Autonomy brings welcome changes

With an array of credit-based short courses on offer, autonomous colleges equip students to enter the industry obsessed with skills. Lasting a few weeks to months, these courses embellish the students’ curriculum vitae, giving it a professional outlook.

Prof V N Raghu, HoD, Business Management at Mount Carmel College (MCC), says: “Attending extra courses might be hectic for students, but certainly fruitful in terms of skill, education and personality.” Having 95-odd credit-based courses on offer, apart from an industry-ready syllabus, MCC tries to keep conventional arts and science courses alive.

Archana, an MCC student, says autonomy tag gives her an edge over others when it comes to placements. In its fifth year of autonomy, MCC claims that its students have received plum job offers due to its unique curriculum. The statistics show that over 60 firms have come for campus selection to MCC. While 50 per cent of students prefer taking a job after their degree, the other half go for research and advanced studies.

While getting jobs is easy, some educationists doubt whether growth of students’ potential is stunted by stopping them from going for higher studies. Dr Mythili P Rao, Principal of School of Graduate Studies, Jain College, says: “Courses that cannot be part of the curriculum are catered as value-added programmes.” Such programmes result from a strong academy-industry interface and thus promise jobs.

Dr Easwaran Iyer, Dean, Commerce, Jain University, told Deccan Herald that conventional syllabus was neither industry-acceptable nor flexible. Being auton­omous, Jain designs syllabi suitable for indu­stry. Many students go for pa­id internships while pursuing their degrees.

Students at St Joseph’s Arts and Science College, which offers a wide variety of combination courses, have no problems being placed. With software firms, banks, hospitality industry and newspapers recruiting every year, students say there is no dearth of opportunities.

The college bears testimony to heavy rush of students who wish to pursue Humanities. The notion that students who could not manage engineering or medical seats are the ones who settle for the low-profile courses is rubbished by Prof Clement D’Souza of the Students’ Welfare Department. “Even humanities includes subjects involving maths and statistics. Stu­dents know they can’t have market abil­ities unless they have quantitative abilities,” he says.

 “They can attempt many exams like the UPSC, bank exams and other state-level tests,” says Clement.

“There is no need to panic about the future. Placements and job prospects are given due importance,” says Catherine Albina, a second year BSc student. With compulsory internships and part-time jobs, industry exposure is ensured.

St Joseph’s College of Business Administration offers not just MBA, but also a many PGDM and PGCM programmes. Placement is not a matter of concern, since almost everyone in the previous batch is placed with various software, finance and consultation firms. Their syllabi include eight-week-long internships and part-time jobs that will give them a feel of the industry, says the Dean, Vidya Balasubramanyam. 

Maintaining autonomous colleges is a daunting task, as they have to design their own syllabi, question papers and announce results within a stipulated period of time.

Students of the colleges affiliated to Bangalore University (BU) have many setbacks compared to those studying in autonomous colleges.

“Our question papers have 30 per cent of multiple choice questions which the BU papers don’t have, and we give results in 20 days after exams which helps the students for placements,” says Shantha Sastry, Vice Principal, NMKRV.

Principal of National College, Prof Kodandarama Setty, says: “Since the time National College became autonomous, there has been more room for creativity as we had the option of implementing our own ideas.” He says: “We constantly update our syllabus and the teachers have great responsibilities which they are discharing well; we also have soft skill programmes which help our students.”

 At Jyoti Nivas College, students are required to take up at least two optional courses at the undergraduate level, which in the words of Prof Vijayalakshmi, HoD of Social Sciences, “add value to their studies and facilitate their skills”.

Christ University (CU) offers over a 100 certificate programmes at graduate level, ranging from brand management and cyber law to gardening and Indian cuisine. Ever since these institutions got autonomy, they have been trying out new approaches and ideas. “The stress is on innovation and experimentation,” Prof J J Kennedy, Associate Dean of Science and Social Science of CU says.

And this is exactly what these short-term courses do — letting students explore different avenues to find out what they are interested in.

“Courses teaching travel and tourism fetched employment to many, in various national and international companies,” says Anila Thomas, HoD, Travel and Tourism, CU. Though this course is not offered anymore, a similar course in tourism geography and ticketing will be offered shortly.

The CU Department of Computer Sciences offers a course in Networking Simulation, which became very popular due to its immediate employability. Anita J, pursuing BBM at Jyoti Nivas, says: “A combination of Tally and auditing courses will help my ultimate goal of becoming a chartered accountant.”

Anjana Satyanarayan, doing her biotechnology, wanted ‘knowledge beyond syllabus’. Having completed a short-term course in diagnostic biology and advanced biotechnology, she wants to venture into a course in anchoring next semester. 

The autonomy allows syllabi to be continuously revised and updated. “There is a need to broaden the knowledge base and subject perspectives,” asserts Prof Vijayalakshmi.

The list of add-on courses is endless. However, the question is whether colleges end up producing ‘jacks of all trades and masters of none’. While autonomy gives institutions a free hand to decide what students should learn, some educationists doubt if a false image is being created. Without committed teachers, autonomy won’t be effective. They could cut down the syllabus and still get high results. This affects the overall quality of future graduates.

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