Q 1. You began your professional career at MBM Engineering College as Assistant Professor in 1984. Ever since then, you have spent commendable time in the education industry. Tell us about your experience and what makes it the best industry to work in?
Ans. Well, I spent all my professional life in education industry only. To be true, I put in something like more than 33 and half years now in this place, in this domain. It’s amazing working in this industry here because you're always dealing with young people every year in July. You're dealing with the young uncluttered minds who are inspiring to do big, to do something new and you're guiding them in their journey. So, they love you, they respect you and they learn from you. All of these are very good features which make a teacher very happy and satisfied. That's what I would say that this is the best industry to work in.
Q 2. Being the president of Manipal University, Jaipur what is your philosophy of leadership? How would you describe your leadership style?
Ans. There is nothing called style in leadership. Leadership is situational generally, leadership is taking the team along. Leadership should be generally promoting participation and be more participative and clear in what the team is working for, aspiring for. Basically, in life, everything is about ‘give and take’. The team should know that you're helping them, you're grooming them and you're taking them further and if that point is clear, the team gives their best. So basically, I would say that whatever you would do, do it with purpose, do it with finesse, and I'm sure the team, the followers and the leaders, everyone would like you.
Q 3. Any of the significant challenges you faced as the president of Manipal University, Jaipur?
Ans. I've faced many challenges in my entire life especially when I was the director of NITs and when I was the Director of School of Planning and Architecture. Manipal University, for me, is less challenging because I'm more experienced in this domain and this position. Manipal is relatively easy for me to handle as I have a better control with lesser protocols and more autonomy in my own management. However, in the private sector, as we know that sometimes people still think teaching to be non-serious. They tend to find an entry easily because of non-availability of the teaching fraternity and teaching faculty. So, may be sometimes, there is a lack of serious students or lack of serious staff.
That is a challenge and we need to constantly motivate them. I generally tell them that you've attempted many exams to become say IAS or IES or go abroad and you've probably not succeeded but it doesn't matter. Life can start once again fresh, provided you think teaching is going to stay in your life. This is the message we give and support them in terms of professional growth and that's what makes my life easy.
Q 4. How does your curriculum ensure best practice of industry?
Ans. There are many facets to make a curriculum. I think one can easily copy it because the curriculum is generally not for proprietaries. I can have MIT or IIT or whatever, so the curriculum is one aspect of it, but to deliver in the best manner is something which is a big challenge. I think every small institution today has an academic council or senate. But I think the recent approaches which AICTE is following that 20% faculty can be from industry, is a good beginning as per as regulatory framework is concerned. As far as we're concerned, we're following the same approach in Manipal University from the last three years.
Recently, we embarked on one special thing which we call as faculty themselves going to the industry, not only the students but the faculty themselves. So, in summers, we're sending our faculty to the industries which are light minded, which are our partners, which want us. Our faculty goes for 15 days with students at our own cost to learn what industries are doing, what they want, what tools they have. Once they come back, their teaching becomes more industry-oriented and they're able to take projects with their support more easily compared to anyone else.
Q5. How do you look at the growth of students through placement opportunities available Manipal University, Jaipur? How do you wish to push the envelope further?
Ans. Well, we have to push the envelope further for making the placements good. I would probably be slightly different when it comes to placement, that’s my personal perception because of the demand of the society and the parents. We also follow the routine things and that the placement should be very active in our framework. But I think we’re not preparing students for the first, we prepare students for the lifetime placements, how to prepare yourself for any opportunities. We don’t really focus on too much of rote learning and that they get their first placement in some X Y Z bulk employed kind of a company, we actually give them a lot of self-belief. I'm very happy that you as an engineer chose to come to the media communication immediately, to learn and do something. A lot of will people go and do forest conservation or environmental things, a lot of people will take writing in English, may be for the legal or storytelling or films or whatever it may be. So basically, Engineering is bread and butter, Engineering is nothing but a basic degree that should enable them to fulfill their dreams. Everything which the students need, we do it and we’re very happy with our average placements including the CTCs which we’re able to offer to the students.
Q 6. How do you tend to establish a relation with the students being the president of the university? How do you make yourself available to them?
Ans. As your institution grows, the new methods and new approaches will come into the place, horses for courses is very obvious to deal with the demand. Once my institution started, it had 250 students in the first batch, but today we are close to 8000 students. So, it is very obvious that I have lots of Deans, Directors, HODs, Coordinators and other officials. They have empowered academically, administratively as well as financially to take decisions and therefore, they are involved in various day-to-day activities. These days, I am also indulged in the policy planning and thinking of new and clear shift towards the approaches which we want to follow. So, what we basically do is that up to the HOD’s level, there are 4 -5 levels in which everyone is empowered with all these types of autonomies. There are situations which demand my intervention and through certain processes, I also take decision generally based on their opinion.
