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Anna Univ: Free engineering education for the economically backward
Shobha Warrier
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January 28, 2008

The Vice Chancellor of Anna University, Coimbatore, Dr R Radhakrishnan made history by announcing that his university would provide free engineering education to brilliant but economically poor students who cannot afford engineering education.

He plans to create a corpus fund with the help of various industries to implement the plan. In this interview with's Shobha Warrier, he speaks about how he intends to go ahead with the plan.

How do you plan to create a corpus fund for economically backward students?
Our plan is to come out with transparency in admission so that the poorest of the poor get a chance to study with zero expenses. 

Initially, the university plans to invest Rs 1 crore in the corpus fund. I will then invite participation from the public and industry so that we can have a corpus fund of Rs 10 crore.

Even students can be a part of this fund by contributing anything from Rs 10.

How much are you planning to start with first?
We need a fund of Rs 10 crore to begin with but Rs 2-3 crore is enough for this year. Over the next few years we may need more than Rs 10 crore.

Are you expecting money from the industry as charity or is it also going to be a partnership?
Many industries donate funds to charitable trusts. As this is a government university that has mooted the idea to create corpus funds for poor students, I expect the industry to participate in this endeavour.

At present, as charity, many are willing to help poor students. As there is no proper channel to help them, they have not been doing it till now. Once a university creates a corpus fund like this, those who are willing can send money directly to the university fund.

What criteria have been set down to select desreving candidates?
For applying to the university, the students have to follow university rules. Initially, I want to create 10 per cent of the seats to such deserving students. If there are 1,000 seats, I can provide free education to 100 students. We select the most deserving 100 students.

Yes, there will be thousands of applications. We are yet to come up with a way to select the deserving.

Are you going to select these 100 students based on any caste or religion or only on economic backwardness?
t is like this: when we invite the general application, we follow the government of Tamil Nadu's reservation policy. Only those who get admission through the counselling get the scholarship for pursuing studies.

But for our scholarship, we select the most academically brilliant but economically backward. For that, they have to apply separately. They have to produce certificates to show that they are economically backward.

What exactly is free education? Is it only fee waiver?
Everything will be free for the students; books, fees, hostel, everything. They will have no expenses for their engineering education. That is why we need a corpus fund to begin with.

Now that you have announced this idea, how has the response been from the industry?
I don't think funds will be a problem. Anyway, I have only announced an idea. It has to get approved by the Syndicate, etc.

Do you think this idea can be emulated by other universities all over India?
Somebody has to make a beginning and I have made a beginning.

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