Mumbai News: Varsity Turn For VJTI

Mumbai News: Varsity Turn For VJTI

The authorities at VJTI believe that the varsity tag will accord greater independence, visibility and better funding to the premier institute.

Musab QaziUpdated: Tuesday, January 09, 2024, 10:43 PM IST
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VJTI |

Mumbai: The Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI), one of the oldest engineering colleges in India, is looking to become a university. Recently, Sir JJ School of Art, another iconic education institute, was granted the status of a deemed-to-be university.

Currently, VJTI is exploring which university system would best serve the interests of its students. A committee of faculty members has been tasked with preparing a formal proposal, multiple sources from the college confirmed. If and when the plan materialises, it will become the second technical institution in the city, and third in the state, to be converted into a varsity.

A member of the drafting panel said, “It has more or less been decided to turn university, but the discussion on what form of university is applicable to us – deemed or state – is still in discussion. Once it’s finalised, a proposal will be framed and submitted to the government.” The drafting panel has representation from all departments of the institute.

VJTI: Background and history

Established in 1887 as Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute, the state-owned and funded college offers diploma, degree and postgraduate programmes across 12 engineering streams. While the institute is affiliated to the University of Mumbai (MU), it was granted academic and administrative autonomy in 2004 and is now managed by a board of governors (BoG).

According to VJTI faculty members, the idea to turn varsity gathered pace after the appointment of its current BoG under the chairmanship of engineer-businessman Anand Deshpande over a year ago and the subsequent selection of Sachin Kore as the Director of the institute. The proposal drafting panel came into being a few months ago.

The authorities at VJTI believe that the varsity tag will accord greater independence, visibility and better funding to the premier institute. “The government may release some funds to improve our infrastructure and facilities. As of now, we mostly get students from Maharashtra. If we become a university, we will have a more inclusive student body and even tie-up with foreign universities,” said a head of the department.

Maharashtra is increasingly pushing for the creation of smaller universities to ease the burden on its 13 public varsities and effectively implement a flexible curriculum envisaged under the National Education Policy (NEP). Last month, the government issued norms for creation of ‘cluster’ universities by combining two to five colleges run by a single management in a particular district. In the last decade, it has permitted setting up of three cluster universities as well as 27 private or self-financed universities. In October last year, the Union Ministry of Education approved merging the Sir JJ School of Art and its two sister institutes into a deemed university under the ‘de novo’ category.

Deemed or state?

For its transformation, VJTI is primarily considering two models followed by its forerunners – ICT’s deemed university and COEP’s state university. The former is perceived to grant more autonomy as the institute would no longer be regulated by the state, though it could still get its funding.

However, the institute faces a unique challenge not encountered by the two varsities: it needs to find a way to accommodate its polytechnic section that runs diploma engineering programmes. The university system ordinarily doesn’t include diplomas that are offered after Class 10.

“As we offer both degree and diploma courses, we are studying the changes that we need to make to become a university. There are a few examples of some universities in the North-East being permitted to offer diplomas, but it was a special provision for the region,” said the drafting committee member, adding, “Diploma courses won’t be left out from the new formation under any circumstances.”

Faculty members become skeptical over the notion of varsity

However, some faculty members are skeptical about the promised benefits of becoming a university. “One of the reasons for becoming a university could be peer pressure following the conversion of ICT and COEP. As a varsity, one could claim some brownie points, but it won’t have any impact on the ground reality. Being an autonomous institute, we already have the freedom to prepare our own curriculum. We are already attracting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds,” said a teacher at VJTI.

The faculty member added that the move appears to be more of a manoeuvre by the state to limit its expenditure on education. “If a requirement for additional resources arises, the government can wash its hands of it. The state wants its control without the financial liability,” he said.

Another teacher complained that deliberations are being led by relatively inexperienced faculty. “It looks like the authorities don’t want any contrary opinion on the topic,” he said.

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