Generally, I try to foresee the difficult situations and handle them in the initial stage by taking the preventive measures. In order to tackle such situations, we follow a unique strategy called as Open House. And, for the last ten years since 2006, I am holding an open house with three categories i.e. My faculty, My staff which is general staff including both Technical & Non-Technical stuff and Students. These Open House meetings will deal with the open-ended issues, general issues related to future, talking about what is good for institutions and what are the upcoming challenges. So, in totality, such meetings help us to connect with the students. However, I promote all students to write to me on email, but it’s not necessary that I’ll respond to them but I direct my team to respond to them. Sometimes, I myself respond to them, so there are a variety of approaches which one has to follow to deal with such situations.
Q 7. What would be your ideal school environment, and how would you encourage that kind of culture?
Ans. Ideal school environment once again is difficult to define as there are no measures and yardsticks for defining school environment. I would say Ideal school environment is where everyone will be a fast learner. There will be a guy who will be good in languages, one who may be very good in design and some other guy must be good at something else.
There are different people with different abilities, so to define and confine them in one environment will not be good. My approach to making my environment good will be where everyone tries to attain their goals easily. An environment could be of perfectionists where they attain certain level and entity which is infinitely big. However, an ideal environment would be where there is a lot of joy, a lot of craving to work and to live together.
Q8. You hold a Ph.D. from Queens University of Belfast UK and a B.Tech degree (ECE) from Regional Engineering College, Warangal (now NITW) and MSc (Engg) from Delhi College of Engineering (now DTU). How do you differentiate the quality of education in India with that of the other countries?
Ans. I’ve been not only educated in best institutions but have been visiting the best institutions for good and obvious reasons to learn from them. My graduation and post-graduation were almost in continuation for seven years so I can say that this was the 1st time slot. The next time slot would be when I did my Ph.D. which was ten years later in the UK. The remaining time slots could be when I went to the top positions in another ten years from the line. So, time stamping makes comparison difficult but they're important ingredients when it comes to the quality of education, whether it is India or abroad. I think even the western world has evolved, their benchmarks were lower when we entered the market but their benchmarks are very higher now.
Anyone can become a teacher because teaching learning cannot be confined to some boundary. The teacher has to deal with the subject in a different way, what excellence they intend to achieve or goals to achieve, how they deal with the diversity, etc. How much open and receptive they’re to the new knowledge because it’s not that you know everything in the world. If these parameters are taken care of, I'm sure the quality of education will be good. One can say that when it comes to under graduate education, India is very good because of some of the parameters like competitions, rigor and diversity. These are not necessarily strong in the western world. They’re not very competitive, they’re very relaxed about their life. We tend to fail or not tend to do good because we don't have that excellent approach in our things. We should seriously look to improve our research programs.
Q 9. What goals do you have in your mind for your university for the next few years?
Ans. The goals can be defined but the goal post can take a shift, so there would always be a challenge. I think our immediate goal at Manipal would be to reach at least 10,000 students till 2020 which is very easy to achieve, but we are also looking for consolidating the quality. In order to match up with these standards, we have raised the bar of admissions in every category of course by 5% and that is what we are aspiring to do so. We know that we will meet the target of 10,000 by 2020. In next three years, we should become best on the national level in the education industry. We strive to become a much better force to reckon with in all the domains of activities, more happening place, more socially relevant for education and research. We are currently focusing on the UG & PG education as well as on research for which we're getting grants and many funded projects. We are receiving exposures from consultancies, internet centers, and international agencies. So, in order to achieve our goals, we have to multiply them 2 to 3 times in coming years.
Q 10. Any suggestions you would like to give to the current youth and the aspiring students?
Ans. As I said earlier, we deal with the aspiring students and we are guiding them inevitably. Sometimes, it’s very contextual what they are aiming for and what their goal is, but in general, we can say that they should have their own identity in order to decide their destiny. They are advised to not to focus on the outcomes or other things too early because, in turn, they put themselves under pressure. They should focus more on learning and most importantly, on enjoying the learning processes and not compromise on the learning methodology. It is very difficult to change the learning foundation once established with respect to such methodologies. Therefore, I suggest that take one step at a time or take other futuristic steps in your mind by considering the challenges and consequences. In addition, when you are trying to be too ambitious without preparation, the probability of failure is more. This is the main thing which is required to be developed in order to enhance your ability to learn in any situation. So, basically, the crux is, you need to understand what is learnability, ages of learning, unlearning or relearning and that should remain in your mind and I am sure you'll change yourself according to the situation and perform well.Last Updated - 20 Jul 2017