Important News: Tandon Committee Report on Deemed Universities

Important News: Tandon Committee Report on Deemed Universities – SASTRA’s clarification

This letter of request to the HRM is submitted despite SASTRA not being in the list of 44 blacklisted deemed universities. Well-wishers and other interested stakeholders of SASTRA University will appreciate this move of SASTRA as it has been denied the right scores by The Tandon Committee.


The Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development March 10, 2010

Government of India

Shastri Bhawan

New Delhi – 110 115


Dear Sir,

Greetings from SASTRA University!

This letter is in reference to the Tandon Committee report on Deemed Universities.  While we fully welcome & appreciate the actions of the Hon’ble Minister in streamlining the Deemed Universities, we have some serious concerns with regard to the assessment of SASTRA University by the  Tandon Committee.

Our concerns are in the following sections:

1.            With regard to the question “Whether all their present academic activities / programmes could have been carried out without being a deemed university; how the status of deemed university became a stimulus for better performance?” the committee has given us an “F” grade.  This is very suprising and shocking to us for the following reasons:

a.             SASTRA has a research internship programme which enables students to undergo internship for a semester at MIT–Harvad.  Under this programme, currently 10 final year (B. Tech.) students are at MIT–Harvard. This is part of the collaborative understanding between SASTRA University & Harvard-MIT Health Science & Technology Programme. Over 400 graduate students of science, medicine, engineering and management from all over the world take their training at HST. This year, 10 B.Tech. students from SASTRA University have been selected to undergo 5-month rigorous research internship in the areas of Biomedical Imaging, Biomedical Informatics & Integrative Biology and Regenerative and Functional Biomedical Technologies. Such an internship opportunity for one full semester is possible due to the innovative course structure of SASTRA University that can accommodate such forward looking curricular reforms.

b.            Besides the MIT–Harvard programme, the Semester Abroad Programme (SAP) of SASTRA University also provides a platform for students to complete one-full semester at foreign Universities. Some of the foreign universities that host SASTRA students are:

·        University of Leicester, UK

·        Deakin University, Australia

·        Swiss-German University, Germany

·        NUS, Singapore

·        University of Windsor, Canada

·        Tokyo City University, Japan

·        Georgia Tech University and  University of Wisonsin, Madison, U.S.A.

The course-work completed in partner foreign institutions are awarded suitable credits as an integral part of SASTRA’s curriculum. This enhances student’s global mobility and makes Indian engineering education transcend national boundaries. SASTRA’s Desh-Videsh Fund provides monthly stipend of USD 200 and round-trip air-fare for selected students pursuing course work under the SAP.

c.             The Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) at SASTRA University gives the students an opportunity to select from a portfolio of courses which are designated under three different heads. Every student mandatorily has to register for the core courses (60%) and the remaining courses are offered as department electives (30%) and open electives (10%). The department electives provide choice to the students to pursue on specific areas of interest in the chosen engineering discipline. The open electives provide the interdisciplinary flavour with a view to provide an overall perspective to engineering study. Open elective course range from management courses like Finance for Engineers, Marketing Research to unique courses like Vedic Mathematics, Entrepreneurship, etc. The students also have the opportunity to finish their B.Tech course work in 3.5 years through an Accelerated Course Registration System (ACRS) resulting in the entire 8th semester for meaningful internship in premier research labs, Universities and companies in both India and abroad. These flexibilities have resulted in SASTRA being able to send the maximum number of students under the Indian Academy of Sciences (IAS) fellowships for the last 3 consecutive years and for other internship assignments in premier organsiations both inside and outside the country.

