Hubs of excellence
May 22, 2010
1 Banaras Hindu University
The Halls of Ivy
Chanting expansion mantra has catapulted the university to new heights.
Established in 1916, BHU was founded by social reformer and freedom fighter Madan Mohan Malviya who travelled extensively across the country to gather funds and donations to set up the university.
The fact that BHU offers several courses has turned out to be its USP. What has also worked in our favour is the fact that the campus still maintains the socio-cultural ethos of India.
-- D.P. Singh, vice-chancellor, BHU
In his endeavours, he was supported by social activist Annie Besant. Once the foundation of the university was laid, studying in BHU became a rage among the students. Such was the euphoria that at the time of third Parliament around 1962, as many as 137 MPs were BHU alumni. Mahatma Gandhi himself visited the university about 13 times and lived with the students and teachers to guide them on matters related to the freedom struggle and to emphasise on the importance of education. It is no surprise then that the university has produced a number of eminent politicians, scientists, bureaucrats and has churned out numerous success stories.
In fact, BHU's role in setting up the higher education network is often forgotten. BHU played an integral part in setting up the now internationally recognised Indian Institute of Technology. "We had already set up the technology and engineering institutes at a time when there were no such institutes in the country," says Professor B.N. Pandey, head of the media and public relations cell.
In 1918, BHU had its full-fledged engineering institute called the Institute of Technology (IT) with departments like glass technology, geophysics, and metallurgy. Many alumni of this college have been responsible for setting up the modern IITs. "You may highlight the IITs and other institutes, but the fact is that it was BHU that played a pivotal role in the creation of the today's IITs," says an IT professor, adding that almost all BHU students in IT get placed every year while the students of the medical, agriculture and science departments also get lucrative offers. Pandey says that at present BHU registers highest number of research papers and thesises in the country.
Science may seem like BHU's core strength but the humanities form an essential asset to the university. The frontrunner here is the Department of Musicology that has played a pioneering role in developing the theoretical aspect of the discipline. It has also given a number of musicians and instrumentalists to the country like eminent violinist N. Rajan.
Over the years, BHU has included a number of courses in its syllabi, from astrology and metallurgy to visual and performing arts. Spread across 3,000 acres of sprawling land, the BHU campus has more than 30,000 students and more than 2,000 faculty members. "What attracts the students from India and abroad is the variety of courses. I do not think there would be any other university in the country that offers 140 courses under one umbrella," says Vinod Singh, a BHU alumnus working with the All India Radio.
BHU has also come up with innovative ideas such as 'Earn While You Learn', a scheme that has become immensely popular among young people in the campus. The students are given Rs 50 per hour for working in important areas of social work that include working in hospitals. "A number of students who come from the economically poor background get substantial support, thanks to the scheme," says Dr Ashutosh Shukla of the BHU Medical College and Hospital.
The university was rated in the 'A' category by the National Assessment Accreditation Council. Many of its other departments too have received acclaim for the quality of education. For instance, the immunology and biological sciences department was ranked third, agricultural and biological sciences was ranked seventh, biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology was ranked eighth. A number of foreign students also seek admission in this prestigious university.
Its past achievements may be intimidating but expansion and innovation into the future has kept BHU on its feet. The Rajiv Gandhi South Campus of the BHU in Mirzapur, 80 km from Varanasi, offers 45 courses that aim at rural empowerment, and there are plans to expand it further. "We are planning to develop the second campus as a place where students can be guided and work towards rural development," says Pandey. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has allocated Rs 27 crore as grant for the Rajiv Gandhi South Campus.
Vice-Chancellor D.P. Singh has already raised the issue of expansion in front of the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Next in line is the plan to set up Institute of Environment and Sustainable Development with funding from the UGC at the South Campus. "The Prime Minister's Office has itself declared this university best in the top three," says Pandey. With such elaborate plans, the university is on its way to achieve new milestones.
by Subhash Mishra
View the 9-page PDF version of the article in print copy here:BHURanks-1.pdf
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Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University
Varanasi 221005, UP