Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Thursday, Jun 08, 2006

Girls and boys in two city colleges are in celebration mode, though the monsoon gate crashed in. Maharaja's College and St. Teresa's College just got an A Grade from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) of the UGC. Earlier, for the first round of accreditation it was stars that were awarded, while now, it is grades for reaccreditation. The five-year validity of this accreditation means in simple terms, recognition in the field of letters and funds from the UGC to make the colleges better in terms of quality and more courses.

Big jump
Maharaja's College students are in a more ecstatic mood because it was a quantum jump from three star status in the last accreditation to `A' this time, for the reaccreditation, while for St. Teresa's it was from five star status to `A' Grade.

The students are naturally thrilled, "We were all in it, heart and soul, to make our college get a good grade. Though a Government college, we worked hard," says a group of girls and boys who were returning from the library.

A decade or so ago, what greeted one in the library were broken furniture piled up in a corner, worn out books, rare books strewn around in broken cupboards and lots and lots of dust in a musty room. "Look at it now," says Dr. G. Ambika, Reader in the Department of Physics, who was the coordinator of the Internal Quality Assessment Cell. "The Collector, A. P.M. Mohammed Hanish is the chairman of the College Development Committee. We got Rs. five lakh from it to transform the library like this," she said, showing the well-lit room, with clean cupboards, reading and browsing areas and reference sections and browsing areas. An interior designer was employed to redo the library. Every department in the college has been given a computer.

The ten-acre campus is a huge green lung in the city with tradition backing it, where great gurus taught and celebrities studied. Maharaja's College is the first Government College in the State, which got a `A' grade after it went for re-accreditation, five years later. The 130-year-old college, which has history, tradition, a handsome 10-acre campus and nine research departments had its ups and downs, but seems determined to go up now.

Quiet campus
"After the introduction of internal evaluation and marks for attendance, and with the de-linking of the pre-degree to schools, the campus is quieter and there is a better ambience for study. The students, the PTA and the entire staff united together with a purpose and we were able to achieve it," says Dr. Ambika with a deep sense of satisfaction. The new Principal, who has just taken charge, K. S. Mohanadas, says he was happy to take over from the old principal, Augustine A. Thomas, a college that is a centre of excellence already.

Raja, the college chairman, is elated that one of the criteria, student support, received 90 out of 100 marks. High marks were given for research facilities, (47 out of 50) marks. He feels that student politics has taken a different turn now and that contributed a lot to changing the face of the college. Violence is out of their agenda and few outsiders interfere, contributing to peace in the college for studies and extra-curricular activities. Arun Babu, an Economics degree student and T. A. Alfreeda, an MA student said students did a lot of work like putting up charts, creating awareness about the facilities available, their use and also did a lot of voluntary activities like blood donation.

Different approach
The `Samaramaram', a gooseberry tree in the college, was a popular area around which strategies were worked out for strikes in the 60s and 70s. "Not any more. Students have a different kind of approach to studies and higher education," says Ramesan, a lecturer in the Botany department.

Sr. Christabelle, Principal of St. Teresa's, on the other hand, says the college was already geared up to Five-star status and they were growing naturally, aiming at higher goals. "We had regular courses earlier, but now, we have moved on to other add-on courses which are job oriented. There are courses on women's studies; regular seminars and we have a multi-storeyed building also coming up on the campus. Our stress is on both studies and extra-curricular activities, as our record of ranks and prizes shows," she says.

The college, with no student politics, has always been in the forefront where studies, sports and extra-curricular activities are concerned.

Dr. Ramola, who was the coordinator (who has now retired from the college) and the Reader in the Department of Sociology, of the college, says, "It is based on seven criteria and we did not have to prepare a lot, as the college is usually well maintained as far as cleanliness, infrastructure or teaching methods are concerned. It is an ongoing process throughout the year."

What is NAAC?

What's NAAC? Those outside the education sector may not know much about it. So here's what it is: The National Assessment and Accreditation Council is an autonomous body of the UGC, based at Bangalore. Colleges have to get the accreditation every five years. While it was stars, it is grades now. There are seven criteria on which they are assessed, like infrastructure, research facilities and teaching methods. There are nine grades: A++, A+, A, B++, B+,B,C++,C+, and C. In Kerala, there is only one college, which has A+, that is, St. Berchman's College, Changanassery. In India, there is only one college which has A++, that is the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthi Nilayam. Grants from the UGC and recognition for more courses are based on these ranks, apart from the recognition it gets from academic circles all over.

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