Higher Education Needs To Be Integrated With Evolving Industry: Dr Rupamanjari Ghosh, VC, Shiv Nadar University

Dr. Rupamanjari Ghosh, Vice-Chancellor, Shiv Nadar University opens up to BW Businessworld about the marketing of institutions and improving the employment enhancement

IITs and ISBs became a brand due to the quality of education they impart. But today universities and educational institutions are becoming a ‘brand’ by employing marketing money. Your comments.

Marketing gimmicks without any substance will not get an institution anywhere. It is ultimately the good work of an institution over time that does the ‘talking’ for it, and creates the reputation and brand. But creating a great institution and not spreading the word about it does not serve much purpose either, particularly in today’s world. It should be possible for every stakeholder to scrutinize the claims made by institutions in the public domain, and take an informed decision.

Security in Educational Institutes became a topic of debate after a few unfortunate incidents. Do you think it has relevance only in schools or higher education centres need to be ready too? How is the security aspect handled at Shiv Nadar?

As the campus is growing, both in terms of residents and infrastructure, safety and security become of paramount importance for everyone who lives, works, and studies here. The campus has boundary walls, with security guards deployed all over the campus for guarding and controlling ingress and egress, in as many layers as found necessary.

The security on campus is intense but non-obtrusive. There is round-the-clock surveillance to ensure safety of all students, faculty, staff, outsourced manpower, as well as visitors -- well connected through a portable wireless system. The Administrative Department is also equipped to provide relief to its students, faculty, and staff in unplanned incidents, even much outside the campus radius. The University has many safety programs in place, and is actively promoting harmonious existence with the neighbourhood, for long-term stability.

Cost of Education is rising fast. In fact, many a times it becomes a hindrance for imparting education to the right meritorious candidate. Can you share your thoughts on this?

To provide fair and equal opportunity to every aspirant, Shiv Nadar University has a very robust scholarship program in place. Most of our students avail some form of scholarship based on their performance in the entrance examination. We are continuously reviewing and updating our scholarship program.Applicants can check their eligibility for admission and scholarship by visiting  SNU pays teaching and research assistantship to all eligible graduate (Master’s and Ph.D.) students – SNU’s Ph.D. fellowships have been the highest in the country.

It is often said that Indian students do not go out of college ‘job ready’, even skill development has been able to employ nearly 50% people only. How are you changing this?

There is a prevalent thought that short-term & specialized skill development is the way forward for employability. This may work for some time for retail, hospitality, sales or such sectors where the country has an immediate deficiency of trained manpower, but this vision is short-sighted. If skill development is taken outside the higher education system and given such a narrow mandate, the people being ‘skilled’ today will become unemployable in no time!  Therefore the whole premise of Higher Education needs to be thought through and integrated with the needs of the constantly evolving industry.

Shiv Nadar University therefore strives to offer an undergraduate program that prepares students to think independently. The emphasis is on ‘learning by doing’ - we try to teach our students how to think, and derive solutions of problems on their own rather than providing them with readymade solutions. Ongoing skill acquisition is critical for staying relevant, and to enable this, the key skill we need to impart to our students is that of critical thinking and creative problem-solving.

How can we create our own Havard, Wharton, Oxford? Why are Indian Educational institutes not even among the top 200 brands?

This is a complex issue, and a lot has been said already. The Indian higher education system never put enough emphasis on research and innovation. There was an over-emphasis on just mastering the fundamentals, and not questioning and generating knowledge. The scene is changing slowly – the government is actively pushing some ideas, but access to quality resources is still a challenge for the most. The investment in research is still insignificant. Philanthropic trusts are stepping forward, but a lot more targeted work is needed for real impact. Even if the infrastructure and financial resources are put in place, development of the right kind of human resources will not happen overnight, and will take some planning and time.

Small-scale quality institutions anyway do not stand much chance since mostly the bulk output, and not scaled or proportionate merit, is counted in the ranking exercises. This should be remedied. As is being acknowledged already, some India-specific parameters need to be introduced in the ranking exercise to assess the true impact of some of the Indian institutions.

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