"NU will Address the Future Needs of Emerging Areas of the Knowledge Society" : Rajendra Pawar, NIIT University, India

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NIIT University, a not-for-profit institution, has been established with the vision and mission to become a leading centre of innovation and learning in emerging areas of the Knowledge Society. Rajendra Pawar, Founder, NIIT University talks about the uniqueness and futuristic approach of the University.

“In a few years from now, India will be known for its innovation and research. In this century of the mind, the country will gain pre-eminence, owing to its holistic and seamless education, which is relevant to society and industry.”

What is the founding philosophy of NIIT University and how is it different from other universities?

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NIIT University (NU) was established with the vision of being the leading centre of innovation and learning in emerging areas of the knowledge society. It is dedicated towards building great careers and ensuring exceptional job opportunities for all its students. The University has been developed as an institute of excellence based on the four core principles of providing Industry-linked, Technology-based, Research-driven, and Seamless education.

The emblem of NIIT University depicts a Mobius ring, symbolising eternity. The sides of the Mobius ring merge in and out, and back and forth, to create a graceful, seamless and complete structure. Similarly, the knowledge that NIIT University imparts is the foundation for multifaceted careers, endless in their potential.

With NU, the intent has been to create a new model in higher education, which reflects what a 21st century University should be. The NU campus has been created in a way which will spawn ideas and original thinking amongst its students. To facilitate learning, there is cutting-edge technology and state-of-the-art classrooms that connect students to the world.  At the Wi-Fi NU campus, students are equipped with all the gadgets and gizmos essential for learning in the 21st century. The focus of the faculty is on seeding new ideas, thoughts and feelings into students. The education provided to learners is not just restricted to their chosen stream. A computer science student for instance, is also exposed to botany, history, culture, art, anthropology, and music. The idea is to provide a seamless and holistic learning experience, that reflects the University’s motto

How did you initiate the planning phase for NIIT University?
While the NU may have started taking shape and structure only in 2005, the dream began as far back as in the early 1990s. In 2002, we created the fi rst advisory board constituted by  well known academicians, industry leaders and scientists. The board had luminaries like Prof P V Indiresan, former Director, IIT Chennai, the late Prof C S Jha, former Director, IIT Kharagpur, Dr Kiran Karnik, then President, NASSCOM, Prof R C Malhotra, former Director, IIT Kanpur, Dr R A Mashelkar, then Director general of the Council of Scientifi c and Industrial Research (CSIR), Prof Ashok Misra, (who later became Director of IIT Mumbai), Prof J R Isaac of IIT Mumbai and Prof M P Kapoor, former Vice Chancellor, Thapar University.
From the beginning we were very clear that NU would not be constrained by the mould of existing higher-education programmes. We wanted our students to solve real problems that affected the masses in the country, which is why the entire campus was planned like a research lab which would throw up interesting challenges for students to tackle. The phase when the Master Plan of the University was created, was therefore extremely important. NU not only had to impart technologybased and research-driven training to students, it also had to be designed in a way that ensured sustainability. The campus had to be fi nancially, ecologically and intellectually self-sustaining. This actual planning of the campus was preceded by series of brainstorming sessions which resulted in evolution of the four core principles. This now fi nds representation in the very design and layout of the University. While the campus was being conceptualised, we focused signifi cantly on Seamlessness, which is the reason why the academic and faculty buildings are barely a few minutes away from the lab. Designed to integrate with nature, NU is master-planned by YRM (London) Ltd., a world-renowned campus architecture fi rm. The unique ‘pedestrian only’ campus layout, ensures that cars are left at the parking bay near the entrance. From there the campus is comfortably explored on foot via the ‘spine’- that meanders across all high traffi c areas. The 700m spine runs through various building blocks and seamlessly unifi es the campus. The University’s sensitivity to the environment fi nds resonance in its distinctive Geothermal Cooling, through a network of Earth-Air tunnels, which act as an enormous self-regulating heat sink for the campus, with very little electricity required to cool or heat the ambient temperature. The design of the green campus incorporates one of the largest known earth-air tunnel installations in the world, and also harnesses wind chimney for a natural ventilation effect.

How does NIIT University fi t itself in the current higher education structure and look into in the future?
With NU, we have tried to look into the future requirements of the knowledge society to establish a new model in higher education. This is backed by the knowledge and experience we have gained from delivering education over the past 28 years. In a few years from now, India will be known for its innovation and research. In this century of the mind, the country will
gain pre-eminence, owing to its holistic and seamless education, which is relevant to society and industry. NU is clearly ready for this tomorrow, today. With its focus on cutting-edge technology and research (an important pillar of learning in the future), NU will play a vital role in the knowledge-driven future. We have gone through the IT revolution, and now it is
the time to transform higher education. We need many more Postgraduates, Research Scholars and PhDs to bring in this transformation. Clearly, NU, with its futuristic approach, will fi nd a fi t in the emerging, knowledge-driven society.

What are the parameters that you look for when recruiting faculty for NU?
The fact is that we would rather encourage our own students, particularl the brightest ones, to continue their education until they acquire their PhDs and become NU faculty. Our aim will be to become a net producer rather than a net consumer, which means we have togenerate more and more quality Research Scholars in the long run. We are looking forward to the revival of teaching as a profession, although currently, this trend is at a very nascent stage. The biggest criterion for determining the choice of faculty is their demonstrated love and passion for the subject. Visiting faculty is a critical part of the University. We have roped in educational innovators, top CEOs and entrepreneurs to interact and share their experiences with the students.

What is your admission criteria?
NU seeks meritorious men and women with effective personalities and an inquisitive mind. The selection procedure at NU has been designed to identify such individuals. Due weightage is given to the academic background of the applicant as well as his/her communication skills and passion to learn. Even the application form is designed to facilitate the selectioncriteria by encouraging the candidate to describe his/her background, achievement, interests, motivation and career goals. NIIT University employs a very judicious and innovative selection criterion which ensures that students with the desired potential get through. Our selection process gives merit not to a single exam, but the overall academicperformance in school as well as to indepth interviews to judge areas like passion, potential and social sensitivity.  Almost one-third weightage is given to the interview process, one-third to performance in the entrance examination and remaining to marks secured in 10+2.The right kind of students with the right mind set will get attracted to NU’s campus structure and curricula. The interview process at NU is aimed at showcasing the holistic learning at theUniversity and its focus on the four core principles.
What inspired your current model?
Having delved into the area of education since over 28 years, we had insights on the gaps in the current system and the need for radical change. In India, there is a mismatch in what the
industry needs and what the universities are creating. Our passion to make a difference gave birth to the idea of NIIT University in the early ’90s. We wanted to set up an institution that would be an example of pioneering innovation in the area of higher education. The idea was
to tell the world what a 21st century University ought to be. Also, in this Century of the Mind,
we wanted to bring back inquisitiveness in students. Inculcating the research mindset is not just about setting up labs but creating an environment that provokes thinking. We want students to solve real problems that affect the masses in the country.It was with this in mind that we started afresh, literally from ground-zero, to put together such a model. NIIT University was formed with a vision to be the leading centre of innovation and learning in emerging areas of the knowledge society and has been developed as an institute of excellence based on the four founding principles of providing industry linked, technology based, research driven and seamless education.

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