Kolkata’s Jadavpur University has missed the bus. For a centre of excellence, this is unfortunate to say the least. The HRD ministry at the Centre has reportedly accorded short shrift to the University Grants Commission’s recommendation that the institution be accorded the status of an Institution of Eminence (IoE). Had it attained fruition ~ and there is no academic factor that can go against JU ~ it would almost certainly have been greeted as a cherry-on-cheese award. Sad to reflect, the proposal has hit the reefs over matters fiscal.
The campus circuit would hate to imagine that the impediment is yet another manifestation of a Centre- State tussle and entitlements within a federal architecture. Ergo, such suspicions are bound to arise after Thursday’s award of the IoE embroidery to as many as five central institutions ~ IIT Madras, Benaras Hindu University, IIT Kharagpur, Delhi University, and the University of Hyderabad. Each of these campuses will be the beneficiaries of pumppriming ~ Rs 1,000 crore for expansion and improvement. At another remove, two state universities, Jadavpur in West Bengal and Anna University in Tamil Nadu have been asked to spell out their financial commitment to the coveted scheme. Both had been selected by the Empowered Committee, and yet the state governments have been asked to make the fiscal position clear.
Given its parlous finances, a positive response from the Bengal government to UGC cannot be expected any time soon. In real terms, Jadavpur University runs the risk of missing the Eminence tag by Rs 2,000 crore. Of course, it is reportedly committed to spend Rs 3,000 crore, but the HRD ministry wants the West Bengal government to replenish its commitment by Rs 2,000 crore. The state is yet to respond not the least because of its stuttering economy. In this calibration in search of Eminence, the Centre’s commitment of Rs 1,000 crore is the constant.
For all its periodic turmoil, JU’s claim to excellence is indubitable. It will be deeply unfortunate if money matters impede the university’s journey. Logically, campus pusuits and achievements are no less an important criterion than a university’s capacity to spend. Going by the terms of engagement, the UGC rules do not stipulate that the state will have to make a commitment on funds. Is there a difference in perception between the UGC and the HRD ministry? Indeed, the disconnect has made the campus authorities wonder why the central government has now introduced a fresh condition.
No one disputes that Jadavpur University is a state institution, with the bulk of the funds being provided by the state government. But the state’s fiscal commitment ought long ago to have been settled, at any rate before the five central institutions were “decorated”. On closer reflection and at the end of the day, the additional Rs 2,000-crore expenditure is worthwhile as Jadavpur University is richly in a position to graduate from Excellence to Eminence.