Dr Sanjay Kumar
Vice Chancellor, ITM University Raipur, Chhattisgarh
Q. What are the big challenges to university education in India?
Following are the major challenges to university education in India:
Visible Depletion in Quantity and Quality of Teaching Staff: Needless to emphasise over the fact that all the universities including central, state, deemed and private universities face acute shortage of teachers in terms of quantity and quality. Majority of the universities do not have adequate number of qualified teachers. This ranges from 20% to 40% including IITs, IIMs, NITs, IIITs, National Law Universities and other lead universities of India. Thereby increasing the students-faculty ratio from an ideal ratio of 15-20:1 to 30-40:1. Ideally speaking in university education system, 30% teaching staff should be more than the established strength to cater for innovative projects, extensive and qualitative research activities, consultancy, exchange programmes, faculty development programmes, collaboration with industries and lead institutions across the globe to achieve intended outcomes. On contrary, it is other way round. Most of the universities have 30% shortage of teaching staff. This factor has strong adverse impact on quality of student-centric course curriculums, contents coverage, quality of teaching and fruitful research outcomes.
Acute shortfalls in numbers of qualified (Ph. Ds) teaching staff cause dissatisfaction among students since the classes are not engaged fully on regular basis. It degrades the quality of teaching and consequently, research activities suffer severely. Universities resort to employing non-experienced temporary, ad hoc, adjunct, part time visiting faculty. These stop gap arrangements are certainly detrimental in larger interest of the university. It brings down the standard of higher education and lowers the morale of existing teachers (due to overloading, less time for research, development programmes, etc.) and students. Consequently, lower rankings in quality surveys.
Too Many Government Controllers of Higher Education: There are multiple government agencies such as MHRD, State Government, UGC, AICTE, BCI, PCI, MCI, ACI, NAAC, PURC (Private Universities Regulatory Commission), etc., that control the higher education. Many a times, the policies issued by all these agencies are not in consonance and conflict among them and puts the universities in dilemma. Different state government policies and regulations differ from each other. Also too many initiatives and new policies sent by all these agencies, to be implemented at one time without fructification and full maturity of previous initiatives. This divides the university resources and poses real problem to fix the priorities and implement them qualitatively and on time.
Placement of Students: It is one of the major challenges of higher education. Majority of UG, PG, Ph D students they do not get placements in university campuses barring few exceptions due to lack of appropriate technical and communication skills, professional acumen, in-depth subject knowledge and proper grooming in the universities. This happens due to poor focus on the issue, lack of infrastructure/resources (qualified teachers, demonstrators, labs, workshops, outdated equipment, outdated course curriculums etc), knowledgeable trainers, poor industry connects, inadequate fundings for campus recruitment drives etc.
Poor Research Outputs and Diminishing Number of patents and World Rankings: Many universities do have research labs, centers, publications but not commendable, recognizable research outcomes. But at the same time, many universities do not have requisite infra as well as necessary wherewithal. It is one
of the major criteria for achieving top grading and ranking at all levels across the globe. Except IISc Bangalore and few IITs, all universities are far below/non-existent in world rankings. The quality of research does not commensurate with what is being apparently claimed by universities. Plagiarism, similarities and repetitive research works in dissertations, thesis, reports etc are observed in abundance. It is a result of lack of focus and non professional approach.
running off campuses, digitally-driven examination and evaluation systems, etc. Government has to fund the bigger projects. However, institutions which are having autonomy can always tie up with national and foreign industries and leverage funding. Initial seed money should be given by the government to start the incubation centres, innovative projects and other ambitious initiatives taken by the universities.
Q. What are initiatives you have taken to drive the students in ITM University towards innovative projects?
A number of initiatives we have taken here in the university.
Problem lies in both, our core education system as well as impetus on skill development. Today most of the universities are still sticking to more class room based theoretical teachings and conventional age old practical sessions on outdated and non relevant machines operating with unlicensed truncated design softwares. Skill sets being imparted to students in engineering streams are grossly inadequate and not updated in tune with industries. For example, in civil engineering, the industry demands skill sets on design software such as AUTOCAD, Revit, STAAD Pro, SAP 2000, ETABS, Google Sketchups, 3D-Home Architect, etc. But hardly any university is there where licensed versions of all these software are available. Trained teachers and technicians are not available.
Take another example of electronics and communication engineering where we need MAT LAB, NI LAB View, Proteus, PLC, SCADA, Easy EDA, Super Sim, Simulide, etc. Similarly for antenna design we need HFSS, CST, zeland ie3d, etc. Rarely all these tools are available in universities. With advancement of technology, we have to change the contents of syllabus and give more weightage and impetus on teaching core skill sets with sound theoretical backups. First of all teachers have to be trained and developed to teach advance skill sets. We need to conduct more industry-oriented practical sessions and hands on training to match with industrial requirements so as to churn out the produce that is, in true sense employable.
