Born in Rohtak on February 16, 1956, Dr. Madhu Chitkara is the General Secretary of Chitkara Educational Trust as well as Co-Founder and Vice Chancellor of Chitkara University, an organization of great repute in the field of education. An eminent academician and innovative entrepreneur, she is actively involved with the day to day working of the trust and the institutions that flourish under it. Having co-founded it along with her husband Dr. Ashok Chitkara in 1998 with a mission to set high standards for education, she has actively contributed to its tremendous growth and recognition in all these years. With a passion for academics and great business acumen, she has had a diversified career spanning 30 years. Dr. Chitkara completed her B. Sc in Mathematics (Honors) from Matreyi College of Women, New Delhi and then proceeded to complete B. Ed and M. Ed from Punjab University in 1976 and 1977 respectively. Gradually, balancing her duties between home and work, she went on to complete M. Sc in Mathematics from Punjab University in 1980 and then subsequently a Ph. D in 1984. She was honored with State Award for Teachers as a teacher of outstanding merit in the year 1987. In the same year, the visiting premier of England, Margaret Thatcher donated computers to a few schools in Chandigarh and Dr. Chitkara was the first woman to be trained at TTTI on the BBC Microcomputer Systems, a series of microcomputers and associated peripherals designed and built by Acorn Computers for the BBC Computer Literacy Project.
Ques 1: You have a diversified career & variegated experience in the field of education for more than 35 years. Kindly tell us about your experience in the education industry and what makes it the best industry to work in?
Ans. It has been more than 40 years now being in the field of education from School education to Higher education & especially as an edupreneur for quite a long time. Working in the education industry is quite fulfilling. I have experienced all shades of this industry. Throughout my education career from School teacher to Vice Chancellor of Chitkara University, I don’t remember any instance or incident, which made me feel that this profession doesn’t belong to me. The beginnings were humble. I wanted to become an engineer but capacity constraints in Indian engineering colleges prevented me from fulfilling my ambitions. I joined an undergraduate program with mathematics as majors. I got my bachelor’s degree in 1975 and then took up studies leading to Bachelor of Education (B. Ed). During this phase, I met my husband and we both continued our studies leading first to M.Ed. and later M.Sc. (Mathematics). I went on to acquire a Ph.D. degree associated with Education and got a job as a lecturer in a college. To exploit our talent, I and my husband started Chitkara Institute of Competitions (CIC) to prepare students for various competitive examinations. The students noticed our stature as good educators and the reputation of CIC grew. I especially realized that while my husband possessed the tremendous intellectual capital to teach I also had the entrepreneurial skills to match. My husband continued managing CIC. I had a desire to do something noticeable in the formal segment of higher education. Thus, in 1998 we established Chitkara Educational Trust. Thereafter, in 2002, my husband and I took a calculated risk and resigned from our respective jobs to establish Chitkara Institute of Engineering and Technology (CIET). In 2003, we started with Chitkara College of Education for Women which became immensely popular. Our success inspired us to diversify further and in 2004 we launched Chitkara School of Planning and Architecture. I did not forget the school level education and in the same year, Chitkara International School commenced its operations. Chitkara School of Pharmacy and Chitkara School of Hospitality (CSH) came up in 2005.The year 2008 was a major milestone in the saga of Chitkara. CIET was ranked amongst the top 50 engineering institutions in the country and CSH was accorded the status of Institute of Hospitality Management by National Council of Hospitality Management and Catering Technology. But we were not satisfied because all our educational institutions were affiliated to different universities and we had no control over the curriculum design, academic innovations, pedagogy and that prevented us from adopting a learning-centric approach. Yet another ‘brilliant’ moment came in 2008 when we were able to establish Chitkara University in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. With the University, we got the autonomy to adopt means to provide quality education. Soon we established Chitkara School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Chitkara Business School and Chitkara School of Healthcare Sciences. In 2010, we were able to set up Chitkara University, Punjab. It was no mean achievement to rise from a school teacher to create two universities! I found this industry working best for my potential being an educator turned entrepreneur and change catalyst in terms of creating value based education ecosystem for the welfare of society and nation.
Ques 2: Being the co-founder of Chitkara Educational Trust and vice chancellor of Chitkara University, what is your philosophy of leadership? How would you describe your leadership style?
