An M Tech aspirant has dragged Anna University to court over its decision to suddenly scrap two Masters programmes due to differences with the DBT over quota.

Anna University main building front view Guindy ChennaiWiki Commons/Sivahari
Delve Education Thursday, February 04, 2021 - 17:37

The cancellation of two Masters programme in Anna University due to lack of funds has once again put the focus on the different reservation systems followed by the union government and Tamil Nadu. The university recently cancelled this year’s intake for M Tech in Biotechnology and M Tech in Computational Biology. The reason cited by the university behind the cancellation is that the union government insisted that the university follow the 49.5% reservation system instead of the erstwhile 69% followed by the institutions under the state government. 

The issue reached the court and the Madras High Court, on Tuesday, warned Anna University that it will grant an interim stay on the university’s decision to scrap the two programmes if it did not provide a proper explanation behind the reasons for scrapping.

What the issue is all about

Anna University has been offering M Tech in Biotechnology (from the 1980s) and M Tech in Computational biology (since 2014-15), fully-funded by the Department of Bio Technology, Government of India. Only the infrastructural support is provided by Anna University for both these programmes. The two programmes together take in around 45 students every year and offer them a stipend of around Rs 12,000 per month for their studies.

The university, though under the state government, has been following the union government’s reservation policy of 49.5% while admitting students to these two programmes. However, for the academic year 2020-21, the university reportedly informed the union government that the student intake will happen based on the state government’s reservation policy of 69% and not as per the union government’s quota system. This would mean a higher number of seats will go to the reserved category students including those under the Other Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, and Scheduled Tribes.

The admission to these two courses, over the years, has been conducted directly by DBT. However, for the academic year 2020-21, DBT reportedly directed the state government to go ahead with the admission. This led to the state government seeking clarity on the reservation policy to be followed since the union government has a different policy on reservation. The university announced cancellation of the two programmes stating that the centre's reservation rules were not acceptable to the state government.

How did the issue reach the court?

Hoping for a seat in the prestigious Anna University, several aspirants had decided to miss the admissions in other colleges. The sudden decision by the university to scrap the programmes left all these students in the lurch, with the possibility of wasting a whole year.

One of the aspirants R Chithra knocked the doors of the Madras High Court challenging the university’s decision to discontinue the courses. In her petition, she stated that several students are staring at an empty future due to the sudden scrapping of the course. She added that the aspirants have worked hard to crack the Tamil Nadu Common Entrance Test (TANCET) and the Graduate Aptitude Test - Biotechnology (GAT-B) to be eligible for the programme.

What did the court say?

The court heard the petition on Tuesday and warned that it will grant an interim stay on the university’s call to scrap the programmes if the relevant authorities did not submit a proper reason behind the move.

Asking whether the university has arranged any new programmes in lieu of those cancelled, the court also slammed the university for cancelling the programmes for want of funds. On Wednesday, the Madras high court questioned why Anna University cannot find the money to restart the programmes. Adding that if a satisfactory explanation is not provided to it in writing the court will grant an interim stay, it directed the state government and Anna University to find a way to restart the two cancelled programmes for the current academic year. 

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