JU fires first in quota 'war'

Jadavpur University has rejected a decision to have universities in Bengal fill at least 40 per cent of their postgraduate seats with students from other institutions even before the government could issue a circular.

The executive council of Jadavpur University last month resolved to persist with its policy of giving first preference to its graduates, more so because it will be starting an integrated three-plus-two programme in 2014-15 to bypass the proposed common entrance test for postgraduate admission.

The January 15 decision pre-empted a higher education department meeting last Tuesday and a notification that is due anytime soon.

Sources said education minister Bratya Basu summoned senior officials to his office and asked them to issue an order making it mandatory for universities to slash reservation of seats for "home students" ahead of the common admission test. "I don't think any university can bypass the order this time by citing a delay in receiving it," an official of the higher education department said.

Jadavpur University is apparently not the only institution opposed to any such stricture. "Presidency University is likely to go the JU way," a source said.

The government had issued a similar order in July 2012, presuming that the first common entrance test would be held this year. Jadavpur University did not comply, saying that its admission process was completed before the order arrived.

"Even partially restricting the quota for our own students will amount to compromising with academic standards. Although we don't run an integrated programme yet, we groom students with the idea of shaping them up over five years. Continuity will be hampered if students from outside are admitted midway," a university official said.

He also cited differences in the undergraduate curriculum of Jadavpur University and that of state universities for the insistence on "continuity".

"Ours is a unitary university following the semester system. Most state universities follow a curriculum different from ours. It won't be possible for students of these institutions to adapt to our programme if we admit them midway," said a member of the university's executive council.

The government claims it has no motive other than to make university education in Calcutta more accessible to students from the districts.

Few contest the argument that there should be a level playing field for all students, but the government's policy of imposing decisions has had all universities worried.

"We don't have enough seats to accommodate our own graduates, forcing many to study outside the state. The government should keep this in mind and try for a consensus among all universities," a CU professor said.

Calcutta University, which complied with the order last year, doesn't know what to tell its students this year if Jadavpur University sticks to its guns. "Last year, we faced resistance from the student unions but got away by arguing that the common admission test would start from this year anyway. But now that the test has been postponed to 2014, it would be difficult to convince them," a CU official said.

Gour Banga University too has questioned the feasibility of keeping at least 40 per cent of seats for students from outside. Vice-chancellor Achintya Biswas said if JU had opted out, Gour Banga wouldn't fall in line either.

"Pressure to bypass the order will come from the students if they learn about JU's stance. Then we will have to inform the higher education department of our inability to implement the order," he said.

Since the change of guard at Writers', universities have been at odds with the higher education department on several occasions.

In 2011, Jadavpur University and Bengal Engineering and Science University had chosen to keep engineering seats vacant rather than take in students without merit in deference to an order from the government.