KOLKATA 2011 - Bright students quit Presi for lack of exposureEfforts are on to elevate brand Presidency to greater heights, but a silent exodus of students is pushing the university to the brink of an uncertain future. On one hand, a special committee is charting out plans to bring back the glorious Presidency days.
On the other, students who had taken admission to the university are moving out after getting admission in universities like Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University or even Jadavpur University.
"JNU has international exposure that Presi cannot be expected to have," said Sounak Ghosh, who has graduated with history and initially secured a berth at Presidency. But he chose to move out as his name appeared on the JNU list. Also, there is a view that the current hype around Presidency is a "part of an elaborate marketing strategy" and a symptom of our education-system "growing distinctly capitalized".
Post the furore about Presidency College attaining university-status, there has been a "relative increase in the volume of applicants" to the undergraduate programme, teachers said. "But the average standard of students has deteriorated," a teacher of the English department admits.
A professor of the geology department makes an interesting revelation. The dropout rate remains moderately high even in departments like Mathematics or Botany as students win admissions to "better" places. So seats fall vacant and students lower on the merit list are left to fill the vacancies.
A lot of scepticism among students regarding the final shape of the "infant university" is also making Presidency miss out on the best of students.
Moreover, politics on partisan lines has been a huge turn-off for students. The political colour on campus has turned out to be severely detrimental to the influx of students. Rony Patra, an English graduate, said, "Political parties should be removed from the campus."
Souparno Banerjee, this year's presumed topper from the University of Calcutta, is also not willing to take a "leap of faith" into Presidency. "The faculty at Presidency may not be experienced enough in comparison to teachers at CU, who're veterans in postgraduate teaching," he said.
While students say there are indeed teachers "to die for", some also rue the lack of professionalism and standard of excellence in some others. Part of this is due to the vacancies that exist in most departments, forcing teachers to teach papers they are not proficient in. Only a handful gets time to get involved in research. Classroom teaching and tutorials, the two pillars of Presidency's teaching-learning system, has been severely affected. "At times, I have to take 10 tutorial students under my wing while scientifically I can mentor a maximum of three!" explains a teacher of the Economics department.
One unanimous stand is to create a uniform plain of excellence so far as faculty goes. But many feel this is an impossible hope as the present cash-starved state government will not be able to make their 'lucrative' offers to prospective teachers. Political Science student Dipanjan Das feels that in order to make Presidency a centre of excellence, it should have been made a central university.
"Presi as a stand-alone centre of academic excellence is a utopian dream. The government must look to give the entire education-system of the state a major upheaval, instead of focusing solely on one institution. And only then can Presidency truly flourish," said a faculty member..He also believes that the primary, secondary and higher-secondary systems of education must improve considerably if the academic standard of the students has to imrpove. "The student catchment area must be fertile. Only then can an institution really grow." Presidencian Usri Basistha contends, "Students should behave more responsibly on campus. The government too should stick to its promises on Presidency as it has raised a lot of hope."