Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: For correspondence students of the University of Madras, the days of paying several thousand rupees for a pile of heavy textbooks are over. Instead, they can now access all their study materials for the year on a slim CD and thumb drive with a price tag of Rs.500.

“It is a great saving for the student and an even greater saving for the university…We expect to make a higher profit now,” said Vice-Chancellor S. Ramachandran, displaying the soft copy packages that have been prepared for the first-year MBA programme of the Institute of Distance Education (IDE). “Also think of the savings for the environment when we move to a paperless programme.”

Apart from the MBA programme, the MCA course materials are also ready, and will be available at all study centres within ten days. The BBA and BCA course materials are currently being produced, and by December, soft copies will be available for all courses, said Dr. Ramachandran, claiming that this was a first for any Indian university. While both hard and soft copy options would be available this year, from the next academic year, the university hoped to phase out paper textbooks completely, except in remote rural study centres where computer access could be difficult for students.

IDE students will also have a digital option to pay their fees from this month onwards, as the University has joined hands with State Bank of India and Indian Bank. Tuition and examination fees can now be paid at the ATMs of these banks anywhere in the country.

New certificate programmes to be offered by the IDE this year also reflect the digital wave– 3-month courses are being launched in blogging and web design. Other courses include television news reading and compering, pre-primary education and NGO management. All these were all approved by the Syndicate on Wednesday.

Research fellowships

As part of the Anna centenary celebrations, the university has established a Rs.2.5-crore endowment for research fellowships.

This will benefit 40 Ph.D scholars every year, who have not received any other fellowship. Each will get a stipend of Rs.4,000 per month for three years. The fellowships have been divided into four sets of ten each: the Tiruvalluvar fellowship for languages, Periyar fellowships for the arts, Anna fellowships for social sciences and Dr. Kalaignar fellowships for the sciences.

The university has also established the Anna Chair in the Centre for Dravidian Studies as part of the celebrations.

Three affiliated colleges have been granted the status of research centres. The Biotechnology departments in both Women’s Christian College and Mohammed Sathak College, as well as the Nutrition, Food Services Management and Dietetics department at Ethiraj College have been granted the right to take on M.Phil and later Ph.D students.

The university has hiked the monthly salary for teaching research fellows from Rs.4,000 to Rs.10,000, while guest lecturers have been given a pay hike from Rs.6,000 to Rs.15,000 per month.

The university has received a grant of Rs.6.5 lakh from the Canadian government to conduct an international seminar on climate change and environmental sustainability in October, to be coordinated by the English department.