Prof A Venugopal Reddy is the Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru Technological
University, Hyderabad (JNTUH). Being the forerunner of one of the largest affiliating universities of the country, Prof Reddy’s sole objective is to improve the quality of technical education. JNTUH currently affiliates about 270 colleges and every year around 50,000 graduates come out from the portals of the university
The Vice Chancellor himself is an alumnus of the same university, who completed his degree in engineering way back in 1977. He finished post-graduation from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, M.Phil in Computer Methods from University of Hyderabad and Ph.D. from University of Roorkee (IIT, Roorkee). He had started his career as lecturer at JNTUH
Q. What are the measures taken by JNTU to improve the quality of Higher Education?
My basic objective is to see to it that the graduates coming out of this university should be ready for employment and be able to face the challenges of the industry, or higher learning institutes where they wish to pursue higher studies.
We know that the prime source for any academic institution is the teacher, therefore well qualified staffs are appointed in our colleges, and we have been updating them via number of faculty development programmes.
Q. Who should improve the quality of higher education, the policy-makers or educational institutions?
It should be both. The policy-makers should have a good vision of the policies to be integrated, so that the quality goes up and the educational institutions should also participate in implementing the envisaged policies.
For example, as a policy-maker and a university head suppose I put a policy to be implemented in all the affiliated colleges, and unless the colleges implement them with 100% commitment, work will not be done. Also on the statutory level when regulatory bodies like AICTE bring out the changes, we need to adhere to them. Like recently when AICTE proposed a model curriculum, we have taken it up and followed the guidelines and formulated a new curriculum for the university and also asked all the colleges to practice the new curriculum.
Q. When it comes to the staff, is there a dearth of teachers, or do they lack quality? Where does the problem lie?
No, it is not in terms of numbers, there is availability of staff but lack of quality. In order to increase the eminence we should regularly conduct faculty development programmes, by making it mandatory for the staff member to attend one or two faculty programmes every year, only then should their continuation in the institution be considered.
Q. What are the future prospects for JNTU students, and how are they being prepared for placements?
We have almost 90 to 100% placements in our constituent colleges. Generally, what we do is that while forming the curriculum, we also include the industry experts in the board of studies and see to it that the curriculum is designed in such a way that it is updated with the latest technologies and that makes students learn new things and be ready to face the job world.
Not only placements but our institution is also preparing students on the lines of Start-up India and Make in India. We believe in why only create people who seek jobs, why not prepare people to be job providers.
When it comes to placements every year more than 60 companies come for placements to our university. There are industries like Microsoft that have recently recruited some of our students with a pay package up to ₹36 lakhs. Also companies like Joho too recruited a number of JNTU students and their pay package reached up to ₹14 lakhs per annum. There are also several other industries that provide internship to our students.
Q. Should Research and Innovation be part of a curriculam?
No, I will not say that but the culture of research should be imbibed. The students should be made to think of innovation. If they are given a project, instead of just a routine problem to solve we can give them a research-oriented task. They should be able to think about it, and come up with a solution.
This kind of pattern should be included in the curriculum, and will be a paradigm shift from the rote learning method.
Q. What should a student aspiring to take admission in JNTU look forward to?
Generally, when the students join our university what we observe is that in the first year they will not be opening up to the environment and by the time they do, the first semester is over.To make them level up with the environment we conduct a three-week induction programme for the freshers that falls on the lines of AICTE norms as well. For the new comers, the curriculum is not started immediately, rather they are allowed to participate in various activities. That way over a period of three weeks they become a part of the institution, and they are ready to take up things.
Q. The union Government has recently released the NIRF rankings; many academicians felt that the parameters adopted for measuring these rankings are not pragmatic. What is your opinion about it?
The parameters are reasonably good, but the problem is that you take on board all the institutions including the top institutions on the same footing, that is a big problem. For example, if JNTU is asked to compete with IIT Madras and other IITs, we cannot do that, because the kind of funding they get is way better than ours. Whereas, when it comes to state universities, they are at a different foothold. Else I find all the other parameters good as they have considered all the other things like teaching, research and even patenting, and number of publications; everything is towards the better.
Q. UGC has recently framed rules restricting private assessment giving rankings to Higher Educational Institutions. What is your take on this?
These private institutions, if they are working on the rankings genuinely then there is no problem, but if they do not do it properly, then the question of credibility arises. The way these agencies rank completely differ from the other agencies; hence it is not possible to consider these ranks.
Therefore, I too have my doubts about the parameters and criteria these agencies are using for ranking.
Q. Are there any other global universities that JNTU is collaborating with currently?
Yes, we are collaborating with the Central Michigan University (CMU) for management programme, wherein we conduct one year of the MBA programme here and the second year will be done at CMU, the degree too is awarded by them.
We also have a double degree programme with Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Bangalore. It is a five-year programme, in which the students complete their three and half years with us, and then they move to Bangkok for the remaining one and half year programme. Therefore, we award the B.Tech and AIT gives them ME.
We have also collaborated with Blekinge University of Technology, Sweden for a similar dual degree programme, it too has similar process like AIT but the only difference is that Blekinge awards MS and we will give B.Tech degrees to the students.
Q. Experts are predicting that there will be heavy job loss due to automation in the software industry. Is AI really going to affect the job sector?
Yes, it will definitely affect the job sector to some extent, but then jobs will be created in some other area, may be not to the level that we fear at this point of time. Therefore, we have to develop alternate mechanism. That is why through innovation, creativity and imagination we should come up with more of start-ups.
Q. Many of our engineering graduates are not able to get jobs, is it because of the lack of quality in our engineering education or because of the dwindling opportunities in the industry?
If you ask me frankly, an engineer’s role is to design and develop a product, and the job of next level workers will be to assemble it, and implement other processes involved in the production. Therefore, our education system also should be designed in such a way that there are less engineers or designers and the workforce should be more, like a pyramid structure, and only then will things work out.
Today the tables have turned where in we have more engineers and fewer workforces. Think now if everyone is an engineer and is involved in designing, then who will implement it? That is the reason why we find engineers involved in workforce tasks, and so when it comes to availability of the jobs there is lack.
Q. For the past 20 to 25 years the world of engineering has changed. What is the difference in engineering from then to now and how can a person who had been educated in the bygone periods gain advantage of this era?
I too did my engineering in the 70s, but the things at those times were different from today. The technologies have changed today, so unless I learn this technology by myself I will not be able to fit into the working environment.
That is the reason why in the informal sector several courses are being offered that will help in upgrading an individual’s skills.
Our education system also should be designed in such a way that there are less engineers or designers and the workforce should be more, like a pyramid structure, and only then will things work out