Dr PT Vasudevan
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), shares about the education scenario in India, UNH’s degree programmes and initiatives to promote Indian student’s participation, in an interaction with Aamir H Kaki of Elets News Network (ENN)
What are the focus areas of your visit to India?
Prof Jordan Budd, Dean of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Law School, and I are visiting a number of places in India to promote UNH and to make it an attractive destination for Indian students both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition to the Intellectual Property Law (ranked top 10 in the US), UNH offers a slew of career-oriented degree programmes in business, engineering and liberal arts. The University offers more than 100 majors taught by internationally-recognised faculty. The University has a strong undergraduate research focus, along with an Honours programme. It also offers a wide range of internship opportunities, study abroad options and national exchange experiences. Other noteworthy programmes include Space Sciences, InterOperability Laboratory, Marine Sciences and Ocean Engineering.
How do you see the education scenario in India as compared to the United States?
The US still boasts of the world’s best higher education system. The decentralised nature of the US higher education gives universities the flexibility they need to excel. The US has no central ministry of education that can dictate curricula, and hence students have a variety of options and can design their own major. Universities can innovate rapidly and come up with new pedagogical methods. Diversity in course offerings is a big strength in the US education system. Last but not the least, international students provide a different kind of diversity and contribute greatly to the education system.
How technological transformations and innovative learning tools can change the education landscape in India in the coming decade?
Many scholars believe that universities should not be quick to embrace disruptive innovations that essentially give students badges and certificates. We should instead capitalise on what we do well, which are the scholarly interactions between students and faculty. Creation of knowledge learning occurs in research universities like the University of New Hampshire. Technology cannot be a substitute for direct interaction of human minds. Content delivery is not the issue since students everywhere are adept at finding information on the ubiquitous Internet. What is critical is engagement and active learning. Well-designed technology-enhanced active learning can improve learning gains significantly. Learning experience needs to be enhanced by evaluating and scaling high-impact learning innovations across courses and disciplines.
What steps are you taking in promoting the participation of Indian students in UNH?
We would like to attract more students from India, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. We also realise that a number of students are unable to attend US universities due to inadequate preparation. We recently started a Pre-Master’s Programme (PMP) through Navitas. PMP is a two-semester programme designed for students who have completed a Bachelor’s degree but need additional academic support to gain entry to UNH’s graduate degree programmes in engineering. We expect Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will be the most popular subject areas for Indian students. The initial focus of the PMP is on these two programmes that are well connected to UNH’s InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL). The UNH-IOL tests networking and data communications products. At the UNH, we have a new MS degree in Analytics, which is a very attractive degree programme. Other new programmes include Ocean Engineering, Bioengineering and MS in Public Policy. We will also offer a new minor in Brewing Science in 2017.