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Driven to excel

HT Horizons spotlights ‘universities with potential for excellence’ and finds out what the tag entails

education Updated: Apr 27, 2011 09:29 IST

They are a league of institutions with extra monetary support to realise their potential. The University Grants Commission has given them the title of Universities with Potential for Excellence (UPE), which means a windfall of crores of rupees for them. The UPE funding — over and above their pocket money — allows beneficiaries to upgrade infrastructure, go shopping for equipment and aids, and kick off more research projects, among other activities. While universities spend part of the money on one or a few thrust areas of research, they also use it for their ‘holistic’ development. Let’s find out more about them.

NEHU, Shillong www.nehu.ac.in
Set up in 1973 in Shillong, the relatively young North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU) bagged the UPE title in the second batch. Granted till March 2012, this is up for review this year.

Thrust areas under the UPE scheme: Area studies (including language, cultural and anthropological work in north-east India), biosciences, biotechnology and medicinal plants

The leg-up: With the R5crore per annum it has been receiving under the scheme since 2006-07, NEHU has equipped classrooms with audio-visual aids, subscribed to 5000 e-journals, bought research equipment, and ensured stable and regular power supply, says AN Rai, vice chancellor. Also, a data-voice network (Wi-Fi connectivity plus the fibre-optic set-up) covers the campus.

University of Hyderabad www.uohyd.ernet.in
The University of Hyderabad added the UPE feather to its cap in 2002 (2002 - 2007). Like certain others, the university is expecting recognition again. “A UGC committee is likely to visit us soon to consider renewal for the second phase,” says V Kannan, VC. The university now hopes to become a “university of excellence”.

Thrust areas: Interfacial studies and research

The leg-up: The UGC gave R30 crore for thrust areas and holistic development of the university in UPE phase 1. “The first phase was launched with an accent on the UGC’s concerns about the large-scale challenges to research and higher education on account of globalisation, brain drain and a host of others,” says Kannan. “The result is, the University of Hyderabad (UoH) is now ranked first (based on Scopus data) among the best universities of India and the role of the UPE programme has been a major catalyst in this process. A rise in peer-reviewed publications; international citations and high visibility of faculty in the academic world have all contributed to the placing of UoH in the first rank,” says Kannan. Scopus, an international body, provides an abstracts and citations database of peer-reviewed literature and web sources.

MKU www.mkuniversity.org
Madurai Kamaraj University (MKU) got the UPE label for 2007 to 2012. It now aims to become a ‘university with excellence’, says R Karpaga Kumaravel, who completed his three-year term as MKU VC on April 19.

Thrust areas: Nanoscience and nanotechnology

The leg-up: The university has received R25 crore till March this year. With the funding, it has started many research projects in its focus and other areas, appointed more teachers, and expanded the infrastructure and provided modern facilities to students. “We got a science block built at a cost R4.5 crore. It has a science instrumentation centre, students’ cyber café, seminar room, and a modern communication centre,” says Kumaravel. It boasts a two-way audio-video conferencing provision and smart classrooms with interactive white boards.

University of Calcutta www.caluniv.ac.in
The University of Calcutta is in the second batch of institutions given the UPE tag.

Thrust area: Modern biology

The leg-up: “We have developed infrastructure in accordance with UPE guidelines,” says Suranjan Das, VC. “We are also developing research programmes. Under the holistic development guideline, a number of research projects in social sciences, humanities and library sciences have been taken up.” For access and equity, it set up a Braille section in the central library and built disabled-friendly toilets and ramps.

The funding — R30 crore released over five years — has enabled the university to hand out travel grants to teachers as well as MPhil students, says Das. The university now proposes to start projects linking science and social sciences, he adds.

University of Madras www.unom.ac.in
The University of Madras, part of the maiden cohort, got the UPE stamp in 2003-2004.

Thrust area: Herbal sciences

The leg-up:
One-third of the sanctioned R30 crore was for the thrust area and two-thirds for holistic development. Under the UPE programme, the university has built about half-a-dozen buildings, including two hostels for women students. It has modernised the libraries in all its four campuses, provided internet connections in each library, and developed four language labs. It also offers coaching for UGC-Council of Scientific and Industrial Research National Eligibility Test.

Jadavpur University www.jadavpur.edu
Part of the first batch of UPEs, Kolkata’s Jadavpur University is expecting renewal of the UPE status by May.

Thrust areas: Mobile computing and nanoscience. If and when the UPE recognition is renewed, the university would like to include cognitive science and other areas to the portfolio for enhancement, says Pradip Narayan Ghosh, vice chancellor.

The leg-up: In this first phase, the university received R30 crore which were used for research and infrastructure development, such as in establishing new labs.

JawaharLal Nehru University www.jnu.ac.in
Part of the debut batch, Jawaharlal Nehru University is Delhi’s sole entry in the UPE league.

Thrust areas: Genomics, genetics and biotechnology (the funding was distributed to social science projects, too)

The leg-up: JNU received R30 crore over a five-year period. This brought computers for all faculty members, a campus-wide LAN “which considerably increased internet speed”, and new lab resources, says Rajendra Prasad, professor, school of life sciences (then the rector of JNU). It now needs National Assessment and Accreditation Council accreditation for UPE phase 2.

University of Mumbai www.mu.ac.in
The University of Mumbai, which is in the second lot of UPEs, got the status in 2009.

Thrust area: Green technology

The leg-up: The university has received R10 crore as UPE money, so far. From that amount, it’s soon going to build a Centre for Green Technology and an international hostel for students. All 14 centres in the university have started various projects aimed at enhancing their capabilities, the authorities have appointed research fellows, and ordered various kinds of equipment, says AK Srivastava, coordinator, UPE programme, University of Mumbai.

The purse for science
Here’s a list of 14 ‘performing’ universities receiving financial support under Department of Science and Technology’s PURSE programme, based on their research output, in 2009-2010.

Category A
. University of Delhi, H-index* (1998-2008): 56
. University of Hyderabad, 54
. University of Punjab, 50

Category B
. University of Pune, 44
. Jadavpur, 43
. Banaras Hindu University, 42

Category C
. University of Madras, 37
. University of Mumbai, 37
. JNU, 33
. Anna University, 33
. Karnataka University, 30
. Aligarh Muslim University, 30

Category D
. University of Rajasthan, 27
. Andhra University, 26

Some of the new universities identified for the PURSE in ‘10-’11:

Category B
. University of Calcutta, Kolkata, H-index: 42
. Annamalai University, Annamalainagar, 41

Category C
. Bharathidasan University, Trichi, 37
. Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, 37
. University of Burdwan, 36
. Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, 36
. Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, 35

What’s in the ‘purse’
. A category A university gets R10 crore per year for 3 years
. A category B university gets R5 crore per year for 3 years
. A category C university gets R3 crore per year for 3 years
. A category D university gets R2 crore per year for 3 years

The H-index is meant to measure a researcher’s scientific productivity and apparent scientific impact. It is based on a set of the researcher’s most-cited papers and the number of citation s/he has in other’s publications.