VIT Chancellor, Dr. Viswanathan:  "Indian Edu system is rigid"

"We go to courts if government fails to pay heed to our challenges. Institutes don’t have administrative and financial autonomy. Government should not clamp down on us.It should be more of a consultative process"

Q. How will you distinguish VIT’s dissemination of knowledge from others?   

A. In India the education system is very rigid. VIT has taken a departure from it by introducing flexibility to the higher education system. We have a unique, fully flexible credit system. Another important change is the freedom to change the branch of study after completing first year. We also enjoy a good diversity. We have partnerships with MIT, Boston, Havard and the Massachusetts General Hospital MGH. We also focus on engineering consultancy programmes. We have good relation with the industry like CISCO, Microsoft, IBM to cater to the industry research. We also have strong partnership with EARAI, Pune - we run Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD programmes jointly with them. When we conduct regular programmes at Wipro and Cognizant, it helps us to understand the industry well.


Q. Usually private universities are not for the poor. How come you’re different? 

A. We have a scheme called STARS to support the advancement of the rural students. We provide 100 percent scholarship, fee waiver in tuition, boarding and lodging for students who get top mark in the district. Another scheme is Universal Higher Education. Those who get first rank deserve to join college. We will help them financially through our trust. I will submit the report to government of India and we will achieve the mission by 2017. I want this model to be replicated in all 647 districts in the country! 


Q. So how will you assess India’s regulatory mechanism? 

A. The number of regulations should come down. During the 10th plan it was documented that at least 10 percent of the affiliated colleges be given autonomous status. Now we have reached the 12th plan and still the status is not yet given. About 3500 colleges should be autonomous, but at present we have only 400 autonomous colleges in the whole country. In the last five years not a single private university was permitted to be deemed university. So, expansion of higher education is definitely affected. Why should autonomy be only in the hands of few?     


Q. What should be the focus of  educational reforms?

A. There is no healthy dialogue between the universities and the government. At least twice a year the regulatory authority should directly talk to the institutions so that most of the problems get resolved. This will help us avoid court cases. It is appalling to witness 30,000 pending cases related to education in our country. 


The government should liberalise the education sector, so that we can excel. There should be competition among the universities and institutions, between public and private, which will also bring down the cost of education. There are about 40-50 universities which are doing well in research area. If they are well supported by state and central government we will cover a long way to compete with the best in the world. 


Q. Which areas need more attention in the Indian context?

A. We have a lot of potential in the manufacturing sector, which needs attention extensively. We have enough scientific knowledge, but our talent is not channelled well. We can increase foreign exchange by cutting down import. This requires a policy change at the central government-level.


Q. How can universities enliven India’s education sector?

A. Learning should be a real joy at school, college or university level. In university, we need to facilitate all the professor to be facilitators who oppose spoon feeding the students. The focus must be on lifelong learning. We must create a spark that will turn into a wildfire. It’s high time country gives higher education opportunity to 14 crores of children between the 14-18 age group. They will contribute to India’s development and to all over the world, particularly developed country because they want a talented lot. 

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