Sunday, March 30, 2014

105-year-old IISc has its first formal convocation

March 29, 2014 will go down in the history of Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore as a day when a trend was set. For the first time in its 105-year's of existence, IISc, a deemed university, held its formal convocation, where 289 students received their degrees. The amusement at the JN Tata auditorium was palpable. None was used to such an event. After all, it was a long-drawn tradition that was being overstepped.

But there weren't the usual formalities of a convocation either. No flowing robes, no flying caps, The participants wore no robes, caps did not fly up in the air, not even the trademark procession. There was no solemn air, but no resounding applause or cheers either. While most managed to stick to the 'white' dress code, some didn't bother. Looks were the last thing on their mind; One came in mundu, wearing a sunshade with green rim, but appearances did not matter. It was celebration time for the students and the institute.

P. Balram, Director of the institute, read out no annual report as is customary in any convocation. Instead, he chose to speak about the institute. "We never had a formal convocation. Periodically, students wanted it. But from the stories I have heard, the directors resisted it. Any tradition is hard to break. Our tradition has always been to work quietly, take degrees quietly, and go out into the world. Not to have a convocation was not just about modesty, it was also about the tradition. In effect, what we are carrying out is an experiment. We hope to make it more formal in the coming years," he said. "A convocation is about getting old students back and the faculty together. There are a lot of people outside the institute who has seen it grown. They are here. And we get to listen to a chief guest every year," he added.

The award distribution was equally casual. For instance, at one point a gold medal fell off the ribbon to which it was tied and landed on the floor with a clink; another time, the chief guest had to tie the ribbon around the winner's neck. The degrees too weren't awarded personally; but they posed for photographs, department wise. The groups had a handful of girls each.

As many as 47 students received gold medals, while 289 students got their degrees. When the institute started admitting students in 1911, it didn't award degrees but only diplomas. It was in 1958 that IISc was declared a deemed university and degrees started rolling out.

K Kasturirangan, Member, Planning Commission, Government of India was the chief guest. In his address, he said: A strong entrepreneurship culture is highly desirable in its planning. The research programmes certainly need to focus on frontier topics and at the same time be selective, thereby helping to channelize its collective energy into solving large scale problems...The Institute in a year or so has to develop a strategy and an action plan to ensure its place among the first 50 of the globally ranked educational institutions in 5 years.

Source: The Times of India, March 30, 2014

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