How to improve engineering education in India by 2025

Find out the recommendations that the EEI 2025 Workshop made to revamp engineering education and realize the ‘Make in India’ initiative

It’s a known fact that engineering graduates have a strategic and long-term impact on productivity growth in industry and service sectors. To produce sophisticated industrial products and services that are competitive in the global market and to realize the ‘Make in India’ initiative, India will need a really high number of well trained and extremely qualified engineering graduates.

Is India ready for it? Unfortunately the facts look a bit dismal. Of the existing 3700 public and private engineering institutions that have over 4 million engineering students, only a select few are producing high quality graduates.

Institutions like the IITs, NITs and a few other public and private technical universities are admittedly performing well. The problem is that these institutions produce less than 5-10 per cent of the engineers in India.

Most other institutions are in serious need of improvement in their quality. A majority of these are affiliated to universities and teach the curriculum developed by the affiliating university. As a result, they lack the incentive to continuously improve the quality of teaching and learning and are not geared to adapt to the changing qualification needs of the job market.

These colleges mostly focus on undergraduate teaching and their post-graduate programs are often weak. Furthermore, they lack a systematic capacity building effort in education and research. The quality assurance and accreditation efforts of these institutions can be characterized by “compliance” rather than “improvement” tool.  Most of them do not have a deep engagement with the employers and are rarely involved in regional development and partnerships with local economic players. Without strong links in the industry, the colleges have a deficit of entrepreneurial and innovation spirit. And hence, the students and the faculty get little exposure and have little to no experience when it comes to solving practical problems.

(The current situation in the vast majority of engineering institutions is illustrated in Box 1.)

It was to address this challenge that on January 9, 2015, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and the World Bank decided to organize a high-level Workshop on "Implementing Strategies for Engineering Education in India Towards 2025" (EEI 2025[1]) in collaboration with Infosys, the Global Engineering Dean’s Council (GEDC) and the Indo-US Collaboration for Engineering Education (IUCEE)at the Infosys Campus in Bengaluru.

Box 1: Snapshot of the performance of the vast majority of engineering institutions in 2015

Largely affiliated colleges following the curriculum of universities 
Only a small number of autonomous colleges are emerging
Focus of most of the institutions is undergraduate teaching and the post-graduate programs are weak 
Employers are not happy with engineering talent pool
Very little focus on research
Absence  of academic framework to constantly respond to the changing needs
No serious engagement between education providers and employers
Lack of enterprising character / innovation mindset
Lack of systemic capacity building effort in education and research
Accreditation is more of a compliance rather than an improvement tool
95 to 100 percent  revenue from government disbursement and/or student fees
No participation in regional development
Low key entrepreneurship promotion activities


The Workshop’s goal was to come up with recommendations for how a significant number of engineering institutions would be able to improve their performance from the current dismal stage of development (Box 1) to the aspirational stage of high-performing engineering institutions (Box 2) over the next ten years.

Box 2: Snapshot on where high-performing engineering institutions would aspire to be in 2025

Institution with full academic autonomy and adequate financial autonomy
Excellent teaching and research-intensive / research-led / research-informed institution

Adaptation of academic framework that is responsive to stakeholders needs

More experiential/practice based curriculum creating relevant student experiences

Student learning outcomes in tune with employers’ expectations

Strong link with industry in design, development and delivery of the courses / programs

Employers satisfied with quality of the talent pool

Faculty training that is strongly linked to institutional processes and aspirations

Effective ICT technology adaptation to enhance student learning and faculty competence

Strong post-graduate and research programs

Enhanced capability for industry consultancy and IPR generation

Led by strong academic leaders and administrators who continually drive institutional aspirations

At least 30 percent of expenditure met by revenue generated by other than government subsidies and/or student fees
Contributing to the regional socio-economic development through entrepreneurship and innovation activities
 Centers of Excellences in priority areas for the college

The aim of this article is to present these recommendations to the larger community.

The participants agreed that there is a fairly good understanding of what needs to be done in order to significantly improve the governance. However, the key obstacle is the lack of ability to implement the suggested reforms.

