“Don't look for immediate small gains, there are endless job opportunities.What is important is your growth, your vision, your life, how it should be and how we can become a leader in the chosen part.
-Prof. A. S. Kolaskar
Vice Chancellor of The Neotia University, Prof. A. S. Kolaskar is here with us again to share his thoughts on different student-related issues such as faculty, placement, internships, non-academic resource services and a lot more. Collegedunia is grateful to him for getting in touch again for the second round of interview. Read the entire interview below and find out what message he has for the current youth.
What are you doing to ensure that induction of new students is truly world-class?
We take entrance test which is very different from the test conducted by most of the universities and even the government. We take about two hours test to find out their capacity, their logical and analytical ability, their innovativeness, their communication skills and their attitude to the possible extent because judging someone's aptitude is very difficult. Then as the course demands, like the marine engineering, aeronautical sciences, they should also be subjective. We also take a one-hour test of Physics and Mathematics which is in the 12th grade, but that is secondary as I am assuming that any 12th-grade student with the first-class marks will be knowing minimum Physics and Maths or the subjects they have learnt because we take students of minimum first-class.
It is not that I give much importance to the class, but we have to put some filters. Another thing why we take this test is to find out who has the capacity, logical analytical ability, the little bit of innovativeness and aptitude. If I cannot teach them and make them learn the subject, my teaching is at fault and not the students. So, that is our major input. Then the next thing we do is training self. Firstly, the selection and then inside the campus where in which we try to mould them to make them ready for today's global society.
The faculty is the backbone of any institution. What are you doing to ensure that a growing proportion of the teaching staff of TNU has some form of teacher training?
There are two ways I do it. Firstly, we change the old mentality and thinking. That is why we are really telling them that being a teacher, you have to make sure that the student understands the subject. It is not that I am just teaching and I don't know what students are up to. So, every time I ask the students that I am teaching, but are you learning? If the students are learning, then that means my teaching has to mean. Therefore, all teaching methodology that we use is of different types depending on the teacher. But I always tell them that they have to be a more in interactive mode rather than being monologue. Secondly, I have also trained the students in the evolution process, that we do not take the examination of the student, so we train our faculty how to evaluate the students. This means that any assignment that you are giving, we try and ask the teacher what this assignment is for, are you going to check through these assignments the student’s innovativeness, understanding of basic things or application of their knowledge, or their analytical ability, what is the purpose of it. It could be more than one in the same sense but the teacher has to have that clarity and similarly in the test.
Also, when you put any question, those questions have to come in that fashion, not in the memory capacity. We are not testing any memory of the student because in the students’ world you have information on the internet, so why do I require students to memorise it. But they should know how to apply it, how to solve them in a day to day problems and they should learn how to analyse it, how to innovate on all those certain things. Therefore, we train the teachers as well to formulate nice small projects and work on it. And in the process, we, of course, ask the teachers to go and take the training and improve their own communication skills.
What is all effort TNU doing to ensure the non-academic support services are sufficiently well resourced?
We are doing a lot of things. Firstly, we have a fairly good gymnasium. Those students who go regularly go to the gym, get some credits. We have a swimming pool as well. Those who go for swimming and keep themselves straight, we give them credits as well. We, of course, have the sports grounds for cricket, football, volleyball, basketball, and many other sports for both the boys and the girls, as we don’t distinguish between them. Therefore, firstly it is the physical activities that we give importance to, and I have the whole graduate program. Up to maximum 10 credits, they can earn, either by playing at international level or state-level. We do have a complete fitness drive from the day one when they come. We have a team of doctors to examine them and also suggest them various things.
The second level is the cultural activities. Those who take part in the cultural activities, also get certain credits. Similarly, there are those who take part in various types of student’s clubs, get certain credits in addition to this. So, outside the class, for example, I had once given them an old car and asked them to open completely and look at it and see how exactly the force of engine works, so that type of thing that we give so that in the evening they can now work in the workshop. So, there are several such clubs we have formed including the photography, of which we had the exhibition last year where the students took wonderful photographs of the birds in the morning those who come to our campus, as our campus is 50 acres lush green and we also have there a pond where various types of birds come. So, I had that exhibition put in one of our City Centre in Calcutta.
Most of the colleges do not have internship in their priority lists. Whereas internships do play a crucial role in the overall development. What are all measures taken by TNU to ensure the process of internships?
