sea and to the Western Ghats, could undertake research in marine technology, ocean disaster prevention and plant biotechnology. Since Anna University-Coimbatore was strategically located in the mill industry, it could focus on fibre technology research. Anna University-Chennai could enhance its existing capabilities in automobile engineering and even space research.

With India aiming to increase the annual output of technical PhDs from the current 600 to about 2,000 in the next five-year plan period, “Anna University should grab this opportunity,” said Dr. Anandakrishnan. He was confident that resources would not be a problem. While the unitary Anna Universities would lose the revenue of affiliating and examination fees, Dr. Anandakrishnan felt that the State government would be willing to commit funding to produce quality research and education centres in the State. The Eleventh Five-Year Plan would provide large sums for research, which the State could access only if it had the framework of centres of excellence in research.

Meanwhile, six regional universities would be created, without the Anna University name, for the affiliation of other engineering colleges in the State. “They will not be universities in the classical sense…Rather, they will be examining universities,” he said. Their job would be to establish a curriculum framework, improve teaching methodologies, develop examination reforms, teacher training programmes and better laboratory practices.

More In: Today's Paper