K Ramnarayanan, Vice Chancellor, Manipal shares his views on what Indian institutions can do to strive for excellence
Universities which excel are instrumental in enhancing a students learning experience, enabling him to use his head, hand and heart, thereby equipping him with information, skills and attitude of service. Such varsities think beyond conventional boundaries. Manipal University, for example, endeavours to create an environment that promotes learning, while nurturing professional and personal growth. With committed faculty and modern infrastructure, the university promotes cutting-edge research and meaningful teaching- learning strategies. It responds to a continual need for professionalism and provides personalised tutoring and student counselling.
Top class universities must also be able to actively work with the private industrial sector, fostering and encouraging partnerships with industry besides encouraging international collaboration.
Over the past four years, Manipal University has been working with various industries to acquire a greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities in addressing the needs of the emerging consumer or the base of the pyramid (BoP). The ambition is to create an ecosystem, built around open innovation that will ultimately meet the aspirations of the emerging consumers. The programme mainly aims at promoting idea generation, concept evelopment, research, community development, rural linkages and student exchange programmes.
The BoP programme has many partners from the academia, civil society and the government organisations. This programme is coordinated by the BoP Chair setup at Manipal University along with representatives from the partner industries.
Address needs of students
Higher education is at a point of transition: the number of students entering the system is growing and the profile of students is changing. Students these days are technophiles. For them, websites, Facebook, Twitter and blogs represent the basic life sustaining tools. They use smartphone, read news online, follow blogs and are familiar with multi-tasking. Students dont feel they should study in one place and they are not afraid of moving to new places or even countries. These are the paradigm shifts in student culture which Indian universities have to address. Technological changes and research have led to revolutionary breakthroughs in the development of knowledge, and necessitate adapting the education provided at the university to these changes at an increasingly faster pace.
In India, there is still one constant element in our students learningthe relationship between the teacher and the student. Increasingly, I am becoming convinced that as universities of excellence, we cannot do without this direct relationship between the teacher and student. I am also convinced that students depend on teachers to provide ideal role models. Higher education in India stands to gain enormously from this very important human resource.
Manipal University has blazed a trail in getting international linkages to its medical and other technical and professional courses. It has signed agreements with Tongji and Tianjin universities in China. The MoUs were for mutual, comprehensive partnerships in the areas of student exchange, faculty exchange, joint degrees, twinning programmes, and exchange of research scholars and postdoctoral fellows.
Modernise accreditation and assessment
Education is our most valuable resource. We must ensure that the education provided is of a high quality. Higher education has fortunately become much more accessible and has improved in quality.
Accreditation should be established within education systems. The assessment systems need to become modernised. We have to accept that flexibility is needed in course design: some of the learning will take place through open and distance learning; some will take place in the workplace; and some will take place in outreach campuses.
Bold measures need to be undertaken, like courses taught jointly by industry practitioners and academics, with constant renewal of course material and quick changes in content to ensure relevance.