A key lesson from the Workshop is that the stakeholders in the engineering education system (as illustrated as in Figure 1) must play a role in improving the overall system.  The recommendations are meant to both inspire bottom-up initiatives that can be taken by leadership of the institutions, faculty and students as well as by industry partners and alumni collaborating with the engineering institutions and top-down initiativesthat can be taken from central and state governments, regulators (e.g. AICTE) and business associations (e.g. CII, NASSCOM and FICCI). Both bottom-up and top-down initiatives are necessary to transform engineering institutions. Participants at the workshop also suggested that many bottom-up initiatives can be taken without waiting for central decisions.

You can also view a video of the presentation of recommendations from EEI 2025, here -  http://iucee.com/engineering-education-in-india-2025

 

Figure 1: Stakeholders in Engineering Education

 

Figure 1

Five steps that can transform India’s engineering education by 2025

1. Strengthen governance and leadership

 Increase the number of autonomous Institutions:

It should become a national goal to increase the number of autonomous engineering institutions by 200 per year over the next 10 years. This number can be reached gradually starting with 50 in 2016, 100 in 2017, 150 in 2018, 200 in 2019 and 200 each year after that. Eligible colleges can be assisted in the process of obtaining autonomy, including obtaining NBA accreditation.The progress of transformation of engineering education at the national level should be measured by the increase in the number of autonomous engineering colleges. It is estimated that about 350 out of around 3700 engineering institutions are autonomous institutions as per UGC regulation. Less than 10% of the engineering institutions in India are thus autonomous institutions.

It is very important that engineering institutions get more academic, administrative, and financial autonomy. Institutions need to have the necessary space to be able to grow, to experiment and to innovate. This will help the institutions to raise their aspirations. Institutions that are obtaining autonomy will also need to become more accountable and deliver on the targets that are set for them.

The Good Governance Programme under the Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP) has demonstrated that it is good governance with strong leadership and effective management that provides the essential institutional structures, processes and conditions to support strong institutional outcomes and benefits. (Check the TEQIP Good Governance web-site on http://www.teqipgoodgovernance.in/index.html for case-studies of good governance practices at universities and colleges from India and abroad as well as a Good Practice Guide for Governing Boards.)

It is the responsibility of the leadership and the faculty of engineering institutions to work systematically to qualify for becoming an autonomous institution which requires that its programs are NBA accredited. The application process for institutions to get autonomy thus needs to be reviewed and mainstreamed.

Make Governing Boards stronger:

Help autonomous institutions to set up Governing Boards which follow good governance practices. They should also receive support to develop good leadership practices in the institution to sustain good governance. Recruit committed industry members for Governing Boards of these autonomous institutions. It is recommended that five members should be recruited for each Board with the help of industry councils.

The Governing Board of an engineering institution should be independent with clear responsibilities and accountabilities. It should have competent leaders from the institution as well as from industry and society. The board should be responsible for developing a clear vision and strategy for institution development and monitor its progress by benchmarking itself with other engineering institutions. Institutional leadership development is therefore hugely important. Solid recruiting processes based on leadership qualifications and academic competences must be put in place to identify the most capable leaders for engineering institutions to spearhead the transformation of engineering education.

2. Improve the quality of teaching, learning and research

Focus on Outcome Based Education:

Foster the creation of centers for continuous quality improvement at autonomous institutions, with focus on outcome-based education (OBE) , effective teaching and learning and curriculum development relevant to the current needs of industry and society.

Engineering institutions should embrace OBE curriculum development which is now a pre-requisite for international accreditation under the Washington Accord. The concept of OBE should be used to systematically create an up-to-date, practice-based and experimental curriculum and provides student experiences in tune with the employers’ expectations and society’s requirements.