Our students have to go every summer, except the end of the second semester, for minimum six weeks internship program. They do get the credits, up to 6, for these internships. We have identified, as I have told you, several industries for the students to go for the internship. I have mentioned earlier also, that I do not start a course unless I have signed name of at least one company for the same. For instance, engineering was started because we had signed the MOU. Same is the case with robotic engineering. So, we send the students to not only those companies, but in the other companies as well, as we already have collaborations with them. They have to go for six weeks for internship and every week have to send us the report also and we give them the format in which the person who is really taking care has to fill up what the students have done. That is how they are being evaluated and they get their credit. This is done at the end of every alternate semester. Suppose, if a student is doing an interesting project and he or she wants to extend his dates and the company is ready for that, then we allow that and those credits are increased. So, there is flexibility also. This year also, our students have gone to various companies like Toyota and various robotic companies.
How streamlined is the planning of TNU for further expansion in terms of placement drive and international projects and seminars?
We have started planning for placements now because our students are entering into the fifth semester. So, naturally, we have to plan about that. Fortunately, for me the numbers are small and therefore most of my students have already decided what they want to do at the end of the eighth semester. So, there is a sufficient clarity and we are helping them in their passion, whether they are going to the higher education in some other country or whether they want to work in some specific industry. So, we are helping them one-on-one right now. We do have a Placement Director employed in-house. He is already connecting to a large number of companies and more important is that we have that connection with the companies right from the beginning. That is going to help us much more because the whole course is designed in such a fashion that they are industry ready. We give them training in the soft skills also. We have collaborations with some of the International University and we are increasing that number also.
Also, we are not signing MOU for the sake of signing it only. We sign it where there is definitely going to be one to one interaction that is what we are doing it. For example, one of my teachers goes to Belgrade University so we have signed now MOU with Belgrade University. Now the teachers and student exchange will start there in Turkestan. I have one of my student who has done his animation program earlier and he is teaching in the same school. So, because of that, students can go there and work. So, what I am trying to say is, that it is not just for the sake of having on the paper that we have signed 10 or 15 or 20 or hundred Universities, international organisations etc. No, we don't sign in that fashion where there is definite interest between the faculty and the student.
Directors position requires intense time management. How do you manage your time?
It is very important and essential for a person at my level to learn and do the time management otherwise it becomes very difficult. But I was fortunate that I have got the very initial training of time management from a person like Satish Dhawan, who was the first Secretary of Department of Space. I had very close interaction with him and he used to write me even when I moved to Hyderabad. So, that is where I have learnt and then of course, as the time progressed, I had to put in practice of various things. I feel little upset when somebody does not use that time which I have decided to give them. And in the morning, I have to decide what I have to earn or achieve during the day and what I need to do. I try and finish that in that fashion. Therefore, I avoid too many meetings or in each meeting, I try to put my time budget. I tell them that this is what it will be. It will take 10 minutes then only 10 minutes not beyond that.
In fact, at the University of Pune, when I was VC and I found that too many people wanted to see me, one way in which I had cut the time is, that I said I will not serve coffee to anyone who comes to my office. I let them come, we talk, we finish and they go out. At the most they will say that the VC is khadoos, is not even giving a cup of tea etc. Some people are used to tell that give them the tea outside and send them in so that they don't ask my time.
So, that is how I keep on doing that otherwise, it becomes impossible as a lot of people want to come and meet you and many times, even when I ask them that why do you want to see me when you know what answer I will be giving. They say that yes, we know what answer you will give, but we want to listen to that from you. Therefore, we have come, and now we are happy. So, that is our culture and therefore in that culture, we have to be very careful about managing the time. The second thing what I do is since I am not too good in writing and all that, I use various kinds of software which help me to reduce the time of typing. Then, I do have efficient secretaries who take care of other aspects. So, I make use of them and train them properly to do that. And of course, I avoid going to a lot of unnecessary functions. I give major time to the students and their parents.
What according to you are the top qualities that any engineering aspirant should possess keeping in mind the current scenario?
Firstly, he or she must have the liking for the engineering subject. Secondly, they must have very high capacity. Thirdly, they must have a highly analytical and logical ability and through that, I mean that they must be good in Maths and Physics etc. Of course, their learning through the process should be much more than the listening. So, they should be able to visualise the whole thing. Three-dimensional visualisation is what I am really talking about. Fourthly, which is for any subject and not necessarily for engineering, that ready to work hard and not jump from one to the other place. So, hard-working and consistency is really going to help. Today, engineering has changed so much that you have to continuously innovate yourself. So, the innovative ability has to be there in an engineer.
What message do you have for students wishing to pursue their higher studies specifically from TNU?
My message to them is that this university is going to help you to grow as a global citizen and human being, at first. Then, you have a highly flexible education system here. It should completely make you better without wasting any time. Thus, the university is going to help you to become, competitive at the global level, which means definitely at the national and regional level. So, this opportunity should be used by them to grow themselves. Don't look for immediate small gains, there are endless job opportunities. What is important is your growth, your vision, your life, how it should be and how we can become the leader in the chosen part? This is what you will get the training for.