Sambalpur University divided over tech wing

With Sambalpur University vice-chancellor Arun Pujari’s term coming to an end soon, the debate over Pujari’s brainchild SU Institute of Information Technology (SUIIT) has divided faculty in the varsity and educationists in the region.

While a section of them term the less than two-year old institute as the biggest success story for the varsity, others dismiss it as the culprit ruining traditional departments.

This assumes significance because several varsity insiders feel that the three-member search-cum-selection committee shortlisted Pujari’s name again for another three-year term in the V-C office to complete the SUIIT.

The chancellor’s office on Friday “interviewed” Bishnu Barik (Nanded University in Maharahstra), Rajaram Panda (JNU) besides Pujari for the coveted post though an announcement about the selection is yet to be made.

Sadhu Charan Panda, former VC of Utkal University of Culture and a former faculty member of SU said SUIIT is the best thing that has happened to the university and to Sambalpur region to be relevant with the changing time and technology. “In less than two years of its existence, it has already attracted state-wide attention,” he said.

Panda cautioned that an institutional mechanism should be put in place so that SUIIT continues to excel.

Established in 2010 as an autonomous constituent of SU, the institute imparting MCA, BTech, MTech and MSc in computer science, MSc (electronics) and MSc (bioinformatics) has proved to be a sought after institute in the region. Students from the institutes have got lucrative paid summer internships while several software companies have shown interest to come for campus recruitments, sources said. “Such a thing was an unheard of possibility for the varsity a year ago,” pointed out a varsity teacher.

While the state government had given an initial budget of Rs 10 crore in 2009-10 for the institute, Rs 5 crore from Directorate of Distance and Continuing Education (DDCE) was given to it for construction of its buildings inside the varsity.

Not all are convinced with the “rare success story” eulogy for SUIIT. “Most of the courses being offered by the SUIIT were pulled out from different existing departments. It was not a new thing,” said Prof B K Tripathy, senior-most professor in the university.

Electronics was taken out of physics department, computer science from mathematics while bioinformatics was pulled out from life sciences department.

These courses were already offered by the varsity, Prof Tripathy said, adding whether the consolidation has done wonders will be known after the first batch comes out of SUIIT next year.

With the varsity administration concentrating solely on SUIIT, other departments were suffering, said a teacher, adding “the varsity is getting reduced to an engineering college.” Some teachers and the students’ union have questioned the logic of starting B Tech in SU.

“Most engineering colleges are not getting students for B Tech and are on the verge of closure. The VSS University of Technology, three km away from SU, is offering such a course. There was no need to start it here,” reasoned Karunakar Supkar, chancellor’s nominee in the Syndicate.

The students’ union has objected to undergraduate courses being offered in the varsity where all other courses are at the post-graduate level. “The varsity was exclusively for PG students. Starting an undergraduate course was diluting its character, which is unacceptable,” said student union general secretary Asis Chand.

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