Prof. Balvinder Shukla, Vice Chancellor of Amity University, Noida speaks to Amita Jain on how to make higher educational institutions in the private sector more efficient…
Q. How challenging is it to run an educational institution of this scale?
A. Whether it’s a small or big institution, the issues are the same. But it becomes easy to manage an organization when you first understand students, their requirements and your faculty. As a person at the helm of an institution, you don’t manage the university, it’s your team which manages the university. In that team, faculty are in the closest proximity to students. If the students are engaged by the faculty in a manner that gives them a good learning experience they wouldn’t have anything to complain about. If the private or government universities are able to take care of their primary stakeholders, which are the students, and their secondary stakeholders, the industry, I think the university becomes relevant.
Q. Is funding a big challenge for private universities?
A. For any private institution and also for us, managing the finances is very important -- whether it be the funding from government, industry and fees of the students. How you manage these finances and give value for money for everything should be the priority. Like the kind of solutions you provide to the industry -- if they give us research projects, consultancy or training programmes, the quality of training we give for student development under industry-driven training programmes, how well we finish the projects funded by the government, it all counts. If these are accounted for, funding wouldn’t pose as big a challenge.
Q. Are you bringing in any innovation in pedagogy and curriculum?
A. We are aiming at integrating all our programmes with industry in a big way. We are already running many programmes in collaboration with industry and at the moment we are focussing on how we can build partnerships for every single programme. Whether the student is from arts and humanities or engineering and technology, we want them to get a glimpse of where they can figure in the employment scenario. For instance, in the past, if you did specialization in English, it was almost natural for one to get into teaching, but today with that qualification students can get a very good job in industry as well. We are trying to create those opportunities and exposure for students. That can only happen if you have a very strong industry connect.
Q. Do you think graded autonomy can pave the way for excellence?
A. I don’t think graded autonomy alone can do that. There is a lack of trust. Trust factor has to be built. The government has to look at how the universities are performing and how the industry is viewing their student output and accordingly go forward. I think today the government needs to focus more on being the facilitator rather than the controller. By controlling, you are not able to give that freedom to the universities where they can focus on Industry 4.0 and beyond. They should become a facilitator of quality education and leave it to the educational institutions to bring the best of curriculum, relevant pedagogy and force the partnerships with industry and academia for the interest of students. They definitely should set the norms, but reward those which are doing very well and mentor those who need support.
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