In the year 2004 Dr.Anandakrishnan headed an AICTE committee on revamping undergraduate engineering curriculum  and held a consultation workshop in IIT, Chennai. SASTRA University also participated in this and also discussed on Dr.Aatre committee’s recommendation of shortening course work period to 3 years and one-year internship.   SASTRA University introduced the CBCS and ACRS to ensure that bright students embark on long-term internships in reputed organisations and also complete courses of inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary nature. While this sytem is in practice for many years at SASTRA, many public universities are still grappling with the CBCS and less talked about ACRS.

d.            Though undergraduate programme in Biotechnology has been offered in various institutions in the country, it is very pertinent to note that many institutions including Anna Unviersity, Chennai have modelled theirs against SASTRA Biotechnology curriculum.  As a matter of fact, the School of Chemical & Biotechnology has been ranked No 1 in the country for the second consecutive year in the private category by an independent survey conducted by Biospectrum, India’s largest Biotechnology publication.

e.             SASTRA was the first to introduce a M. Tech. programme in “Medical Nanotechnology’ in the year 2005 and this programme is supported by the Nano Mission Council, Department of Science & Technology, New Delhi which also appreciated the innovative curriculum and course design.

f.              SASTRA University is also offering a unique collaborative M. Tech. programme in Nuclear Engineering jointly with Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkan, M/s L&T Heavy Engineering, Mumbai and the University of Windsor, Canada.  In this joint programme, the students complete the first semester at SASTRA, second & third semester at University of Winsdor and return for internship in the final semester either at IGCAR or M/s L&T, Mumbai.  This unique programme will augment the human resource requirement in the area of Nuclear Engineering especially at a time when India needs it the most. The studnets will also earn a M.Eng. degree from University of Windsor making this the first of its type intitiative in India.

g.             After becoming a Deemed University, SASTRA has introduced the integrated M. Sc. B. Ed. Programme in Mathematics and Computer Science along with M. Com. B. Ed. & M. A. B. Ed. with the sole of aim of providing quality teachers at the school level.  As teaching profession is being considered on par with medical, legal and engineering, the idea was to provide an opening from +2 level itself instead of choosing teaching profession as a last resort for the students who could not get admission in professional courses.  This innovative course was introduced to attract intelligent and bright students with an aptitute for teaching.  In fact, the UGC constituted a committee to examine the innovation in this programme in which Prof. M. Anandakrishnan was a member.  The committee acknowledged the innovation of the programme and approved the introduction of the integrated programmes.  Thus the integrated M. Sc. B. Ed., M. A. B. Ed. & M. Com. B. Ed. programmes were then added under section 22 of the UGC Act 1956. as approved nomenclature of degrees by the MHRD. SASTRA University conducted two workshops for framing the curriculum and spent nearly four years seeking approval from NCTE,UGC and MHRD.

h.             SASTRA’s innovative thinking led to the introduction of the MCA programme for employees of M/s Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) recruited under Project Ignite of TCS. Ignite recruits Science graduates for the mainstream software sevrices business. SASTRA has designed and is offering a customised MCA programme for all the Ignite Associates. This programme integrates workplace training and projects along with SASTRA’s course curriculum and levarages various ICT tools in its delivery and evaluation. This first of the type industry-instiute interaction is rated as the largest continuing education programme in India.  Similarly many innovative & collaborative programmes have been introduced with industry/government support:

§         M.Tech. in Bioinformatics, funded by DBT, Govt. of India

§         M.Tech in Advanced Manufacturing jointly with M/s Lucas-TVS

§         M.S. by Research jointly with M/s ECIL, Hyderabad

§         B.Tech in Mechatronics jointly with M/s Brakes India Ltd.

§         Introduction of TCS & Infosys training programme as 8th semester course-work for the B.Tech. students campus-recruited by these companies. This was suggested by SASTRA and well received by the comapnies and has reduced the training time for the companies.

Page 17 of the committee report states “Deemed Universities were expected to introduce new programmes in emerging areas with attendant innovations in quest for excellence…”.  It is very unfortunate that the Committee has missed out on the various innovative measures highlighted above and has mentioned that these could be achieved being a regular college in our regimental University affiliation system. SASTRA’s innovative initiatives would have been curtailed but for its University status.

