The existing Anna University at Guindy in the city will become a unitary institution under the name of Anna Technological and Research University, with a focus on research and higher learning.

A new Anna University will be established, and all engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu will be affiliated to the Chennai-headquartered institution, according to a Bill passed in the State Assembly on Wednesday.

The existing Anna University at Guindy in the city will become a unitary institution under the name of Anna Technological and Research University (ATRU), with a focus on research and higher learning. The reputed College of Engineering, Guindy, the Madras Institute of Technology, A.C. College of Technology and the School of Planning and Architecture will come under ATRU.

Tabling the Bills, Higher Education Minister K.P. Anbalagan said the decision was being taken “only for administrative reasons”.

He later told The Hindu that the decision had nothing to do with the Centre’s offer to upgrade Anna University into an ‘Institution of Eminence’ with a matching grant of ₹500 crore to focus on cutting-edge research.

“Managing the affairs of the engineering colleges across the State that are affiliated to Anna University is consuming much of the time and energy of eminent professors of the university. In order to concentrate on higher studies and research in engineering and technology, the government has decided to reconstitute the existing university as a unitary-type institution by the name of Anna Technological and Research University,” he said.

The new Anna University and ATRU will have separate administrative structures and governing bodies, like the syndicate and the academic council.

Incidentally, in 2011, at the first Cabinet meeting following Jayalalithaa’s return to power, the AIADMK government had reversed the erstwhile Karunanidhi government’s (2006-11) decision to convert Anna University into a unitary-type institution. Consequently, five Anna Universities of Technology, in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruchi and Tirunelveli, were merged with the Anna University. It was also under Jayalalithaa’s regime of 2001-06 that the unitary Anna University was first converted into an affiliating-type institution bringing all engineering colleges under its ambit, after de-affiliating them from the regional arts and science universities.

Former Anna University Vice-Chancellor M. Anandakrishnan described the bifurcation as “a very unfortunate development”. He told The Hindu, “They are looking at the wrong end of the problem. What they should be concentrating on is how to bring out the quality of teaching and learning and make students employable.” Employability of students had become a question mark, he said, adding that graduates’ entrepreneurial skills were very low.

The State government had never been capable of providing funds to Anna University, he said, pointing to other sources of funding from various agencies and the examination fees.

Mr. Anandakrishnan said the decision would affect colleges and students, who would not benefit from the expertise of [the original] Anna University.

The university’s Vice-Chancellor, M.K. Surappa, said ATRU would be drained of its funds. “The university was obtaining funds by conducting exams and through the affiliation process. Education is the State’s responsibility. They have to educate, train and provide human resources,” he said. “The alternative is to allow us to hike fees,” he added.

Earlier in the Assembly, former Higher Education Minister K. Ponmudi (DMK) pointed out that the same AIADMK government had merged the AUTs established by the DMK regime with similar intentions.

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