Country’s Oldest Girls College – St Bede’s Shimla In Financial Dire Straits

Shimla:It’s International Girl Child Day and the country’s oldest institution of higher education for girls – St Bede’s College, is threatened with closure because reduced grants leave it fending rising staff salary bills, which the all women management is unable to meet.

“We have knocked the doors of the government, urging them not to reduce our grant from 95% percent, otherwise we will be left with no choice but to close down the college,” says Molly Abraham, principal St Bede’s. Our Delhi Provincial has already asked us to draw up plans for closing down, she added.

Modifying the grants-in-aid rules, the government from March, 2008 has reduced grants to all private colleges from 95 to 50 percent.

We face a double whammy – the 1994 grant rules provide that pay scales and allowances to staff be at par with government pay as per UGC scales and now cut in grants leaves us saddled with bills, which we cannot meet. For the moment we are raising loans to meet expenditure, said Abraham.

Under the 1994 rules 4 private colleges got grants but now there are about 20 colleges sharing the cake.

Secretary education PC Dhiman says, “my hands are tied by a 2006 High Court judgment that directs us to disburse grants among other colleges also on a equitable basis and not just the 4 colleges that were getting it since 1994.”

Says Abraham “Raising fee structure defeats our objectives of providing affordable girls education and even the state has made higher education for girls free, says the principal. Implementing 6th Pay Commission recommendations here will simply force us shut down.

St Bede’s happens to be the only college in the state that enjoys A+ grade NAAC but it charges a per month fee of Rs 50 from undergraduate arts students that was fixed in 1970 to partially meet rising staff salary bills.

Counted among Asia’s first exclusive women colleges that was opened in 1904, it has received support by way of grants-in-aid from the central and state governments.

Started as an institute that began with a teacher training program, its alumni include, princesses, famous actresses, doctors and other professionals who have carved reputations in their fields of work.

Old Bedians include, Pratibha Singh, parliamentarian and wife of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, Priety Zinta, daughter of former chief minister Shanta Kumar, grand daughter of education minister ID Dhiman and a host of others.

“In 1967, when there was a move to close down St Bede’s and open up JMC College Delhi, it was at the behest of the then chief minister YS Parmar and other citizens that the sisters running the institute decided to keep it operational.”

Today JMC College enjoys a constituent college status with Delhi University getting 95% grant from UGC and we are struggling just to keep the college open, concludes Abraham.

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik leads a team of media professionals at Hill Post. Spanning a career of over two decades in mass communication, as a Documentary Filmmaker, TV journalist, Print Media journalist and with Online & Social Media, he brings with him a vast experience. He lives in Shimla.

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  1. says: Amitava Ray

    There are some points of clarification which should be made here.

    First although St. Bede’s College is among the oldest colleges in India, it is not the oldest. The state-government run Bethune College (estd. 1879), Kolkata deserves that credit.

    Secondly, as regards its fee structure, it should charge its students. Colleges like Scottish Church College (established 1830), and Loreto College, Kolkata (another women’s college, run privately, established 1912) charge high tuition to offset their running expenses.

    A college that is run privately should not expect to perpetually drain the taxpayer’s money for its own benefit. That money should be diverted to other socially relevant ends.

  2. Thanks for correcting me Amitava,

    The college authorities claimed it to be the oldest girls college and that’s what I did term it.

    It certainly is not the oldest college in the country, there must be many more.

    You have not specified whether state-government run Bethune College (estd. 1879) is a girls college or a co-education college. If it is a girls college then surely it must be the oldest one in the country.

    Regarding fee structure, you have a point. Privately run colleges should have their own fee structure and not rely on government support.

    A problem arises if you raise fees. It does increase the profile of the students studying in such institutions but it becomes disadvantageous to poor but meritorious students who want to get admission into good colleges.

    The high class and low class segregation is more starkly marked when education becomes a question of affordability and not one of merit. The point needs to be pondered.

    And in a society which gives preference to boys over girls, funding good affordable education for girls whether in private or public institutions is a socially relevant cause, which you may disagree with.

  3. says: Margaret SIngh Punj

    For both the above stated i have just one thing to say…when a college or an institution is suffering from loses …or is on the verge of closing IT IS NO DOUBT THE GOVERNMENTS DUTY to SAVE IT. Closing down of an institution is much easier then setting up one all over again. And in any case finally what matters is the growth of the people of the state and the country. We elect the government to take care of all this and make the country function properly.

  4. As an old Shimlaite I am concerned about St. Bede’s. Something must be done. My sister, Doe Nair, is an old Bedeian. Old Bedeians scattered all over the world must join in the ‘andolan’ to SAVE SAINT BEDE’S.

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