Think, Speak And Write Freely To Foster A Spirit Of Curiosity And Learning

Prof Sujata Shahi, Vice Chancellor IILM University Gurugram speaks to BW Education's Waqar Ahmed Fahad regarding some key issues related to Indian academic space.

IILM University Gurugram

Q: For those institutions who do not believe in rankings, how does one measure their performance as an institution?

Ans: It’s time for universities to change the way they measure success. The measure of successful performance for most of them has a lot to do with prestige and not much to do with the outcomes of their graduates or the quality of education their students receive. The very purpose of a university is to create and disseminate knowledge, to equip society with necessary skills and knowledge to solve problems and live a better, more orderly life. 

At IILM, our focus is primarily on creating an environment in which students have the freedom to think, speak and write freely enabling them to foster a spirit of curiosity and learning. The students are encouraged to evolve into responsive and responsible leaders who would impact society positively.  For us, some of the key factors for measuring our performance are -satisfaction of students, employability of our graduates, a positive impact on society and a robust connect with Industry. It would be our endeavour to continuously improve our performance by identifying and implementing new action plans to help achieve the mission,visions and goals of the organization. 

Q: What is your vision for IILM University and what are the challenges that you need to overcome to compete with other established institutions?

A: IILM has arich legacy spanning 25 long years in the field of quality education. The university has a broad vision of being global, inclusive and responsiblewith a focus on becoming a leading liberal education university in Asia that fosters academic excellence, application-oriented research and innovation. We aim to create lifelong learners through an education in liberal arts with an emphasis on instilling an attitude of questioning curiosity, multi-dimensional perspective and enthusiasm for pursuit of knowledge. 

The main challenge facing all universities today, including IILM, is employability of graduates. An analysis of the employment data of our country points towards inadequate employability skills of graduates who do not measure up to industry expectations. It is a difficult time for graduates especially in the light of increased student and parent expectations. At IILM we understand that academic learning, though critical, is only part of the story as far as students and employers are concerned and have therefore kept student employability right up there on our agenda. This is what will give us a competitive advantage over other universities.  To help deliver our employability agenda we have integrated thinking about the future and developing career management skills into the core curriculum by embedding a skill-based curriculum that includes problem solving, communication skills, leadership, research, business awareness and team work. Our straightforward aim is to give our students an edge in employability that will stand us in good stead against our competition. 

Q: Tell us about the foreign collaborations and Student/Faculty Exchange Programmes that IILM offers?

A: The internationalization of higher education is a response to the challenges and needs that globalization brings and at IILM we believe in meeting these challenges head-on. We have forged strategic alliances with international partners from around the world and have tie-ups with institutions that are considered some of the best for higher learning. From student exchange programs and teaching partnerships to joint research on global issues, our international collaborations have diverse facets. Our objective of broadening the horizons of our students through exposure to international education is achieved by our focus on global study and semester exchange programs. 

Q: Government plans to set up one IIM in every state. Will that affect IILM as a preferred institution for MBA?

Establishment of quality educational institutes by the government is a novel plan that would certainly benefit students across India but IILM would not be negatively impacted by these new IIMs. IILM not only has an established reputation in the market, it also has locational advantage that helps us in market engagement and to forge strong industry tie-ups. Students choose an educational institute based on factors such as the Brand, location of the institute, market driven curriculum, engagement with Industry and employment prospects. Because of our dynamic engagement with Industry we are able to provide our students with a unique learning opportunity as industry engagement generates research opportunities along with academic rigour for our faculty and students. Our two major advantages – location and industry partnerships – enhance the prospects of students for bagging internships and live projects with reputed companies as well as for placements in desired jobs in future. 

Q: What has been the reason for low research output in India and how to improve it in Indian institutions?

A: While higher education system in India has made considerable progress in knowledge creation and its dissemination in the last decade, this is only the beginning of a long and uphill journey.  The burgeoning start-ups and centres of excellence offering private funding could certainly play an important role in bridging the gap and boosting the R&D capabilities of India. 

According to Researchers unsuitable research infrastructure, inappropriate funding and low incentives are some of the causes of poor research performance of Indian institutions. However, things are on the mend with the Indian academic system now adopting an energetic culture of research and the Indian Government creating a suitable ecosystem by providing platforms to promote and fund quality research. 

IILM, since its inception, has encouraged and fostered a research focused culture. Eminent national and international researchers from academia have been mentoring our faculty leading to quality research in various fields. IILM is focused on application-oriented research in order to find viable and innovative solutions for concerns faced by companies, society and community. 

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