 Train faculty:

Establish compulsory training in teaching pedagogy for at least 20 per cent of the faculty at each institution. A pilot Teacher Certification program is already in progress with support from Microsoft India. This and other initiatives can be scaled to large numbers.Develop pedagogical training courses leading to a certificate that would be mandatory for new faculty at engineering institutions.Define minimum teacher qualifications for faculty teachers, to increase the number of fellowships in the Quality Improvement Program (QIP) and allow fellowship internationally as well.Recruit qualified faculty from industry and research organizations at each of these autonomous institutions. This number could start with 5 per cent per institution in the first two years and increase to 25 per cent by 2025.

There is a huge need for faculty development both in terms of pedagogical development and engineering domain training. Currently, there is hardly any systematic and evidence-based pedagogical training of engineering faculty.A transformation of the way courses are delivered, the pedagogy that is used and the assessment that is done is thus also required.Studies have shown the benefits of diversification of teaching methods. Teaching and learning need to become more interactive. Teaching tools such as simulations, labs, group presentations, discussion groups, debates, role-playing, and reviewing case studies also need to be included in the pedagogy.

Leverage technology:

Successful lessons from the Quality Enhancement in Engineering Education (QEEE) funded by MHRD delivering live lectures taught by IIT faculty in up to 100 colleges, interactive E-books and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) should be scaled-up, mainstreamed and made available widely to inspire and enhance engineering education delivery.

The advent of digital technologies and the proliferation of the internet have made more teaching and learning methods available. Technology can be used to transform teaching and learning and aideeven highly qualified teachers. It allows instructors to concentrate on learning activities that are enhanced by state-of-the-art content delivery. It can also facilitate the integration of classroom and outside-classroom learning, and can track and assess learning outcomes across the two venues. It also enables students to record, reflect on and share their learning experiences and outcomes.

Benchmark and rate institutions:

Set up an independent committee to develop ratings of engineering institutions by 2016.

A fair and useful ranking of engineering institutions should be developed to guide students in their choice of study as well as an incentive for the engineering institutions to continuously improve the quality and relevance of their teaching, learning and research.

3. Foster stronger industry-institute collaborations

Make industry internships mandatory:

  • Internship should be made a routine mandatory practice for all engineering students over the next ten years.
  • Arrange for internships for students at each institution with the help of industry councils. It could start with 5 per cent of students in the first year and gradually made a routine practice for most students by 2025.

The current business environment looks optimistic. Industries have good opportunities to develop, produce and deliver more affordable and high quality products and services to meet the fundamental needs of a growing population—access to clean water, sanitation, transportation, health care and prevention and reduction of pollution.

For the industry to take up the challenges to meet the fundamental needs for a larger and more affluent population, it needs engineering talents that are capable of finding new solutions to meet these fundamental needs. Engineering graduates thus also need to be innovative and entrepreneurial. They should be capable to contribute to building an innovation-driven eco-system in India that creates economic prosperity and wealth.

For this the industry and the institutes need to work together and foster partnerships which are deep. Engagements between the industries and the institutes to build talent can take many forms. Internship for engineering students should become a routine practice. They could be facilitated by tax incentives for industry, extra credits for students, and making internships a priority in institutional accreditation.

Collaborate with industry for research and teaching:

  • Create University-Industry Consortia for applied research and engineering with the assistance of industry councils. Each autonomous college should be mentored to start one and then motivated to develop more.

Another form of engagement with industry could also include sabbatical rotation arrangements for faculty to take up joint research collaboration, curriculum development and continuous education with industry and vice versa for the industry personnel to join as faculty at an institute.

Collaborative research is another important area that requires joint engagement. Industry and institutes should jointly do research that is application-driven and aimed at meeting the fundamental needs of the population. The two should define the areas where groups of universities and companies could get together to create University/Industry Consortia for applied research and engineering to meet market demands with some seed funding from the government. India has mastered the use of information and telecommunication technologies to build global competitive clusters of companies, institutes as well as research organizations. Similarly, other generic technologies such as material sciences, biotechnology and nanotechnologies could be applied to build other competitive clusters to satisfy market needs. 

