Educating Gujarat
December 2011

Educating Gujarat

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Akshai Aggarwal, Vice Chancellor, Gujarat Technological University

Dr. Akshai Aggarwal, Vice Chancellor, Gujarat Technological University, in conversation  with Anand Agarwal shares his vision for making transformations in Gujarat’s educational space

What steps are you taking for realizing this vision of becoming a leader in education?
We are making the teaching of technology practice oriented. For example, in engineering we have a final year project, which will be based on things being used in industry. During the summer of this year, after the students have appeared in the 3rd year’s exam, they will have to go to the industry and find a way of doing something in a better way. We are teaching our students to be anchored to the needs of the industry; their training must be relevant to the skills and the knowledge that are in demand today.

How wide is the focus of the projects?
The focus of the projects is quite wide.  For instance, we have a polytechnic in Awa, which is a tribal area. As there are no industries in the area, the students go around in villages and find ways of using technology to bring about an improvement in the quality of life.

Are you also trying to develop new technology products through these student level projects?
No, developing new products is not our intention. Our sole focus is helping our students gain practical experience in using technology. At first it seemed like a big problem to send 50000 students to industry. All over the world students go out in summer. How come we are not able to do it? Then I looked up the data, in Gujarat and discovered the fact that there are 2.5 lacs registered SMEs and there are many large industries in the state.

Do students handle the projects in groups? How many students are there?
This year I only have 50,000 students in the final year; the number will increase to 100 thousand in two years. Normally engineering projects are taken up by a group of 2 or 3 students. We have organized the whole state into 25 sankuls, or communities,. In each community we create, what we call Innovation Sankul committee. GTU Innovation Sankul consists of
15-20 industry leaders, 15-20 directors or principal of the colleges. So we have about 500 industry leaders now in every area.

GTU can easily develop into a fountainhead of research, technology and entrepreneurship. Gujarat is number one in industrial development; we want the state to achieve similar success in the field of education. Our ambition is to make GTU the best university for studying technology.

We concentrated on SMEs, as they usually do not have any special development and research cell. And we thought that will be more amenable to our young students trying to develop the new products. There are some 72 GIDC associations, and we have tried to involve each one of them. In fact, a majority of the 25 Sankuls are chaired by GIDC associations.

What role has industry played in shaping the overall curriculum of the courses?
When the university was established, for two years there was no VC, it was the government officers who handled the administration. These officers brought in professors from IITs who created the syllabus for every semester. When I came in I detected a few problems, in the courses and in the lack of involvement of the industry.

So I began by getting the industry associations involved. Last year we started an exercise for developing a global MBA programme.  After considerable amount of work in June 2011, we were able to finalize the new global MBA programme. Many of our professors feel that probably this is the one of the best MBA programmes in the country.

What action are you taking to tackle the problem of capitation fee that some colleges charge?
The highest court in the land has declared capitation fee to be illegal. But capitation fee is being charged for every course. In most cases, the seats under management quota are filled through the capitation fee route. Of course it is not being done openly, and its not being reported to income tax authority or any other account. .

The idea that higher education can be delivered solely through the funds of the of beneficiary is a totally wrong.

Please share your plans to grow bigger?
We are trying our level best to work here. For example, we are sure that we are going to have many more students this year as compared to the previous years. In fact, our review of masters programme has already led to a rather happy situation, where as many as 20 new patents have been filed on basis of work done by by various groups of students. We have already organised 2 workshops to make our teachers aware of the new system of education. Each workshop was attended by about 150 teachers. So we are preparing the ground for many more patents to be filed, and many new products to be developed. But we are expecting that out of 16,000 projects, which have been undertaken in conjunction with the industry, at least some will lead to the filing of new patents and creation of new products.

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