In fact, when the Information Technology sector was gaining momentum in the country, I had written to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for approval to start a B.Tech. programme in Information Technology on 27.12.1989.  The matter was represented to AICTE by the State Government on 1.2.1990. AICTE wanted to know the difference between CSE and IT through their Advisor Prof. B. E. Sangameshwara, which was explained by us. Unfortunately, it took about 8 years for the babus at AICTE to realize the importance of Information Technology and the approval was granted only on 29.08.1997.  Subsequently every institution started the course and the country is benefitted by the Information Technology graduates.

Similarly, an attempt by SASTRA during the mid-90s to introduce an engineering programme in Artificial Intelligence & Robotics (AIR) was withdrawn due to the lack of knowledge of the affiliating University. Under the guidance of Dr.Vidyasagar (Center for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics) a B.Tech. programme on AI&R was designed and submitted for approval. The affiliating University appointed a local committee which wanted to rename the course as Production Engineering. Shocked at this ignorant response, the institution withdrew the application out of sheer frustration.

The Tandon committee has failed to appreciate the various curricular reforms undertaken by SASTRA University by constructively using its University status for better performace.  This being the case, we strongly feel that the “F” grade may be an oversight or the committee members have omitted to take note of the above despite having copies of the UGC review committe report in which the UGC committee had commended SASTRA for introducing innovative and need based programmes. Similar complimentary observations have also been made by the NAAC committee during its re-accreditation visit.

2.            SASTRA is recognised as a Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation and is engaged in research for various agencies like DST, CSIR, DRDO, DRDL, DBT, AYUSH, ICMR, etc. besides other private organisations. Currently, SASTRA is engaged in more than 40 R&D projects funded by various agencies.

At present there are 25 & 354 research scholars pursuing full-time & part-time Ph.D. programmes at SASTRA. To encourage full-time doctoral research, SASTRA has established a Teaching Assisstantship fund to pay salaries (Rs 10,000 per month) for the full-time researchers without having to rely on government grants.  It also provides in-house seed money to faculty members to pursue research and also award various incentives to faculty members for quality publication, supervision of Ph. D. students, etc.  Moreover, the invetsment for research in the last five years is Rs. 45.7 Crores. In the last 3.5 years, SASTRA has 456 publications in SCI, SCOPUS and non-zero impact factors journals. SASTRA’S research pursuit has resulted in establishing the following research centres:

·        TIFAC-CORE in Advanced Computing & Information Processing

·        Center for Nanotechnology & Advanced Biomaterials (CeNTAB)

·        Center for Advanced Research in Indian Systrem of Medicine (CARISM)

·        National Facility for Metal Toxicity Studies

·        National Mechatronics Facility

·        Center for Advanced Research in Environment (CARE)

·        DST-Ramanujan Chair for Discrete Mathematics & Number Theory

Some notable achievements of the above centres are:

1.      CARISM disputed the findings of two researchers from Harvard and Boston Medical School on the issue of heavy metals in traditional medicine. Their publication in the Journal of American Medical Association was disputed by CARISM which conducted an in-house study and disproved their findings resulting in a joint collaboartion between SASTRA & Boston University in the area of traditional medicine.

2.      CeNTAB is engaged in high-end Nanotechnology based research for healthcare and energy applications resulting in high quality publications and Innovative Young Biotechnoligist Award from the Department of Biotechnology.

3.       CARE successfully completed a research on integrated water supply management in the deltaic region of Thanjavur and this landmark research is significant considering the ongoing Cauvery water dispute.

Besides these, more than 10 reputed corporates have come forward to establish Chair Professorship for research at SASTRA University.

