How Centurion University is building India’s institutional capacity for sport

Professor Mukti Mishra, President of Centurion University ofTechnology and Management (CUTM),explains how their University is readying a cadre of sports professionals to take the Indian sporting industry to new highs

Who: Professor Mukti Mishra, President of Centurion University of Technology and Management (CUTM), Odisha

What: Applied his personal contacts to negotiate an international cooperation agreement for sports training and capacity building with Sport Education Development Australia.

When: Agreement signed on March 7, 2014, at Melbourne, formalised on April 25 in Bhubaneswar. Training commences July 2014.

Why: To create a cadre of sports professionals in India to take the sporting industry to new highs

Where: Centurion University of Technology and Management (CUTM), Odisha

How: By introducing sports, fitness, wellness and lifestyle courses that are customised to Indian conditions; training teachers and creating infrastructure to deliver these practical courses and creating a network of prospective employers to place students.

Interest in sports is on the rise across India, with good reason. Remunerations of sports persons are higher than ever before, and the opportunities for players of popular games are more plentiful. “Among the rising middle class, there is also growing realisation that sport has an important role in education and health,” adds Professor Mukti Mishra, President of Centurion University ofTechnology and Management (CUTM), Odisha.

Popular but elitist

While sport is gradually coming into its own, many still view employment in the Indian sports industry with some scepticism. Dr Mishra is of the opinion that “many still don’t see it as an aspirational or lucrative career pathway.”

 One reason for this perception is the sorry state of sports education at the graduate, post graduate, diploma and certificate levels. According to Professor Mishra, “Very few of the physicaleducation and sport science programmes available in Indian colleges and universities today specifically target the business of sports and even less connect to current industry informed requirements.”

 As a result, be it professional fitness trainers, gym managers, sports event managers, sports media persons or overall managers, the number of existing specialists falls seriously short of the number of aspiring sportspersons. “These specialist skills simply do not translate into the existing educational framework,” states Dr Mishra.

It comes as no surprise that recent outstanding developments in the sports industry and personal achievements can be ascribed to the efforts of sports academies, individual coaches, a few organisations sponsoring their own teams for various games and professionals trained overseas.

 These mentors and managers help sports persons to hone their playing skills, improve their understanding of fitness and wellness and position themselves in the market to sustain their careers through appropriate sponsorships.

 A sports model for India

 Sensing the huge opportunity in building India’s institutional capacity for sport, CUTM has entered into a novel agreement with Sport Education Development Australia (SEDA) to develop and deliver structured sports and fitness courses in India. Here is how this agreement happened and what it entails:

IDENTIFY A SUCCESSFUL AUSTRALIAN MODEL AND CUSTOMISE IT FOR INDIA:

SEDA has well established curricula from many years of running sports and wellness courses in various schools and universities in Australia. Incidentally, SEDA had been looking for a partner in India for the last four years. Since Dr Mishra himself has a second home in Australia, he is closely associated with the Australian High Commission in India, AUSTRADE and other institutes in Australia. AUSTRADE and the Australian Sports Commission helped CUTM establish contact with SEDA.

 A funding grant from the Australian Sports Commission, which runs the Australian Sports Outreach Program, is covering the cost of engaging experts to redraft and adapt the curricula of SEDA programmes for India. “Prior to starting, the curricula experts visited Centurion University to gain a first hand experience of its education system and the Indian context,” shares Dr Mishra.

 WIDE RANGE OF CURRENT COURSES:

SEDA’s courses include a wide range of sports, fitness, wellness and lifestyle courses that focus on applied learning and vocational skills. Some of these will be offered as vocational courses for high school students, others as degree programmes and some as applied training for sports teachers. Courses will provide students with the skills and hands on experience to gain employment in the sports industry and/ or provide a pathway to further education. SEDA's extensive vocational and sports partners in Australia, such as Cricket Australia, Basketball Victoria, Netball Victoria, Tennis Victoria, Surfing Victoria,

 Swimming Victoria, Yachting Victoria etc. ensure currency in the sports curricula and delivery. According to Dr Mishra, “SEDA’s numerous industry partnerships and applied learning approach are its strength and something that attracted us to the project. SEDA is guiding us on entering into similar partnerships with professional sports bodies in India.” In 2015, a PhD programme in sports, fitness, wellness and lifestyle will be introduced. Joint research projects and staff and student exchanges are envisaged to happen at a later date.

SPORTS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT UNIT:

An integral component of the agreement, this will see SEDA instructors travel regularly to CUTM to train instructors, build partnerships and help to shape the applied courses. SEDA is meeting the cost of training the trainers from the funding received from Australian Sports Commission, through the Australia Sports OutreachProgram.

 INFRASTRUCTURE:

CUTM is creating Sports Skills Training Centres on its campuses at Paralakhemundi and Bhubaneswar. SEDA and the Australian Sports Commission (Government of Australia) are considering CUTM’s request to meet 25% of the sports (Olympic standards) infrastructure cost.

CROSS UNIVERSITY IMPLEMENTATION:

All of CUTM’s Schools, those for Vocational Education, Engineering, Management and Applied Science will implement the agreement. The idea is to layer sports education on top of the curricula of these existing schools and use that additional exposure to identify talented individuals worthy of being nurtured, who can go on to adopt careers in the sports industry. Of course, some students will only be interested in the courses as generic hobby courses. Either way, the entry into the programme will be rigorous so that only seriously interested students pursue the courses.

Initially, the courses will be offered as free electives. In 2015, the courses will become paid electives. Students signing up for the degree programme will have the option of pursuing dual degrees.

 PLACEMENTS:

CUTM is establishing contact with potential employers such as gym chains, hotels, universities and schools. Thanks to its extensive skill development programme, it has gained ample experience in establishing partnerships with reputed companies like Godrej, Ashok Leyland, Café Coffee Day, BEML, and so on which could be leveraged for establishing partnerships with companies having interest in sports, wellness and fitness.

Ushering in sporting excellence

 “The SEDA programme will help Centurion University build a centre of excellence for sports,wellness, and fitness related skills at a university level—a first of its kind in East India. It will house state of the art infrastructure and equipment and be run by well trained faculty,” says Dr Mishra. Through this facility, he expects to hone professionals with specialised skills toconceptualise and implement highly successful entertaining sporting programmes at the national and international level.

 In particular, Dr Mishra expects the new facility to positively impact the development of sports in East India. “East India is fast emerging as a hub for sports with excellent facilities like an astro-turf hockey stadia at Ranchi and Bhubaneswar, cricket stadia at Raipur, Ranchi and Cuttack as well as track and field stadia. With well trained professionals in position, these facilities will yield better outcomes,” he says. A recent policy of the Government of Odisha to promote community sports through introducing sports at the Panchayat level will create a demand for trained sports professionals. “All the drivers of the programme are already in place,” he adds.

 A self-supporting and proliferating sport industry demands highly trained associates with relevant skills and training. Through this initiative, CUTM hopes to take the Indian sporting industry closer to that ideal. In future, Dr Mishra also envisages extending the programme to train sports teachers from Africa and other SAARC countries. So much for spreading a sporting culture far and wide!


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