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January 06, 2008
New VC backs Cusat upgrade
Chronicle Editor @ Jan 06, 2008

http://www.hindu.com/2008/02/05/stories/2008020560940300.htm

New VC backs Cusat upgrade

Staff Reporter
Says everyone stands to gain with an IIEST

Says character of an institution need not change by a change in its name

“Cusat’s target should be excellence”

KOCHI: Gangan Prathap, new Vice-Chancellor of Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat), said here on Monday that “everyone stands to gain” from the proposed upgrade of the university into an Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST).

Mr. Prathap, formerly scientist in-charge of the Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in Bangalore, said the Anandakrishnan committee’s (which short-listed the IIESTs) proposed allocation of Rs. 80 crore to Rs. 100 crore would be greatly beneficial to Cusat.

A renowned scientist with an excellent academic and research track-record, Mr. Prathap said the character of an institution need not change just by a change in its name.

“I believe Cusat has a special character,” he said.

Pointing out that the best research came from the science departments even in Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Mr. Prathap said Cusat’s target should be excellence.

Objective

“Cusat has to take a decision whether it wants excellence or relevance,” he said referring to the ongoing debate on whether the institution should be upgraded.

“The policy (regarding the upgrade) is made by the political process. We are only the executives,” he said.

Huge funding

Noting that the IITs had benefited from the huge funding they received every year, Mr. Prathap said the annual budget of an IIT was in the range of Rs. 100 crore to Rs. 150 crore.

“On the other hand, the budget of a National Institute of Technology was between Rs. 20 crore and 30 crore. Cusat’s fund is only Rs. 22 crore,” he said.

Saying that the best students here would not go to the IITs, if Cusat got that kind of budget, Mr. Prathap said the institution was already one of the best to be brought into the higher level.

Step up research

Highlighting the need to step up research on the campus, Mr. Prathap said, “If you want to be a centre of excellence, it should need more research.”

He said the engineering faculty in most of the foreign universities did a lot of research, while here “it is more teaching.” “Teaching is being driven by good research. That is what IITs do,” he said.

Elaborating on the rapid educational progress being made by countries such as South Korea, Mr. Prathap said it had invested a lot in education.

“Seventy per cent of students there get a chance to go to a university, while it is only seven per cent in India,” he said. Mr. Prathap said that Finland, which had a population of five million, had 20 universities. “Going by that rate, Kerala should have 120 universities,” he said.

A researcher who bagged the S.S. Bhatnagar Prize in Science and Technology (1990), Mr. Prathap said the State did not have a tradition where industry was linked to universities. “It is not an easy issue to resolve. Most of the technology that we use here is absorbed from abroad,” he said.

A native of Kollam, Mr. Prathap had served as scientist at the National Aerospace Laboratories at Bangalore (1980-2000) before joining the CSIR centre.