The rules & regulations of the Ph.D. programme at SASTRA has been carefully designed without compromising on the quality of doctoral research. The Research Advisory Council headed by Prof.V.S.Ramamurthy and comprising senior academics and researchers like Dr.A.Gnanam, Dr.O.P.Agarwal, Dr.N.Jayasankaran, etc. provide the reaseach guidance to SASTRA and also audit the doctoral work of the Ph.D. scholars. The rules of the doctoral programme insist on a minum of two publications in reputed international journals, external evaluation of thesis by 2 members – one Indian and the other foreign, successful completion of 4 courses, etc. These are quality reinforcement measures in the doctoral programme which many State Universities have not followed and only trying to implement in the recent times. In fact, one State University introduced the concept of coursework recently only after perusing SASTRA’s rules and regulations for Ph.D. work.

As per the committee’s report, Article 4 (a) (i) of the UGC guidelines also contemplates the need for innovative and very high academic standards in teaching programmes at the Master’s and/or Research level. This being the case, awarding “C” grade for Doctoral & other research degree programme is not justifiable considering the quality of research projects, doctoral and master’s level degree programmes.

3.            Admission Process: SASTRA’s admission process has won public acclaim for its transparency and merit. 70% of the students are admitted based on their normalized higher secondary examination marks and the remaining 30% are admitted through the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) for which counsellign is conducted by Central Counselling Board of the MHRD.  It is a well known fact that SASTRA follows a transparant, merit-based admission procedure and does not collect even a single rupee as capitation fee or donation since it is against the morals and ethos of the Management.  In 2007, when the government of Tamilnadu appointed a committee under the Chairmanship of Dr.Anandakrishnan to scrap the Common Entrance Exam, Prof. M. Thangamuthu, the then Vice-Chancellor of Bharathidasan University and member of this committe,  sought inputs from SASTRA on the procedure of normalisation and how the ranking list was issued. Whilst so, it is imperative that the Tandon committe in which Dr. M. Anandakrishnan is a member, should have fully appreciated the admission process of SASTRA.

The Industrial Economist Editor Mr.Viswanathan was a witness to the admission process in the year 2007 and published in his magazine an article titled “SASTRA – No capitation fees” and appreciated the transparent and merit based admission system of SASTRA. It is also the practice of SASTRA to invite senior members of the fourth estate to witness the admission system of SASTRA every academic year. This only proves the transparent admission system at SASTRA which has received public acclaim and appreciation from various visitng teams.

We have been awarded with a “B” grade  and equated with other institutions known for collecting capitation fees, etc. and this has indeed hurt our morale.  I am sure that such inaccuracies in grading would be not be tolerated by the Hon’ble Minister and would be rectified immediately.

4.            We have been awarded “C” grade with respect to governance.  I would like to submit that SASTRA as erstwhile Shanmgha College of Engineering had applied for accreditation to the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) when it was introduced in 1996 and had got good grades.  Subsequently all the visiting teams, from both the NBA and NAAC have appreciated the efforts of the Management in providing the right governance and strategic leadership.  The committes have also appreciated the vision of the management and its financial support (without collecting capitation fees) to run the University.  In fact our Management needs to be lauded for this effort and instead the Committee members have looked with a narrow vision by awarding only “C” grade.

It is very apparent and in my own opinion, the Committee members have unfortunately gone into the task of reviewing the functioning of certain Deemed Universities (including SASTRA) with  prejudice. To substantiate this, I would like to bring to your kind attention that 2 Deemed Universities having the same NAAC grade and score have been placed in different categories by the Tandon committee.  As you may be also aware that NAAC grades are awarded after a team of highly qualified academics undergo the meticulous exercise of visiting the institute for three days to assess curriculum, teaching, learning & evaluation process, Research, Infrastructure, Student Progression and Governance apart from their  interactions with students, faculty, parents, alumni, etc.

Needless to mention, there is a totalling mistake and the score of SASTRA in the present rating mechanism is 22 and not 21. In addition to this, we request the Hon’ble HRD Minister to look into the aberrations of the Tandon Committee and kindly instruct for proper evalaution & grading and set right the distortions.

Thanking you with regards.

Yours faithfully,

Prof. R. Sethuraman