IMU, which was bogged down by controversies in its earlier years, is now working towards becoming a “centre of excellence”.

No longer a sinking ship Indias only maritime university rises up from troubled times
news IMU Saturday, August 13, 2016 - 12:47

From a controversial start in 2008, the Indian Maritime University (IMU) has made a fine turnaround and is holding its own even though the shipping industry has been hurt by the global recession.

For starters, the university’s admissions are up. From 746 in 2014-2015 academic year, the number of students admitted to IMU campuses grew to 804 in 2015-16 and 938 in 2016-17. (This excludes students admitted to PGDME course which starts from January 2017). 

Established for the "development of trained human resource for the maritime sector", the university is headquartered in Chennai. It also has campuses in Mumbai, Kolkata, Visakhapatnam and Cochin apart from 34 affiliated institutes.

Students admitted to affiliated institutes have also increased from 1336 in 2015-16 to 1520 in 2016-17 (for the August batches). 

When K Ashok Vardhan Shetty took over as Vice-Chancellor in 2014, he had the tall task of filling up over 200 vacancies. 

“The institution did not get a good start. Now it is fully functioning. But only 40 % of my goals for IMU have been met till now. There’s still a long way to go,” Shetty says.

K Ashok Vardhan Shetty 

Shetty attributes the success to “getting their basics right” and word-of-mouth testimonies from students. “There has been a general improvement in the image of the university as well. By the time the current batches of students graduate, the shipping industry is expected to enter a period of boom,” he says.

Shipping is a cyclical industry with periodic booms and busts, Shetty explains.  Since 1750, the industry has witnessed 25 such trade cycles. 

And unfortunately, the university was set up at a time when a new period of bust was about to begin. The slowdown in the world economy has affected global trade which in turn impacted the shipping industry. 

Things were not always this hunky dory. There wasn’t enough non-plan funding and very few recruitment of teaching and non teaching staff. 

In the first five years since it was set up, the university saw three VCs, four Registrars, five Controller of Examinations and a dozen controversies.

P Vijayan, the first VC of the central university, was embroiled in a disproportionate assets case. A case was registered against Vijayan and his wife by the CBI in 2011. G Raghuram, the next VC, barely lasted eight months in office after allegations of irregularities in appointments were leveled against him. 

James Joseph, a senior member of IMU's executive council, a body appointed by the President of India, while resigning in 2013 had alleged that "a group of top officials at the shipping ministry and the university were trying to hamper the growth of IMU," The Times of India reported. 

While global recession was partly blamed for the lack of employment opportunities for IMU's graduates, university officials also pointed out flaws in administration itself. 

"IMU suffered initially due to a total lack of proper administration whether it was in the case of recruitment of faculty or getting non-planned funds sanctioned for administrative purposes. Frequent change of VCs (four in five years) took a toll too," a senior official associated with the university told TOI in 2014.

Over the years, finances were streamlined and number of administrative reforms were brought in. The university is also undertaking massive recruitment drives with two selection committee meetings held each month.  

President Pranab Mukherjee at the first convocation ceremony at IMU

No convocation ceremonies were held since IMU's inception till the year 2013. The delay in providing students with their degree certificates meant that they faced difficulties while seeking employment.

The first convocation at IMU was held on February 22, 2014, which was attended by President Pranab Mukherjee, and where all the backlogs of the previous years were cleared. The second convocation was held in January 2016.

The university signed MOUs with five foreign universities at the Maritime India Summit in April this year.  

The first five years of the university are considered years that were "wasted" and now the administration is making up for the lost time. It hopes to make it a “centre of excellence” in the next five-ten years times. 

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