What’s in a name?

Anna University has earned a name for excellence in technical educationn.   | Photo Credit: M.Karunakaran

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet; but to pick out a rose you cannot be smelling thousands of flowers. Names do matter in quick identification.

‘Perarignar Anna University of Technology (PAUT)’ came into being in 1978 and was renamed ‘Anna University (AU)’ the next year, without much loss of time or change in reputation. Until 2001, AU was a unitary university, with only CEG, ACT, MIT and SAP as its constituent colleges. Subsequently, AU was recast as an affiliating university with about 500 colleges under its fold. Naturally, without adequate manpower, resources and experience, AU had to divert its talent pool from mostly teaching and research into administration. Tens of directors, chairmen and coordinators were created to handle the affiliated institutions. Again, citing administrative reasons, AU was split into five universities located at Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchi and Tirunelveli. A little later, the five universities were merged into one under the name AU.

Despite all these changes, AU steered itself fairly quickly into clear waters and earned a name in the annals of technical education. Until recently, AU was known for its entrance exams and admission procedure in Tamil Nadu.

But now the picture is different. The Tamil Nadu Professional Courses Entrance Exams (TNPCEE), originally designed by Dr. V.C. Kulandaisamy, has been abolished and the operation of Single Window Engineering Admission System designed by Dr. M. Anandakrishnan has been entrusted to the Directorate of Technical Education (DoTE). AU has thus lost a little of its lustre.


Now comes the news of splitting AU into two: the original unitary AU, with the name ATRU (Anna Technological and Research University), and the university comprising the rest of the engineering colleges, with the name AU.

The split is welcome. A major reason is that the ‘unitary AU’ would then be better qualified for the award of ‘Institution of Excellence’. It will be able to contribute better in research, with reduced administrative burden. But changing its name to anything else is totally unjustified. During its 40 years of existence, it has earned a worldwide reputation as a technical university of high acclaim, which will be lost. The alumni will be aggrieved since their alma mater loses recognition. If names (and symbols) are not important, why then do political parties fight over party names, party flags and election symbols?

Giving the same name to another university is even worse, since it will create wrong inferences. It is simply robbing one university of its hard-earned reputation and ascribing it to another. In research output, for example, all the affiliated colleges have so far produced only about 23% of what the ‘existing’ AU has produced. These credits might be swapped due to the name changes proposed. This is akin to plagiarism, violation of intellectual property rights, copyrights, trademark and patent piracy. This will be an injustice done to our institution by our government. Rectification is required.

The writer is former Professor and Head, Entrance Exams and Admission, Anna University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 3:45:22 PM |

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