4. Encourage innovation and entrepreneurship

Establish incubation centers:        

Set up common facilities for institutions and companies to establish incubation-centers/warehouses, fabrication centers with joint leadership of the participant industry and the participant institute. Industry councils could assist and mentor the establishment of these centers initially till the institutes can take off on their own.

Engineering colleges should aspire to build strong collaboration and partnerships with the industry on joint research projects, industry consultancy and IPR generation and be a key partner in creating innovation eco-systems both in specific disciplines e.g. through Centers of Excellence and through contributions to the development of their region. Furthermore, a common space must be developed for interactions where students, faculty and business people can develop ideas from the invention stage to a successful innovation, where the invention has been successfully commercialized.

Contribute to build a national innovation system:

Each engineering institution should develop visions and institutional norms, to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, by targeting specific research goals seeking quantifiable goals, giving the students opportunities to be part of research projects with industry and inserting development of entrepreneur skills in the curriculum.The journey of commercialization is still new for most engineering institutes in India including many of the IITs. Academicians do not have the expert knowledge in business development. Institutes should thus be encouraged to set up business development centers staffed with professionals with business, marketing and IPR expertise.

Engineering institutions can play a major role in improving the national innovation system in India.

Developed countries are characterized by being able to constantly innovate and create new products, processes and services that are marketable globally. They rely on a national innovation system that has been built over many decades and has strong links to other countries’ innovation systems. The essential elements of a powerful national innovation system comprise of physical, intellectual and cultural components. Beyond the research labs, it includes idea incubators, science and technology parks, conducive intellectual property rights regime, strategically designed standards and early stage financing to engage the investors. It also requires entrepreneurs and academics that have a passion for becoming technopreneurs. India needs to build a stronger national innovation system. This is by no means an easy task and it will take a long-term effort to build a strong national innovation system that promotes industry competitiveness through research collaboration and entrepreneurship.

5.  Make a national concerted initiative to improve engineering education

A national concerted initiative by the Government of India should be launched with input, participation and commitment from all the stakeholders on improving the quality and relevance of engineering education to realize the ‘Make in India’ initiative. The national agenda for engineering education should address the four key dimensions: strengthening governance and leadership; improving the quality of teaching and learning; fostering stronger industry/institute collaboration; and building innovation and entrepreneurship at the engineering institutions in India.

The concerted effort should systematically monitor, refine, and evaluate the progress made in the recommendations highlighted in the bullet points in this article. An illustration of the National Initiative is demonstrated in Figure 2.

The national agenda should furthermore be guided by best practices from around the world as well as from within India, including TEQIP, NPTEL, QEEE and others. These could be adapted with assistance of government agencies (including MHRD, AICTE, NBA, and ISTE) as well as corporate groups.

Continuous support to the autonomous colleges will be required in the form of guidance, training and access to experts. It needs to be sustained by co-sponsoring from institutions along with cost sharing by government and industry. Workshops and training programs relevant to the above goals should be developed and conducted using latest technologies including virtual meetings and social learning tools. 

Figure 2: A national Initiative on Transforming Engineering Education by 2025: Focus Areas and Stakeholders

 Figure 2

 [1]The EEI 2025 Workshop was attended by 40 high-level key stakeholders in engineering education in India including Dr. Pant, Acting Chairman of AICTE; Dr. Mantha, former Chairman of AICTE; Dr. Nassa, Member Secretary, NBA; key Directors from leading TEQIP institutions Dr. Shettar, BVB Hubli, Dr. Saharabudhe, College of Engineering Pune and Dr. Babu, BMS College of Engineering, Bangalore; Prof. Jhunjhunwala, IIT Chennai; and Mr. VenkateshValluri, President of Ingersoll Rand and Chairman of CII National Committee on Technology. Senior engineer participants from universities and companies in Denmark, France, Malaysia, Singapore and the United States also enriched the discussions at the Workshop.



 THE AUTHORS: Dr. Ashok Shettar, Director of BVB Hubli and Mr. Venkatesh Valluri, Chairman of Ingersoll Rand India Region

 

 

 

 


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