History and English Literature, arguably the best bet for students in Arts & Science colleges in Delhi, is the last resort, down South in Chennai. These subjects are invariably the third and a 'just to play it safe' option for many candidates; or sadly even a dumping ground for those who are not selected for Economics. The most sought after course in Chennai's prominent institutions - Loyola, Stella Maris, MOP Vaishnav and Madras Christian College, is Commerce. So coveted is a BCom degree that many colleges have not just started additional shifts and evening courses but even various strains of Commerce.
Consider this: MOP Vaishnav College For Women has four Commerce courses. It has BCom (Accounting & Finance) with 3 sections 210 seats in all and BCom Honours with 40 seats. Then comes the Commerce related courses - B Com (Corporate Secretaryship) and B com (Marketing Management) with 70 seats in each course. The bulk of the 8500 odd applications it has received so far are for Commerce. The Jesuit run Loyola College, invariably ranked among the top ten best institutions in the country, has introduced two shifts for B Com with 140 seats in one and 300 seats in the other. For those who don't make the cut for B Com, there is a Bachelor Of Business Administration programme, again with 70 seats and 2 shifts. Madras Christian College too has 2 shifts for Commerce - day and evening, with 70 seats in each shift. And Stella Maris College has 200 seats - the most among all the courses it offers.
The mantra of the month - 'cut offs' can be quite a cut off from reality! Colleges look at marks in the 4 core subjects, minus English and the second language. At M.O.P Vaishnav College, it's 98.5 % for BCom (Accounting & Finance) for the open category and 97% for candidates claiming reservation. It is marginally less for the other Commerce courses - between 95% and 96.5%. Mercifully, this college is not entirely marks-ist'; having thrown in an aptitude test for BCom Honours. Dr. Lalitha Balakrishnan, Vice Principal of the college, who incidentally hails from the Commerce stream is hardly surprised "This year, we had about 9 students who scored 799 out of 800 from the State Board. For those who got 790 or a little less, we are helpless. In the CBSE too, there are those who have got 390 plus out of 400 in their core subjects.Its hard to turn students away but we have no choice." You need to score about 95% if you belong to the forward community and want to stand a chance in Stella Maris. Run by the Franciscan nuns, the college takes in Christian students for BCom, who score between 85% and 90%. At Madras Christian College, the cut off for B Com is between 95% to 99%. Despite the high demand, you may not find those serpentine queues at the admission counters here. "We are perhaps the first Arts & Science college in Chennai to have made admissions 100% online" reveals Prince Annadurai, the officer in charge of admissions.
What explains this craze for Commerce? Is it 'course delusion' - the rush fuelling a sort of 'herd' demand? A Placement Officer, attributes this to "not just the dream to become a Chartered Accountant or a Company Secretary but also to get an academic spring board to an MBA degree and later a plum corporate job with the mega bucks." Many of these courses come with inter- disciplinary electives like Event Management & Public Relations. Dr Uttira, Head Of the Commerce Dept adds: "Top notch companies like Ford, Ernst & Young & Scope International flock to our college for campus placement. Our students get starting salaries of even thirty five to forty thousand rupees a month."
Strangely enough, that's more than what some of their professors get after many years of service.