There are no surprises when it comes to the country's best arts colleges. The top three slots are occupied by two premier Delhi colleges, Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR) and St. Stephen's College, along with Chennai's Loyola College. While LSR retains its No. 1 ranking from 2010, St. Stephen's went past Loyola to grab second spot.
There are other changes too. Fergusson College, Pune, slipped to ninth from seventh position last year. Delhi's Miranda House moved up two places to eighth. A surprise entry was Delhi's Hindu College, which galloped from 14th position last year to No. 6 in 2011.
What makes LSR a consistent leader? "LSR takes pride in the values it infuses in its students. We teach them that there are more possibilities than limits. This ideology reflects in the number of distinguished alumni we have," says Meenakshi Gopinath, Principal, LSR for the past 23 years. The college has 21 societies and several student exchange programmes that are aimed at creating future women leaders in all spheres. "The curriculum is simply a basic minimum requirement. The more important idea is to push students to excel in all extra-curricular activities and to develop critical thinkers and concerned citizens. Overall personality development is the most important part of education at LSR," says Gopinath.
The college is widely recognized for its outreach initiatives and civic engagement. Its placements make it one of the most sought-after colleges in Delhi. Last year, the highest placement package was Rs 36 lakh a year from Deutsche Bank, followed by software company Meltwater Group's Rs 17 lakh and Rs 12 lakh from Lehman Brothers.
This year, Future First, a training and publishing company, and Essex, a financial consultancy firm, have offered Rs 8 lakh each. LSR has a special focus on research and plans to develop a research centre on conflict transformation and peace-building. It also plans to launch an MBA programme in 2012. St. Stephen's is a mecca for aspiring humanities students, especially those interested in pursuing economics and English. Student societies and clubs play a vital role in leadership development.
It's no surprise former students have excelled in fields such as politics, media and academics and raised the college profile. Another aspect that sets the college apart is its faculty. Urmi Uppal, Delhi topper in commerce in the CBSE Class XII board examinations, has taken admission in Economics (Hons) at St. Stephen's. "Considering only 55 students get through every year in my course, competent peers will be an added advantage, apart from the best faculty," she says.
Loyola is popular for its courses in Economics, English literature, visual communications, sociology and medical sociology. "Apart from conventional teaching methods, students are involved in joint learning wherein they are given an opportunity to express themselves," says T. Eugine, head of department, Economics, Loyola College. Curriculum is revised after every five years to conform to the changing needs of the industry. Three areas are given utmost prominence-outreach programmes, spiritual well-being and employability. Companies such as Google, Goldman Sachs and DE Shaw Group come for campus placements. "Our main aim is to produce future leaders to meet the requirement of emerging economies," says Eugine. The college also has a host of unconventional courses such as medical sociology and psychiatric social work.
Their foreign languages department is also quite popular. While for French language there are over 1,000 students, for German there are about 100 students. With several international exchange programmes, the focus is mainly on overall development of students. The list makes one thing clear-all-round development is what makes a college and its students topper.