He was just 33 years old when he found himself at the helm of a Delhi University college whose financial and administrative systems had collapsed and which had the dubious distinction of principals being ousted by student agitations. But a determined Rajendra Prasad, who completed 25 years in office last year, took it upon himself to make Ramjas College a top institution. Appointed as principal in 1985, Prasad recalled those terrible days when there was no alignment between the administration and students. “We knew we had problems in the college and the only way to bring the college back on track was by building a strong bond between the faculty and the students. So I started interacting and meeting students daily. I wanted them to trust me and confide in me. The staff of Ramjas also helped me tremendously in this,” Prasad told the sources in an interview. “Gradually, things started to change for the better and the year 1997-98 was the breaking point for the college. Our academic and extra-curricular results were heading north and we were emerging as one of the finer colleges in the university.” Today it has over 5,000 students, with its graduate courses in English, economics, history and commerce being much sought after. “There were times when I worked for 18 hours a day and my staff and I sacrificed our family life to bring this college back on track. But looking at the success that my college has achieved today, our hard work has been rewarded,” said a proud Prasad. A Ph.D from Delhi University, he had completed his masters in history from St. Stephen's college in 1975. His family had shifted to the university campus area when he was two years old and he has seen it expand and grow into one of the country's finest education hubs. “Back then, the university was a compact and cohesive unit. I remember I used to visit the various departments of botany, zoology and physics with my father when I was 10 years old and was truly influenced by the aura a professor had back then,” said Prasad. According to the principal, the regular interaction with those professors convinced him to become an academician against the will of his family which wanted him to try for the Indian Administrative Service. “But sadly, that aura has now diminished to a great extent because of lack of commitment and changes in the social environment and infrastructure and even the encouragement and support levels have dipped,” added Prasad. Prasad is also saddened by the way knowledge is being imparted to students in university colleges where students are just mugging up notes and clearing examinations. It is high time that education in India moved beyond books and classrooms, he said. “There is no holistic approach in our education system and I am proud to say that we are not like them. Ramjas is the best college in the university because we have amenities and the success rate of our students proves it,” said Prasad. “The college boasts of LCD screens and projectors in every classroom and the teachers are using laptops with internet connection to teach students. We have empowered our faculty and kids to access the whole world in a classroom. Even our whole campus is Wi-Fi enabled. “We like to get involved with the kids and encourage them to have an independent perspective. We ask them to take the lead, participate in extra-curricular activities and experiment with new things,” Prasad explained. However, Prasad claimed there was too much interference by the university in the administration of colleges. “The university should eschew arbitrary rulings and a college should be provided the freedom to develop independently without any restrictions. They should be encouraged to do something new, something creative and innovative,” opined Prasad. He said Ramjas had to bring down the number of foreign languages on offer from nine to six and the number of short-term certificate courses from 28 to just three. However, collaborations with foreign colleges are on and there is ever-expanding infrastructure and amenities. “The future is definitely bright for the college. We are entering into several memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with various American universities,” added Prasad. The college this year opened four new centres of excellence which are awaiting funding. These centres will encourage research activities and train undergraduates in various fields. The principal would be retiring in January 2017. Ramjas would hold its grand centenary celebrations the same year, perhaps a fitting tribute to its longest serving principal.