Calcutta, Oct. 11: Malabika Sarkar, a retired professor of English literature from Jadavpur University, will be the new vice-chancellor of Presidency, where she studied as an undergraduate many years ago.
Education minister Bratya Basu said Sarkar had been given a year’s tenure. But the contract may be renewed.
Soon after the announcement, Sarkar told The Telegraph from Brussels: “The possibilities are immense. I believe turning Presidency into a centre of excellence is doable.”
A scholar of international renown on John Milton and Romantic literature, Sarkar, 62, had graduated from Presidency College in 1968. Sarkar did her second BA from New Hall, Cambridge University, from where she also obtained her MA.
“She will help immensely in building Presidency’s international image. It is an excellent appointment,” Sugata Bose, chief of the Presidency mentor group, said from Xian in China. “The mentors would be looking forward to working with her. We are delighted,” he added.
Her peers and students spoke about how Sarkar often broke the teacher-student barrier.
Swapan Chakravorty, the much-loved JU teacher who is now the director-general of National Library and one of the Presidency mentors, recalled an incident when he was a student in Sarkar’s class.
“In MA first year (1975), I had asked her a question in the classroom. She appreciated my question so much that she later asked me to take the class,” said Chakravorty. “Students loved her because of her excellent way of conducting classes. She took a keen interest in Romantic study, which is generally neglected in English literature with experts mostly focusing on post-colonial study,” he added.
She is the founder president of the Centre for Studies in Romantic Literature in Calcutta, an autonomous institute she set up in 1994, and continues to be its backbone. Its annual conferences draw the best of academia in the field of Romantic literature from India and Europe and is a much-anticipated event in the city's academic calendar, said a former colleague, referring to her organisational skills.
Sarkar said she had been approached for her new role before she left for a vacation in Europe about a fortnight ago.
Presidency's first VC, Amita Chatterjee, was a JU philosophy professor. As her term came to a close, the government offered her a conditional extension: for two months or until the arrival of the new VC, whichever was earlier. Chatterjee declined the offer.
The governor's seal on Sarkar's appointment arrived at the education department this afternoon.
Sarkar, who retired from Jadavpur University in 2009, will join Presidency after
its offices reopen on October 17.
"It's a huge challenge and a very exciting one," said Sarkar. "We have to look at how Presidency can be placed and developed in the national and international context."
Sarkar was in Spain when the country lifted its first football World Cup and had recounted the fan frenzy in Barcelona for The Telegraph Metro on July 13, 2010.
Her husband, barrister Sudipto Sarkar, was among those caught in the 26/11 terrorist strike in Mumbai. He was on the 28th floor of the Trident hotel.