International Economic Bodies Have Predicted Faster Recovery For Indian Economy: Ashwani Awasthi, RICS SBE

In an exclusive interaction with BW Education, Ashwani Awasthi, Managing Director, RICS School of Built Environment, talked about the institution and more.

What were your strategies to cope with the impacts of COVID-19 on the teaching-learning process?  

COVID-19 seems to have blindsided everyone and educational institutes were the first ones to close even much before the nationwide lockdown was announced. It was done right so as ensuring the health and safety of students is of prime importance for any education institution. While the face to face classes at the campus ceased to operate, however, we ensured that there was no disruption in the learning progress of our students, and they continue to proceed further with their academic curriculum. This was achieved by immediately moving all our classes on to the online platform which also helped in making sure that we don’t lose even a single day of the scheduled classes and complete our courses on time as planned. 

We continue to actively engage our students with industry experts. Prior to the lockdown, the industry experts used to engage with our students on campus through guest lectures and case study based discussions, however, now we provide similar industry interaction opportunity to the students through an online platform to ensure they continue to receive the practice-based education in the lockdown conditions as well. 

Furthermore, every year for two months in the summers, our students go through an intensive, onsite industry internship, where they learn on the job and get a first-hand experience of working in the industry. However, this year due to the unprecedented situation crested by the pandemic, we converted our site-based internship into a research project-based internship. The aim was to ensure that despite the lockdown, our students get adequate exposure with regards to their understanding of industry practices and real-time industry problems, they could research and find possible solutions to these problems. The students are mentored and guided by their faculty and experienced industry professionals on these internship projects.     

What kind of changes were made at the policy level?  

Currently, there are no permanent changes made at the policy level by the institution, however, there are some new guidance and instructions that have been issued by the government and UGC which are being followed. These primarily include online delivery of classes, social distancing norms to be followed, no on-site internships, revised dates and pattern of examination etc. 

How do you plan to strengthen placement and internship opportunities post lockdown?   

Currently, we are in a state of flux, I understand that there will be a new ‘normal’ that will emerge in the post lockdown scenario and we all are working towards that ‘normal’. We do not have a magic wand that can bring everything back to normal, the world is going to take some time to regain its balance and the economy will slowly resurrect itself. The encouraging factor here is that majority of international financial and economic bodies have predicted a faster recovery for the Indian economy as compared to other countries in the world. While the real estate sector may have a slower pace of recovery compared to many other sectors in the economy however the current demand-supply gap of qualified professionals in the sector itself offers enough placement opportunities for our graduates. I also expect some of the large global manufacturing organizations that would like to expand their manufacturing operations would surely look at India as one of the likely options given the current negative sentiment against China. This would also surely help in contributing to a quick recovery for the Indian economy and the real estate sector and helping in generating demand for more qualified real estate and construction professionals. 

Moreover, RICS School of Built Environment is an industry-led institution, we are in constant communication with the industry for placement and internships requirement. As shared with you earlier, with the support from the industry, we have already placed all our students on a research-based internship in the industry. While we have also been able to place over 55 per cent of our students in the industry for final placements prior to the start of the lockdown, we are continuing to get more requirements for students for final placements from the industry. This year, we will extend our placement period to ensure that the remaining students also get enough interview opportunities for getting placed in the industry. We are in continuous communication with the industry and as soon as the organizations resume their hiring process, we will able to have our students interview with them. Our alumni are doing a great job and are highly valued by the industry, the industry also looks forward to hiring students from RICS School of Built Environment, hence we will be able to attract enough placement opportunities post lockdown as well. 

What changes do you see coming into the learning pattern post-COVID-19?  

Today, COVID-19 is pushing everyone to learn remotely, whether they like it or not. Until now, institutes use to see remote learning as a support to the traditional face to face teaching methods, but COVID-19 has compelled most institutes to rethink their policies and look at mainstreaming online learning. 

Many of the Universities in USA, UK and Australia have started planning on launching online courses along with the face to face programs they are running. According to Indian demographics, there will be a substantial increase in the student population with not enough institutes to support it. The online learning could provide a solution to this problem as well. 

Moreover, COVID-19 has also provided a great opportunity for educational institutions to explore and test the online opportunities. The next one year will surely be challenging for the students, faculty and education institutions however with a large number of students pursuing their education in an online mode, it surely will provide a great opportunity to the educational institutions to understand as to what works for them and what doesn’t. 

Do you find yourself prepared to fight with such a situation in the future and ensure continued learning?   

I wish everyone draws a lot of learnings for the causes leading to the current situation and avoid creating circumstances that would lead to a recurrence of a similar situation. However, if we are faced with such a situation again, we will surely be better prepared than now.  Although, this time as well, our students did not miss even a single day of classes as we were very quick to adapt to the online mode of delivery and continued with uninterrupted delivery of the curriculum. We managed to conduct the industry expert sessions virtually and organized our summer internship as planned in a revised format. Our placement activity has also stared while in lockdown and we have started placing students in the organizations.  

Although we managed to conduct various activities despite lockdown in an unprecedented situation, however, we are further strengthening our online model of delivery and other processes to ensure that in future if we are encountered with any COVID-19 like situation, we are much better prepared to deal with the same.  

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