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Tamil Nadu govt to reject eminence status offered for Anna University

Anna University V-C M K Surappa told The Indian Express that the Union Education ministry has already clarified that the existing structure of the university, including reservations, will not be changed or affected if the IoE recognition is accepted.

The Tamil Nadu government on Friday said it will not accept the Institute of Eminence (IoE) status offered to Anna University, as it would affect the 69-per cent reservation in the state-run varsity, brought in by former chief minister late J Jayalalithaa “after a long battle”.

State Higher Education Minister K P Anbalagan said if Anna University, the state’s Tamil Nadu’s largest technical university, gets the IoE recognition, it will have to stop the reservation system, and the process could also lead to increase in the fee structure.

The IoE is a recognition for the country’s higher education institutions from the University Grants Commission.

Asked about the reservation issue, Anna University V-C M K Surappa told The Indian Express that the Union Education ministry has already clarified that the existing structure of the university, including reservations, will not be changed or affected if the IoE recognition is accepted.

Giving an indication of the tension between the two sides, state Law Minister C Ve Shanmugam had on Thursday said, while reacting to Surappa writing to the Centre directly on the IoE status issue, that the V-C lacks discipline.

The minister also questioned the propriety in a V-C of a state varsity sending a letter directly to the Centre explaining the capacity of a state institution to raise funds.

Genesis of the tussle

The disagreement over the IoE status started after Anna University V-C M K Surappa wrote to the Centre in August last year to get the IoE tag for the university without consulting the minister or the higher education department. Other concerns such as an IoE status would take away 69 per cent reservation in the university, as also the state government’s control over it, further led to the present crisis.

Reminding Surappa that he cannot override other authorities above him, Shanmugam said the V-C shouldn’t have contacted the Centre bypassing state authorities. He said the state government has already sought an explanation from Surappa for writing the letter.

Shanmugam also expressed the concern that 69-per cent reservation in the varsity will be disrupted if IoE recognition is

accepted.

Senior officers of the state higher education department, however, said politically, the government worries that certain provisions related to the IoE status may impact not only reservation in the university but also affect powers of the state government, as the Centre’s financial stake in the state-run university would go up with this recognition.

Sources close to V-C Surappa said this “apprehension” seems to have made the state government put up objections. “There were no procedural issues in the V-C writing directly to the Centre. The university would have got an annual funding of Rs 200 crore if the recognition was accepted,” a source said.

A former director of IIT-Ropar and an honorary professor at IISc, Bangalore, Surappa, who comes from Karnataka, was appointed Anna University V-C after three shortlisted candidates, including him, were personally interviewed by Governor Banwarilal Purohit in 2018. His appointment sparked a controversy in the state for multiple reasons, including the fact that he is a non-Tamil to head a state university. But many academics were also hopeful and cited that appointment of V-Cs have been political decisions in Tamil Nadu for nearly two decades, and several V-Cs who headed state universities in the recent past were accused of corruption and irregularities.

Surappa told The Indian Express that Anna University would have become the first state university in India to get the IoE status had it been accepted by the state government. He said most of other institutions in the country with the same recognition are central universities.

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