Interview by Yash Panchal
Prof. Prem Vrat is the Pro-Chancellor; Professor of Eminence and Chief Mentor at The NorthCap University, Gurugram (formerly ITM University, Gurugram). Just prior to joining ITMU as the Vice-Chancellor, in September 2011, he was Professor of Eminence at the Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurugram. Prof. Vrat was Founder-Director, IIT Roorkee; Vice-Chancellor, U.P. Technical University, Lucknow (now known as APJAKTU, Lucknow); Professor, Head Centre for Management Studies, Coordinator Applied Systems Research Program, Dean, Dy. Director and Director (Officiating) at IIT Delhi; Professor and Division Chairman of Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok. He is an Honorary Professor at IIT Delhi and Distinguished Adjunct Professor at AIT, Bangkok. He is Chairman, Board of Governors of WIT, Dehradun, a constituent institute of Uttrakhand Technical University. He has been on the Board of Governors of many technical institutions and universities, on the editorial boards of many Indian and foreign journals.
Prof. Prem Vrat was an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Engineering Production, University of Birmingham (U.K.) and as an International Visiting Fellow at University of Western Sydney, Australia.He has extensive about 50 years in teaching, research, management development, consultancy. He has guided 43 theses, 118 M.Tech and 65 B.Tech major projects on Industrial Application of Systems Approach and Management Science.He has published more than 475 research papers in reputed journals and proceedings of international and national conferences.His research papers have received more than 6144 citations with g-index of 77 and maximum citation of a paper as 1078 (as per google scholar). He has authored/co-authored seven books and completed five sponsored projects and 34 consultancy assignments.
Prof. Vrat was conferred Doctor of Engineering (Honoris Causa) by Bundelkhand University; Distinguished Alumnus Award by IIT Kharagpur; Distinguished Service Award by IIT Delhi; Outstanding Contribution Award for National Development by IIT Delhi Alumni Association; Uttaranchal Ratan Award; Lillian Gilbreth Award; 14 Best Paper medals and prizes. Prof. Prem Vrat was honored with the National Systems Gold Medal by the Systems Society of India (SSI),and Honorary Member of IIIE, the highest recognition by IIIE. SAE India Foundation bestowed on him the ‘Guru’ Award for his outstanding contributions. He the ‘Life Time Achievement Award’ at the 18th Annual International Conference of the Society of Operations Management at IIT Roorkee in December 2014. He received Dr. M.C Puri Memorial Award of ORSI for his outstanding contribution for promotion of Operational Research in India and Life Time Achievement Award-2017 by Indian Institution of Industrial Engineering. Re-Think India conferred on him the” Visionary Edu-leader of India” Award on 11th December 2017 given by President Pranab Mukherjee. He was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by Systems Society of India and Dayalbagh Educational Institute at DEI, Agra on 5th March 2018.
Prof. Prem rich and diverse education industry experience
I have 50 years of experience in teaching at IIT Delhi where I joined as a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering on 9th Aug 1968 and I still continue to teach and guide research there as Honorary Professor after my superannuation in 2006. It is not common for people to remain associated with the same institution for 50 years unless one is passionate about the teaching profession and the system intrinsically rewards through courtesy and positive relationship. I have never ever felt tired of teaching because it is my passion, my health tonic and I look at my role not as an employee but fortunate to be a part of the process.
I have held almost all positions at IIT Delhi includes its Director (officiating) in 2000 before I became founder Director of IIT Roorkee. I have felt that being a teacher is great and responsibility of shaping the future of the country by nurturing talent, who apart from their domain knowledge and skills are great human beings; with a attitude, compassion, integrity, punctuality, team spirit, self-discipline, other good human values. Every year, we meet new faces and being associated with youth itself is very satisfying.
A good teacher is remembered for the rest of his life by students
and such a deferred compensation is not very common in other areas. He/she is perceived as a role model by the students. He has to be a guide, friend, philosopher, mentor and must have three attributes all in one-academic brilliance, inspiring communication skills, and a role-model value system. It is a rare combination but we must develop, nurture such talent if we wish to be a great nation.
An inspiring philosophy of leadership
A leader should be able to inspire the followers to realize their hidden potential. should be a role model and should be a playing captain. He/she must do what he/she expects the followers to do. of the leader enhances the range of acceptance of the leader by followers. My leadership style is based on the of hard work, honesty, integrity; punctuality, transparency in my functioning.
