With the job market flourishing, it is high time the students made most of an opportunity in a holistic manner. Rajiv Swarup, President, Shiv Nadar University, speaks to Elets News Network, about creativity and innovation in engineering. He calls for the students to be serious about their lives early so as to grow into a holistic professional, ready to adapt to the changing demands of the future market.
What makes the Indian market unique as far as the field of education is concerned?
We know that increasingly most companies in the West are leveraging outsourcing and offshoring to bring about operational efficiencies. India is positioned well to take advantage of this on account of availability of an Englishspeaking educated workforce, people skills, financial attractiveness and connectivity to the rest of the world. One of India’s biggest advantages is its growing young population and its education system.
Would you throw some light on the industry-academia divide?
At present, the industry has enough jobs to offer. What it has to deal with is whether education is adding value to the students and making them industry ready. The question before educational institutes is how they should make their students capable of adding more value to the industry. Earlier, innovation was scarcely valued in the industry and the education system. But the picture is different today. It is no more a tutored environment. The companies want its employees to take more responsibility and initiative, and not waste their time in the intermediate period.
Several engineering colleges are mushrooming across the country but unfortunately only a handful of them impart the required learning and training. All companies have to invest heavily on training of the engineers they hire, a task which could have been a lot simplified if the education provided in these institutes was better.
In this scenario, which are the initiatives taken by School of Engineering at Shiv Nadar University?
SNU’s objective is to impart holistic learning and prepare future-ready individuals.
We have started a unique initiative of campus jobs for the students, where we aim to train them to take accountability and responsibility for smaller areas and deliver. Once a student is chosen for a job after a well-defined selection process, he/she is given an appointment letter and we pay them by hour. We keep the whole process very professional and the students have to submit a time sheet every week. The whole idea behind this kind of discipline is to enable students to understand what a corporate working environment would be like.
Our syllabus and how we have built the curriculum, the standards are very high, and very much at par with that of Ivy Leagues and IITs. We have always maintained that degree is not the goal, learning is the goal. I always encourage our students for innovation, and tell them that we are willing to put in the investment if you want to build something, create or innovate.
In addition, Shiv Nadar University offers an undergraduate curriculum that is designed to allow students to major in a particular subject while also studying and experimenting with a range of other minor and elective subjects. This allows every student to pick and choose a wide spectrum of subjects in sync with their passions. What is your opinion about the role of government as far as innovations in engineering curriculum is concerned? I think that the government should not adopt an interfering attitude as far as education is concerned. They should in fact act as an enabler. The government should facilitate and fund students. One of the best ways in which it can be done is by making education loan for students easy to get. Today, all undergraduate students depend on parents for money, which results in a situation where they are mostly pressurized into taking streams/subjects of their parents’ choice as they are the ones sponsoring the education. This parent-directed education is not healthy for the growth of students.
Bank loans are very expensive in our country. Is it not funny that it is cheaper and easier to get an automobile loan in comparison to an education loan in our country. Also, banks want collateral which makes it very difficult for students to obtain loan.
I understand that in India malpractices happen and loans can be misdirected. We therefore need a system of checks and balances where banks can set guidelines as to which are the accredited universities/colleges whose students can be granted a loan at concessional rates.
Another aspect of this is that it will allow students to take charge of their lives early and become responsible. This will bring in a new seriousness towards what they are pursuing. At Shiv Nadar University, we offer wide ranging scholarships to our students, who have to maintain a certain academic performance to enjoy this privilege throughout. We have realized that if a student for some reason is not able to perform well and the academic level goes below minimum threshold and the scholarship level goes down, the ones most affected are the parents who have to bear the financial burden, and not the students. What is your long term outlook for the Engineering stream? The Engineering Schools in the country should prepare future ready Engineers. They should provide environment for holistic learning and not targeted to a particular set of jobs, because Indian market’s challenges are different. Majority of the children who are presently in age group of less than 10 yrs will be working in jobs which have not yet been created. That is the kind of pace at which the world is changing but is our education system geared up to cater to that kind of future demands? Only technology can help private universities to reach where they aim to be, by creating new models of delivery of education and designing models which are ICT enabled.
If the students are not prepared for the future and for job opportunities of times to come, they will most likely fail. They have to be prepared for the future and adapt to change.
I always tell my students to be not afraid of making mistakes, and not be afraid of failures as every failure provides great learning opportunities.
I would also like to mention that today no creative activity can be done in isolation and nothing works in a vacuum, especially in the field of engineering where every branch is interlinked. Multi-disciplinary learning is the need of the future. There has to be knowledge exchange and different streams need to collaborate with each other to create something remarkable.