Q. What is your opinion on the demand for autonomy of higher educational institutes in India?
I am in favour of autonomy but full autonomy without proper checks and balances may lead to malpractices and exploitation of the students, parents and teachers community with respect to fee, free flow degree distributions, working regulations, promotional policies, remunerations and salary of employees. Autonomy certainly provides flexibilities in many ways to launch student centric & choice based course curriculums, collaborations, modern educational practices, adaptation to better teaching methodology,
- Inculcation of self-discipline and respect for each other
- Sixty per cent classes are on practical skill based leanings.
- Sixty per cent weightage to practicals/sesionals and projects in final assessment and evaluation.
- Internship from second semester onwards to have industrial feel.
- Double layer class monitoring by competent teachers to monitor each student. Individualised student care is the essence.
- Parents-teachers meeting at the end of each semester to give personalised feedback.
- Starting of Gurukul classes to teach them values, culture, traditions. Focus on our epics like Bhgwat Geeta, Puran, Vedas and Upnisads. We expose students towards relevance of these epics and lesions learnt.
- Regular industrial and nearby adopted village visits.
- Yoga classes and military drills.
- Social corporate responsibilities projects by each student.
- At least three design tools acquaintances to each student and adequate exposure and orientation towards research from induction to exit.
- Central and government educational programmes awareness and implementation.
- Creation of innovative clubs in each department and creation of self help groups.
- Massive cleanliness drives to sustain 365 days & 24×7 cleanliness, in and around campus.
- A number of extra co curricular activities and regular soft skill training.
- Special mentor-mentee environment for research orientation and personality development.
- Do you think the parameters adopted by NIRF are appropriate?
By and large, I find they are adequate enough to fix the rankings as of now. However, few more stringent parameters on values, traditions, spreading societal awareness,
reputations with industries etc can be added to it as we evolve more.
Q. How should the learning environment be improved in our universities?
In my opinion, inculcation of self-discipline culture, maintaining clean and green campus, work integrity among students, teaching and non-teaching staff will improve the learning environment. Faculty-student ratio needs to be improved drastically to monitor each student. Regular faculty development and students development programme will have very positive impact on the environment. Mentor-mentee relationship for practical and skill-orientation is required to be established. Due encouragement is required to innovative projects, participation in games, sports, cultural activities, etc. Creation of friendly and well cultured environment will further enhance the environment.
Q. How can Indian universities make a mark in the area of research publication?
Qualitative research papers are based on intensive and extensive literature survey, identification of research gaps, very rigorous data collections, authentication and purification of data, application of right research methodology, application of correct statistical tools for critical analysis to derive fruitful findings and factual results. Researchers do not toil to engage fully in carrying out research. It could be due to overburdening with teaching load, no research facilities such as adequate number of journals, access to on line libraries, equipment, laboratories, funding, encouragement, exposure, etc. All these factors contribute to poor and unaccepted quality of research papers that are published in paid journals. Plagiarism is not checked properly and cut-copy-paste syndrome becomes prevalent. Publications in repute Journals such as IEEE, category “A” journals, etc, are very few. Universities have to create good research environment, modern research laboratories, tools, equipment, publications, adequate faculty and lab staff, etc.
Q. What are the new skills students should be trained to attain jobs in the industry today?
Modern design software tools are required to be taught to them from beginning. For example, mechanical engineering students must know CAD, CAM (Computer aided Design Manufacturing), etc, refrigeration and air-conditioning technology, automobile design software, etc. Similarly, electrical & electronics engineering students must have exposure to PLC and SCADA technology etc. Management and social science students must be fully aware about analytical statistical tools SPSS, SAS R, MATLAB, etc.
Q. What are the initiatives the Indian government should take to improve the quality of higher education in India?
A number of initiatives have already been taken by HRD ministry such as SWAYAM, SWAYAM PRABHA, other initiatives for higher education like Rastriya Uchtar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), National Initiative for Design Innovation, etc.
In my opinion, MHRD should consolidate all these new initiatives and emphasise implementation of all these in universities. Monitoring mechanism has to be in place. Make in India, Start up, Stand Up, Digital India, etc, programmes have not yet got fully matured and they are still not fructifying and giving desired results. Right now we need to take a pause for a while and consolidate the initiatives already launched. A very well crafted program is required to be launched on Values, ethics, standards etc.
Q. How are the job prospects today for law graduates?
There is a phenomenal scope of employment and job prospects for law graduates. Today all public sectors, defence PSUs, government sector, insurance sector, tourism, etc., employ law graduates. Corporate sectors, they need law professionals in bulk. Besides these prospects, they have scope of being lawyer, pleader, public prosecutor and counsel in courts. They can always be self-employed practising in various courts, tribunals, fast track courts, family courts, land revenue, tax revenue departments, etc.
Q. What is your advice to the youth?
I would like to suggest them three Ps (Persistence, Perseverance and Persuasion till they achieve their desired goal and complete the mission in toto) and five Cs (courage, commitment, conviction, continuity and Calibre need to be developed among youth to face any challenges and take them head on). I advocate, speed, more speed and even more speed is the essence of life, no stop, no pause and no looking back.