Ans. Leadership has been defined in many ways by many authors. But to me, it is all about “Taking everyone along”. Chitkara University has a team of more than 700 Faculty members and 1000 staff members. Many of them are associated with us for years long and they are an integral part of our long journey. We strongly believe in our human capital & are committed to evolving together. Chitkara is a family of like-minded people and each one of them are our assets. As a leader, I strongly believe in “Transformational Leadership”. We believe in growing with all and our punch line is “Explore your potential”.
Ques 3: Apart from spending commendable time in the education industry, you are an innovative entrepreneur, designing the road map for the Chitkara Educational Trust and have actively contributed to its success. What advice do you have for the aspiring entrepreneurs of the country?
Ans. Take my learning’s as advice:
- There is no shortcut to success.
- Take everyone along. Allow your team to contribute.
- Money cannot be an aim of Entrepreneurship.
- Believe in yourself but don’t be unreal.
- Your effort should be bigger than your dream.
- Build on your strengths.
- Stay humble and grounded.
- Being an entrepreneur, always keep society in mind.
- Keep yourself updated as an entrepreneur.
- Value “Time”.
Ques 4: What are the qualities, which over the year have helped you and the entire management, create a brand name for Chitkara University?
Ans. Chitkara University as a brand is a synonym of “Quality Education” which is evident from its top national level rankings by various survey agencies. Our Faculty is our core Strength, our curriculums are latest, our programs are industry linked and Our 100 plus International academic partners are among the best world, our 30 plus startups speak volume of our entrepreneurial education system and Our 125 plus filed patents represent our strong research capacities.
Ques 5: You recently attended a conference on “The Changing Landscape of Internationalization of Higher Education”. What were your findings from this conference and your views about the same?
Ans. The conference on “The Changing Landscape of Internationalization of Higher Education” was a well thought, organized and attended the event. It was a delight to attend and interact with the brains and forces behind the current internationalization scenario of India. The things are moving forward in the right direction and the breeding ground is perfect for right collaborations to take place, only to benefit exchange students and faculty around the globe. More and more universities are becoming aware of the positive aspects of internationalization and its importance. The best is yet to be seen and experienced.”
Ques 6: Any of the significant challenges you faced as the co-founder and vice chancellor of Chitkara University?
Ans. All my life I had been concentrating on teaching alone. I had no knowledge of the complex web of rules and regulations woven by education regulatory agencies at the central and state government levels, which were very ancient. I also had to deal with officials of the land revenue department, building bye-laws, environment and pollution control and numerous labor laws. Indian construction industry is poorly regulated especially for the quality of manpower employed in the sector. Higher education institutions require safe, functional and sophisticated structures that meet the aspirations of various stake holders. Moreover, the agencies involved in the construction of buildings are notorious for time and cost over-runs. I had to meet the timelines laid down by the regulators. Thus, timely, economic and good quality constructions were the major challenges I faced. I always wanted that my educational institutions should be known for quality education. Thus, the hiring of good faculty, drawing up the curricula for different courses and equipping the laboratories were major challenges. Being a mathematician, I was not familiar with the nuances of other disciplines and it was a Herculean task to get that done. I had to ensure that the equipment for laboratories was of good quality and was procured at competitive rates. I was a new entrant in the field of education-entrepreneurship and had to compete for students and faculty with some of the well-established names in the sector. All I could promise to my potential students was that I will not compromise on quality education. Similarly, I had to go in for massive efforts to run faculty development programs. Arranging financial support was another challenge that I faced. I had to approach banks and other financial institutions that were reluctant to invest in the ventures of a new and inexperienced entrepreneur. Now some personal challenges, in 1998, India was still a very conservative society where women entrepreneurs had not yet made their mark. I had to struggle to prove my credentials and convince the bureaucracy and the financial institutions that I would be able to achieve my goals. Moreover, I had to deal with a semi-literate workforce of the construction industry. My children had still not completed their education when I took up my first challenge in 1998. Setting up and managing a new institution was a full-time job and without any family support, I had to muster all my skills to arrive at a work-life balance.
Ques 7. How do you look at the growth of students through placement opportunities available at Chitkara University and how does your curriculum ensure best practice of industry?
