Training Young Minds To Hone Their Skills : Anand Sudarshan, MD and CEO, Manipal Education

From a single medical institution in 1953, Manipal Education has emerged as a leading private education provider with global presence in 20 countries, over 195 courses and 96,000 students. It is a chosen destination not only for students from India, but from 51 countries across the world!

Anand Sudarshan, MD and CEO of Manipal Education, talks about various aspects that make Manipal a world-class institution.

What is the USP of Manipal University?

We don`t have a USP…we have a UEP, that is Unique Education Proposition. We are probably the only educational group that is addressing all rungs of the education pyramid, right from high end education like medical education to distance education, continuing education to vocational education at the lowest end of the spectrum.

“Manipal has few active research collaborations with the industry. For example, with Phillips we have worked on several projects, one of them being on `solving problems at the bottom of the pyramid level`. We worked on developing a product to help detect oral cancer in early stages in people living  below or slightly above the poverty line”

In what ways does the distance education courses of Manipal University strive to enhance the skills and employment opportunities of students? What has been its success ratio?

Degree courses in the distance mode generally are not in tune with specific requirements of skills and seldom do they focus on employability as a core concern. But Manipal`s distance education courses try to address this concern by focusing on not just attaining a degree but also on making a sustainable career. We adopt a multi-pronged startegy for this. Firstly, we contruct the programme and curriculum with inputs from the industry so that it becomes industry relevant. It also helps us create specialised programme components for specific industry verticals.

We make available to our students studying in 600-plus institutions in the country, additional programmes to hone their existing skills in tune with industry requirements. We also coordinate closely with various industries and sectors in the country so that our students get opportunities to work in them.

We have a lateral entry scheme for these professionals where we recognise some of the prior skills that these professionals have. This scheme is for those already employed in the industry, but want to enhance their skills through a credit-based structure

How extensively is ICT used in Manipal to facilitate an enriching teaching-learning experience.

In India, distance education predominantly is about `education through correspondence`. However, our distance learners are as near the campus as traditional learners, albeit minus the physical presence. We have evolved a hybrid model of education delivery, which is the cornerstone of Manipal education. Apart from self learning material and face-to-face classes at flexible hours, we also deliver lectures through VSAT. Werecord lectures not just of the faculty but also industry experts, which is then delivered to our students at the learning centres through satellites. Currently the technology enables us to have live lectures through the useof one way video and two way audio.

The other aspect is Technology enabled Learning (TeL) through Internet. This was a piolt project, which has been developed now on the e-Learning model. There is lot of virtual interactivity like a dialogue box, student -to-student interaction, discussion room for students and faculty. We are also in the process of delivering assignements through the Internet. The section on multiple choice questions is one of the most popular sections in the website.

Please tell us about your tie-up with ICICI for Manipal Academy of Banking and Insurance?

The ICICI tie-up is unique as it focuses on inclusiveness. Through this programme we have managed to penetrate the Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns to reach out to the weaker sectionsof the society. The students are enrolled following an aptitude test by ICICI. The programme has been highly successful and we have about 1000 students studying with us.

It has been a fascinating joint journey and ICICI`s vision and commitment for doing this has been extraordinary. There is no parallel to this kind of activity in the banking and insurance sector.

What are your views on the current status of industry-academia collaboration. Where does Manipal stand?

Connection between the industry and academia is important for developing the right skills of our graduates and enhancing their employability factor. Without getting into any kind of blame game on who is supposed to do what, I will say that both the sides have to work at catalysing a mutually beneficial engagement. The three pillars of higher education are Teaching, Research and Industrial Engagement and all three are important.

Manipal has few active research collaborations with the industry. For example, with Phillips we have worked on several projects, one of them being on `solving problems at the bottom of the pyramid level`. We worked on developing a product to help detect oral cancer in early stages in people living  below or slightly above the poverty line.

The HRD Ministry has reently been working at bringing a policy on ICT`s in education. Do you think such a step is required?

Coming to policy level, there are a lot of things that needs to be kept in mind. I would ask, do we require an ICT policy for roads or airports? It is for the airports to decide how to use ICT`s to their benefit. Similarly, I feel it is for the educational institutes to figure out how to use ICT`s for their good. However, if the government can enable it through a policy then I think it would be good. As educational institutions, our aim is to facilitate the growth of our students. Some might say ICT is a core way of doing so, other might not agree and they may be very right in thinking so. The  ultimate objective is to improve learning and thereby employability, throough whatever means.

What message would you like to give to the young people?

We believe that technology has an enormous role to play in education and technology not only means e-Learning as is understood today. I would like to tell the students to keep their minds open… for technology is going to play an incredible role in education. As the  phrase `You have to learn to learn` goes,  technology is one catalyst or impetus that would help us learn to learn.

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