SRM University AP Is A Greenfield Project, Agile On Its Feet And Growing Rapidly: Dr. Jamshed Bharucha, VC, SRM University

BW Education interacted with Dr. Jamshed Bharucha, Vice Chancellor, SRM University – AP, Amaravati: A distinguished Ivy Leaguer and a global Academic Leader, Dr. Bharucha is the Founding Vice Chancellor of SRM AP.

Dr. Jamshed Bharucha, Vice Chancellor, SRM University – AP, Amaravati: A distinguished Ivy Leaguer and a global Academic Leader, Dr. Bharucha is the Founding Vice Chancellor of SRM AP.

What made an Ivy Leaguer quit the Western Shores and join a new University in India?

India has one of the youngest populations. This is especially relevant in an ageing world. By 2020, the median age in India will be just 28. The benefit of this demographic dividend can be reaped only when we look at education and jobs creation closely. And this is what I plan to do.

There is explosive growth underway in India and the Government is undertaking massive reforms in the higher education and research sectors. To reap the benefits that can accrue to us from these demographics, we need to focus on education. It is especially invigorating to invest in nation building of sorts, where we equip the younger generation with key skills that will lead to personal and professional development.

Being part of a new University that is still growing from the ground up is an opportunity as well as a daunting challenge. What really lured me back to India and to SRM AP specifically was to be a part of the future building a quality institution that will be at par with some of the best in the world. I believe that I can and will make a difference. We are committed to changing the rules of engagement in education and focus on holistic development of students who will make a difference as future leaders and professionals. 

How do you see the University developing over the next few years?

The focus is on developing an institution that combines academic rigor, excitement of discovery, creativity and entrepreneurship -- and delivers cutting-edge research based education, creating new knowledge and innovations. We have tie-ups with leading universities across the world. This will ensure that our students become successful and productive participants in the global economy and in shaping the future of the world.

Today you have two schools – School of Engineering & Applied Sciences and School of Liberal Arts and Basic Sciences. What are the plans for the next few years? What other courses are you looking at? Will it be a diversified university with streams such as Law, Management, Medicine, etc. also, or will it continue with the current streams, build them up and only then diversify?

SRM AP is envisaged as a multi-disciplinary institution, which started off with programs in engineering (in 2017), followed by Liberal Arts and Basic Sciences (begun this year). From next year on, programs in management, law and medical sciences will be launched.   

How many academics to you currently employ? What is your current Student / Faculty ratio and what is it likely to be in the future?

Our current student body is about 1,200, and faculty strength is about 80.  Our goal is to grow rapidly to 10,000 students in five years, and 25,000 students in ten years, maintaining a student/faculty ratio of 15:1. That means growing the faculty to around 600 in five years, and 1,600 in ten years.

You focus on research. What is your R&D allocation and how do you plan to encourage research amongst students and faculty?

We are building state-of-the-art research facilities for our faculty and students. If India is to maintain its path to global economic and knowledge leadership, it must become a leaders in both basic and applied research. For many students, involvement in research is the best form of education, so teaching and research often go hand in hand. To ensure that this happens, it is imperative that we foster an ecosystem for students to study things beyond their prescribed syllabus.  For example, our unique Next Tech Lab offers plenty of opportunities to students for innovation and experimentation.

We provide Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) in the second year to enable students to delve into areas of their interest. Students get semester-abroad study opportunities and gain industry exposure through practice school in the third year. We expect that students will pursue a career-linked capstone project in the final year.

Global affiliation is what every University talks about today, especially Private Universities. What is so different about your tie-ups?

While global tie-ups have become bragging rights for most universities, we at SRM AP look at this differently. The philosophy that we meticulously follow before entering into any affiliation is this: The association has to be mutually beneficial in terms of collaborative approach, pedagogy, research focus, curriculum, training programs, internships and semester exchanges. And there has to be an endeavor from each side for creating an ecosystem that focuses on a commitment to a global university.

Our focus is on the quality of affiliations and transparency in our approach. At SRM AP, the affiliations are not random or token associations nor are they superficial or one-time only. They are specific to our programs, carefully thought out and ongoing relationships. 

The affiliations that we have, for example are with some of the leading schools in the world. We have entered into strategic. academic and research tie-ups with UC Berkley College of Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology, IIT Chicago, and EFREI, France. In addition, we have course licensing tie-ups with Massachusetts Institute of Technology for their MITx courses.

How will you eke out a different brand identity completely? 

SRM University AP is a greenfield project, agile on its feet and growing rapidly. This makes the university unique in India and on par with the most innovative global universities. What sets as apart are: a visionary infrastructure designed by noted US architects Perkins and Will; an inter-disciplinary curriculum; active forms of learning -- based on the science of learning -- that engage students in their learning instead of just feeding them information to regurgitate; and world class research. Our Active Learning Classrooms and break-out rooms are designed to maximize interaction by students with their professors and among themselves; and we are innovating with technology-enabled and hybrid forms of learning in partnership with top professors abroad.

Finally, where do you see Indian education moving from here?

Indian education must swiftly reform, in terms of curriculum and pedagogy. The curriculum needs to open up, so that students have more choice, and so that one can cross between subjects. The passive lecture format, coupled with assessment based only on exams, has been shown to be ineffective for today's students, who learn from active engagement and interaction. Indian education also needs to put much greater emphasis on acquiring communication skills (both oral and written), teamwork and leadership.

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