Passion symbolizes my style and I do what I expect my followers to do. Fortunately, there has been a very wide range of acceptance by people whom I am expected to inspire and lead.
Challenges tackled in all these years in the education sector
Biggest challenges we face in the sector is that it does not get the attention and resources it deserves as a major contributor to the building process. The resource crunch and low social esteem given by society to teachers in the way of the best and the brightest of the society opting for teaching and research as their first preferred career option. Only great teachers can make a great society and we are suffering due to faculty shortage and quality in almost all institutions including the IIT’s.
We need to realize that the of education is the collapse of the nation and hence the sector should get the highest focus in terms of respect and resources if we wish to build a great nation. We can learn from our past ancient heritage and just reproduce conditions that existed in (say) Nalanda University that made it a hundreds of years back.
A healthy with the students and availability for them
Students are the purpose for which we exist.
All my actions are student-centric and teacher in me has always been more dominant than an academic administrator in me
I have always taught in all positions I have occupied: IIT Director, UPTU Vice Chancellor, Chairman of Division of AIT Bangkok and Vice Chancellor at ITMU and now Pro-Chancellor at NCU; the common denominator is that I have always taught full courses in every semester, evaluated answer books; setup question papers, guided research projects and published books and papers.
It has now been 50 years that I have been in teaching/research as I joined IIT Delhi as a lecturer on 09th Aug 1968 and I still teach and guide research there as Honorary Professor. My relationship with my students is that of compassion, empathy, concern for their knowledge and welfare and nurture them to become not only good engineers and managers but great human beings. All my former Ph.D. scholars are part of my extended family.
An ideal school environment full of good and inspiring leadership
My ideal school environment is good and clean physical ; inspiring and committed visionary academic leadership; talented and role model teachers committed for the genuine welfare of their students, transparent and holistic teaching-learning process and focus on developing people rather than cracking examinations. This can happen if the government; parents’ regulators, society, employers all support educational institutions as “the nursery of their future talent pool”.
Even in the private sector, the vision and strategic intent of promoters should be to contribute to the society for nation building and not treat schools/colleges as another business proposition. That is why I personally prefer to call Business schools as “School of Business” where school comes first and business thereafter.
Views on the Project Based Learning, Value Addition Program and how are they beneficial if merged with the education system
Project-based learning is an excellent pedagogy for improving the effectiveness of learning.
Students learn most when they are involved in problem-solving particularly projects with socially relevant outcomes
Value addition by definition is a good thing but it also reflects the gaps in our current system of education and hence the need for it. Logically, project-based learning, knowledge, skills, and attitudes integrated into a holistic curriculum for employability enhancement should be the right approach to nurturing talent. My job description for teachers is contained in acronym IIT-Involve-Inspire-Transform and the holistic approach outlined above can make it happen.
Top qualities that an aspiring engineer must possess
Top qualities of an aspiring engineer are:
- Analytical mind
- Capacity to structure/synthesize a problem from a holistic perspective.
- Positive attitude
- Impressive communication skills
- Eye for details
- Leadership qualities
- Creative Thinking.
Goals in mind for The Northcap University for the next few years
The vision statement of my university is: “To be known globally for learning innovations, academic excellence, and socially relevant research outcomes; strew to become the preferred destination for students, faculty, employers and collaborators & pride of ‘alumni and the community’.
Mission Statement is:
- Focus on the quality of learning and innovation in all programs with rigor and relevance.
- Develop competent professional-innovative, analytical and independent; committed to excel in all their endeavors.
- Develop linkages globally with government, industry, academia, and alumni for knowledge generation, dissemination and applications.
- Encourage multi-disciplinary programmes and projects.
- Continually improve physical, academic and information infrastructure.
- Create a nurturing environment for lifelong learning.
- Focus on entrepreneurship and socially relevant projects.
Suggestions for the youth
- My advice to the youth and aspiring students are:
- Be passionate about what you do because indifference and excellence do not co-exist
- Love what you do but eventually do what you love
- Hard work never goes waste
- Think big but have focus on executing the plan with an eye for details
- Manage time well
- Do not have short-cut approach in life
- Do not flourish at the cost of others; the others include people; nature and nation.