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‘St Stephen's is a national treasure’

Dr Valson Thampu, principal, St Stephen’s, tells Vimal Chander Joshi that there is complete fairness in the admission process

education Updated: Feb 17, 2010 09:12 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Do you have any expansion plans for the academic session 2010-11?
We are not looking at any expansion this year. Instead of growing in numbers, the college should improve quality of education. We might be running a limited number of courses but they are run in the best way possible.

How has this college maintained its high standards despite admitting the majority of the students for their extra- and co-curricular achievements?
It’s a misconception that majority of students are admitted as per the extracurricular activities (ECA) quota. There is no ECA quota here. Only 5 per cent get admission in the sports quota, that too over and above the permitted number of 410 every year.

What about the non-meritorious Christian students?
The admission of 50 per cent of Christian admissions takes place as it is a minority institution and there is nothing illegal in that. (But) there is an obligation on part of a minority institution. St Stephen’s is a national treasure and we have a commitment of excellence. We must ensure that academic standards don’t go down. If it happens, the interests of society, both minority and majority, would suffer.

(It is unfortunate that) the merit gap in science programmes, especially in chemistry and physics between Christian and non-Christian students is quite wide — around 20 and 25 per cent. It should be urgently addressed. I even recommended (my suggestion is to correct this) to the supreme council, which is responsible for the admissions. In humanities, the merit gap is negligible and it doesn’t pose any danger to quality. But in science programmes, it does.

Do you feel saddened by the fact that you get repeatedly involved in controversies?
(My repeated involvement in) controversies doesn’t sadden me at all. It reaffirms and reassures my faith in the ultimate fairness of the system.
If you raise serious issues, you will certainly get into controversies. I meet students and even parents who tell me that they had a profound learning experience in the past two years here. I have a commitment to a transparent and fair admission system. If it displeases some, so be it.