Ans. We at Chitkara University strongly believe that Placement is a consequence of good academic environment. For us, important is bringing Industry to the campus and connecting the dots of Industry with academia to bring best of the results. Our students are hands on and responsive to latest industry requirements. Our strong industry linked graduate programs are keeping our academic as latest and relevant as possible. We have created strong Industry linkages to bring best of employment opportunities for our young graduates in the companies of repute such as Infosys, Amazon, Mahindra, Fortis, Safexpress, SAP, Deloitte, Morgan Stanley, Ernst & Young and much more to count on. We have partnered with Fortis Healthcare, Frost & Suvillan, Safexpress, Bombay Stock Exchange, Multi Commodity Exchange, ManpowerGroup, to run our unique MBA programs. Our UG Accounting programs are in tune with ACCA Embedded curriculum. Our BBA program is focusing on Digital Marketing and Global Business. We collaborated with Cadence, ARM, NXP, Oracle, Infosys, Bosch, Stienbeis Center for Technology, Dassault Systems, RASCO, SAP, Google, Apple and Microsoft to make our engineering programs more hands on and useful for our students. Most of our University programs are primarily articulated & guided by our industry partners on their latest requirements. Our focus is primarily on employability and entrepreneurship Innovation is always important to us. We established Chitkara University Research & Innovation network(CURIN) Department which largely focuses on Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. We have an incubation center under CEED (Center for Entrepreneurship & Education) to promote skills of entrepreneurship among students. We have our own incubation center and so far, so incubated 30 plus companies and many in the process. We have 9 centers of advanced research, which focus on applied research using cutting edge technologies for better healthcare, better education, and a safer society. Office of Patent Facilitation Licensing and Consultancy (OPFLC) has benefitted 200+ investors, facilitated 125+ plus patents. Our DST and MSME recognized innovation incubator has incubated 30+ companies and is now growing to become the biggest in the north India. We have incentivized the research ecosystem in our University at all levels of students and faculty. More than 100 International collaborations with Universities all across the globe for articulation, student and faculty exchange and joint researchers and more than 500 foreign students from SAARC and BIMSTECH region and a ball park figure of over 100 students every year for semester exchanges from over nine countries at the campus build a strong globally acceptable intellectual capital at Chitkara University. Ultimately, all these efforts build suitable academic environment and make our students capable of getting the best of Careers.
Ques 8: How do you tend to establish a relationship with the students being the vice Chancellor of the university? How do you make yourselves available to them?
Ans. We are in the occupation of building lives and developing social fabric. Terming it merely as a Challenge will not be sufficient in the realms of education ecosystem. The responsibilities are massive. As a Vice Chancellor, I am always attached to certain aspects of my University’s operations on regular basis such as the development of latest curriculum and courses, faculty empowerment, meeting industry requirements, grooming students on life skills, managing resources, regulatory requirements, raising requisite infrastructure and meeting university’s social responsibility. Besides all this, students remain my priority. I meet students in the hostel quite often, talk to all of them during orientation of the programs, meet them during placement week, interact with them during university level events and hold regular meetings with clubs and societies to assess their needs and provide them best of the environment. We have a mechanism in place where in students and faculty are free to write me their suggestions/inputs etc. directly. As a Vice Chancellor, I am always on the hunt for bright brains as Faculty for my University so that my students get best of academics. The second most important concern is the relevance of courses and curriculum that we are offering to our students. Third, I personally work on Faculty development that remains the core resource for an institution and lifeline for the growth of my students. Fourth and the most important focus area is developing a suitable academic environment to develop research, employability and entrepreneurial spirit among all learners attached to the University. As said in the beginning, we are in occupation of building lives so it requires minute-to- minute attention and commitment to the cause.
Ques 9: What goals do you have in your mind for your university for the next few years?
- Building a sustainable knowledge society through innovation, entrepreneurship and academic excellence.
- Carrying out the academic process for achieving excellence through active teacher-student-industry participation
- Promoting research, innovation, and entrepreneurship in collaboration with industries and laboratories
- Inculcating high moral, ethical and professional standards amongst our students
- Contributing to building a skillful society
Ques 10: Any suggestions you would like to give to the current youth and the aspiring students?
Ans. We are focusing more on research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. We are also introducing newer and innovative programs with industry/innovation focus. The newly established Chitkara University Research and Innovation Network (CURIN) has taken the onus of contributing significantly to the knowledge filled and skilled society. The youth of India needs to be more committed and focused. Young Indians need to know the value of being self-sufficient. They need to be effortful. The youth of India is our future. I think it is time to BrainGain not BrainDrain. The established brains outside India need to give back to the nation on priority. Young Indians need mentoring, coaching and handholding. Make in India, Start Up India, Digital India, Skilling India is not only campaigns but national agendas. We have to support the youth of India with the best possible skills and weave qualitative and skillful social fabric for the world.Last Updated - 25 Jul 2017