Why alumni of Chennai’s College of Engineering, Guindy are a worried lot today

Alumni of CEG have floated a petition calling for autonomous status for their college in the wake of the recent scam that rocked Anna University. What are their primary concerns?

Concerned by the recent spate of allegations that have been levelled against Anna University, alumni of the College of Engineering, Guindy, one of the 596 engineering colleges affiliated to the university, have started a petition calling for the delinking of the college from the university. The petition outlines the various reasons for the call to break away from the university and had been signed by 5906 people at the time this was written.

CEG and Anna University

The College of Engineering, Guindy is the oldest technical institution in the country. It was established in 1794 as School of Survey and as a college in 1859. Over the years, CEG, as it is widely known, has produced illustrious alumni who have contributed extensively to the country.

Graduates of CEG include Dr Verghese Kurien, hailed as the father of India’s white revolution that led to the creation of Amul, Venu Srinivasan of TVS, renowned industrialist A C Muthaiah, and Krishnakumar Natarajan, co-founder of Mindtree. CEG also produced the first woman engineer in India in A. Lalitha in 1944.

CEG was one of the four institutions that were part of Anna University, when it was established in 1978, the others being Madras Institute of Technology, Alagappa College of Technology and School of Architecture and Planning. A major change in the organisational framework took place with the Anna University Amendment Act in 2001. This changed the status of Anna university into an affiliating university, thereby bringing all engineering colleges in the state under its ambit.  

Engineering in dire straits

As Tamil Nadu capitalised on the IT boom of the early 2000s, many engineering colleges sprung up across the state. But a decade on, the state with the highest number of institutions has seen a steady drop in admissions owing to lack of jobs and poor quality of education.The increasingly poor prognosis for engineering education leaves the premier institutions affiliated to Anna University in a bind. The unchecked growth of private engineering colleges and the repeated instances of scam have been a cause for concern, especially in the spiralling impact they may have on the reputation of the older, established colleges affiliated to the same university.

Deepak Chembath, is the initiator of the petition and an alumni of CEG, batch of 2001. “The petition has been started by a few of us who felt strongly about the recent scandals at Anna University. Since the affiliating university concept has come up, all graduates receive certificates under Anna university. CEG being a distinguished institution with high-achieving alumni has seen its brand get diluted as a result. The top rankers do not have a distinction from the others due to this affiliation with Anna university. With the scams being unearthed, we wanted to raise this issue. We propose to gather enough signatures to take the petition to the Chief Minister and the Vice Chancellor. We must give back to society and unless you support high quality educational institutions, that will not be possible,” says Deepak.

The petition makes the same case for the delinking of CEG from Anna university. The alumni envision that the brand and heritage of CEG can be protected by making the college an independent, autonomous institution with no association with Anna university. They argue that such an institution of historic significance, one that has produced outstanding graduates over two centuries, must be allowed to function in a manner that does not tarnish these achievements.

An affiliation with a larger university that places CEG in the same ambit as all other engineering colleges will only serve to dilute the brand value of the college, making it less attractive in comparison to the IITs, or other eminent institutions like BITS. Failure to act on the matter may result in CEG losing out on brilliant students in the future, who may not see the benefit of acquiring a degree under the umbrella of Anna university, especially after the spate of scams.

“I graduated from CEG in 1971 when it was part of Madras University. When Anna university was formed it was just the four technical institutions that were part of it. Now we must find a way to preserve its identity amidst the scandals that Anna university has been embroiled in recently. The government must form a committee to look into the matter. We must find a way to ensure CEG is spoken of independently, even in terms of rankings” feels Dr. Shantha Mohan, an alumnus of CEG.

Despite the traction that has been gained by the petition, there is no formal backing from the Alumni Association CEG. A member of the association said that while the association was aware of the existence of the petition, no formal support has been extended. He added that individual members are, however, free to sign the petition.

Attempts to reach the Vice Chancellor of Anna University for comments were futile.

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