Loyola College is an autonomous Jesuit institution of academic excellence under University of Madras in Chennai. The institution is among the handful of India’s most prestigious institutions for degree programmes in Commerce, Arts, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and has been consistently ranked amongst the top five institutions in India for all of the said streams. The college admits undergraduates and post-graduates and offers degrees in the liberal arts, sciences and commerce.
Rev. Dr. Boniface Jeyaraj S.J, Principal of Loyola College shares with Marie Banu what makes his college unique amongst others.
Loyola College has continued to remain in the list of Top 10 Colleges in India ranked by India Today. What is the secret of your success in achieving this position?
Our success is mainly because of our unique curriculum—which has a choice based credit system. We have covered two aspects—high quality output syllabus, and a re-structured pattern.
Besides English, Languages, Core and allied subjects, we feel that our students should also have knowledge on various other aspects like personality development, understanding different religions, analysing Indian society (critically), and being environmentally conscious. We give them the tools and these form part of the foundation course which is covered during the first year of the graduation.
Many people think that ‘foundation course’ means an ‘English course’. But, for us ‘foundation’ means ‘Human Development’. We need in our Indian society a person who is morally upright and of good character. We give emphasis and focus towards overall, total, integral formation of each student. In fact the NCERT wanted to adopt our curriculum model for all educational institutions.
In the second year, we give them community orientation in the form of outreach programmes. We help our students form the right attitude so that they can be happy; know how to understand themselves and the society; understand the needs of the poor people and have compassion for them.
We give a lot of facilities and offer around 40 percent admission to poor students, first generation learners, orphans, slum students, rural students, children of single parent and students belonging to the scheduled castes. In addition to the students’ academic merit (marks obtained in the qualifying examination), the above factors would be taken into account for assessing inter se merit for admission. If they had been given equal opportunities they would have been much better. According to us they are meritorious students under the socio-economic category.
What are the challenges that your professors face while handling the affluent students and those who hail from the weaker section of our society? How do you address them?
You have really brought out a very interesting issue! We have students from both extremes—affluent students from English medium schools; and students from rural areas, Tamil medium schools, private schools, and government schools. Because of this, there is always some difficulty in the classrooms.
During the initial months, the weaker students find it very difficult to cope. But, we do not give up. Depending on the level of support required, we try to help them out. We therefore offer them with peer support and help them after class hours through an enhancement programme that is managed by our faculty as well as PhD students. For the past two years we have been also offering a 10-day bridge course where English and one more subject are taught.
The strength of our institution is to cater to all sections, especially to give access to people who have been denied access.
Our tri-objectives are access, equity, and excellence. That is why we offer scholarships worth 30 to 40 lakh rupees a year. Besides this, free noon meal is served to around 400 poor students and we spend 2.5 lakh rupees from the management funds every month.
We receive about 15,000 applications out of about 20,000 applications that are sold. We categorize them based on the above stated criteria. The entire admission process is computerized and selection is purely based on merit.
For us, as stated above, merit is not based only on marks, but on social criteria. We give priority for poor students, first generation learners, orphans, slum students, rural students, children of single parent and students belonging to the to Dalits, SC, ST, MBC, and BC . We also give preference to differently abled students and have a RCDA (Resource Centre of for Differently Abled Students) to give all support to the visually challenged and differently abled students. If we take care of them, God will take care of us. Because, they are all God’s children!
Your alumni include several eminent people. How effective was the World Alumni congress that was organised in 2010?
The Alumni Congress was first of its kind and we had around 3000 alumni attending the event. About 140 alumni who contributed to the society in various fields were felicitated. We have very strong alumni, some of them being Mr. P. Chidambaram, Mr. N.Ram, Mr. Viswanathan Anand, Mr. ThamaraiKannan IPS and Mr.K.Narayanan, Governor of West Bengal.
Our students are enthused when they meet such great alumni. We get the support of the alumni, when we send our students for industry interactions. We also invite them to give endowment lectures to our students during the annual alumni meet. Alumni provide support for constructing buildings and offering scholarships to the poor students. We all invite them to provide training for our non-teaching staff and students.
As a principal, what is your advice for those who wish to pursue their education in Loyola College?
My advice for students who aspire to study in Loyola College is—do well in your studies. If you do not get the course that you had applied for, be flexible. For instance, if we are offering you admission in BBA or Economics instead of B.Com that you had applied for, accept it. The subject of the course is not important to get jobs. What matters the most are good marks, excellent communication skills and Loyola backing.