At Manipal University, Jaipur, qualitative improvement is the watchword of both the management and the faculty. We strive to provide our students with the best learning environment along with impeccable education, says Dr Sandeep Sancheti, President, Manipal University in an interview with Elets News Network (ENN).
Please describe briefly about the professional courses offered at Manipal University?
In Manipal, most of the courses are professional ones whether it is in design or management, or journalism or engineering. All these are four year courses but we do have five year courses in architecture and law streams. In most cases, we prefer four year undergraduate courses and honors courses, as they are well-accepted across the industry as well as for higher studies because their depth and rigor. Such courses are generally better as they also have the components of flexibility in terms of exposure to internships and industry projects.
In the light of latest technologies evolving across the world and the global products are being created from various education institutions itself, do you offer any job-oriented course and make your students job ready?
Yes, most of courses offered are professional and are job oriented. For job orientation, we are fully geared and do our best to prepare students for it by delivering multiple skills and courses beyond conventional schemes. In fact, placement has become the foremost criteria for students and parents to choose an institute before joining it. Unfortunately they are less worried about the main things like quality of programmes offered and how these things will affect their studies and future.
Basically, we try to inculcate the lifelong learning abilities in a student and not necessarily the ability to get a job only. We do very well in terms of our placements. But in my opinion, an ideal institution’s focus should be to make students versatile and enable them to do what they want to do. To offer them better choices, we have recently started new generation programmes like BA Liberal Arts, BPES, BDes, etc.
Which distinct branches of engineering are offered at your university, share their scope as far as career prospect is concerned?
We are dealing with many branches of engineering. In all, we have 10 branches and I personally believe that branches of Chemical, Automobile and Mechatronics Engineering, etc, are distinctly different and advanced at least in the context of Rajasthan. We offer best of the class infrastructure, laboratories and learning environment for these branches in the country and we are striving to make it even better in terms of overall excellence.
We also offer highest standards of learning in conventional streams of engineering such as Computer Science, Information Technology, Computer and Communications, Electronics & Communications, Electrical, Civil and Mechanical Engineering. All of these engineering programmes offer better career prospects, as the students are better equipped with multiple skills of IT, analytical and logical abilities, communication skills, industry exposure, etc, which are generally lacking in other conventional streams.
We have 10 branches and I personally believe that the branch of Chemical Engineering, Automobile Engineering and Mechatronics Engineering, all of them are distinctly different, unique and advanced at least in the context of Rajasthan.
Do you think traditional engineering discipline is being eclipsed by the new engineering ones?
Traditional engineering branches such as Mechanical, Civil, Electrical etc. are discipline oriented and are offered by most of the institutions as well as preferred by the students. In my opinion, our institutions should also support branches like mining, metallurgy etc. as they are very important for our growing economy.
Given a choice, I will be the one to advocate for branchless engineering. I would call it as a general engineering or basic engineering or interdisciplinary engineering. It basically means that right from the day one, a student should not freeze his/her options. Reason is that when a student gets enrolled in a college, they would not know about what branch to choose. Therefore they prefer to follow what their friends are choosing or what their parents are advising them. Through branchless engineering we can allow and help them to identify and choose specialisation of their interest at a later stage when they are more matured and their future directions are better known. Though, this agenda seems difficult and is generally not offered in our country but regulatory agencies and good institutions should lead efforts to make it happen.
Most of the undergraduate engineering students in India readily opt for the first job opportunity during the placement drive. What is your take on this?
Most of the students tend to go for it as there is a pride associated with it both for the students as well as for the institution. Institutions also generally promote and desire good placements as it helps them to improve their profile and performance in ranking through NIRF, NAAC and NBA, etc. The third stakeholder i.e. the industries also take part in campus drives as they know that it is easiest way to get the best talent with the least cost. Generally it is a win-win situation for all stakeholders and hence it is flourishing. Placement is another reason why the family or student blindly opt for engineering while sacrificing other interests.
Industries are sometimes very keen to outdo each other and therefore start early placements which distract students from their normal teaching-learning processes during important phases in pre-final and final years leading to poor quality of graduates. Students also tend to go for jobs providing higher CTC irrespective of the job being of their choice or not due to their social compulsions. We should collectively make efforts to improve on these counts.
In addition to placement activities we also promote entrepreneurship as an option to outgoing students. A number of initiatives have been taken to promote it by providing proper exposure from experts, incubation facilities, technological support, partnerships and equity, etc. in their enterprises. As a special effort we also allow students to take entrepreneurship as their final year project to give them a head start and a better exposure of this domain.
Lots of initiatives are on-going as far as academics, research and betterment of overall performance are concerned. Academically, electronics engineering students will all go through the semi-conductor fabrication exercises where they make devices which generally are not offered at most of the institutions.
What are the latest and upcoming initiatives by the university? Please share the details of some of the prominent ones?
Lots of initiatives are on-going as far as academics, research and betterment of overall performance are concerned. Academically, electronics engineering students will all go through the semi-conductor fabrication exercises where they make devices which generally are not offered at most of the institutions. Computer engineering students would be exposed to Super Computing or High Performance Computing. Majority of students of Mechanical, Mechatronics and Automobile engineering undergo training at BOSCH training centres where they work on different aspects of a vehicle such as designing, drive system, safety, comfort etc. So lots of hands on practices are being offered to improve the learning experience in all specializations. We are also able to place around seventy percent of our final year students for six months projects at the industry to enhance their industry readiness.
In assessments domain, we do follow open evaluation and open book examination system and provide relative grading. This means that even if you have scored 75 and you are highest in the class, you will get a top grade. Similarly if you are at the last position in a class with 75 marks, you will get a poorer grade. This is the beauty of relative grading and these practices are usually not fully followed in most of the institutions as they follow absolute grading. In general, in Manipal University Jaipur, there are no re-evaluations, reexaminations or re-totaling as all answer scripts for all examinations are shown to the students. This practice also helps us declare all our results in time.
Similarly practices such as Tinkering Labs, Virtual Labs, summer internship for students from other colleges, one compulsory MOOC course and one online experiment every year and practicals in industry supported laboratories, faculty internships in industry etc, have been started.
Further, since we have just about completed six years of our existence and graduated one or two batches of most of the programmes, we are now intending to focus more on quality and set even higher benchmarks. In our formative years itself, we have found a rightful place in NIRF ranking and hope to continuously improve it. We are also actively working towards our IQAC, NAAC accreditation, improving research profile and offering more industrially and socially relevant courses.
Dr Sandeep Sancheti is an eminent educationist and has had varied experience as the head of NITs and of School of Planning and Architecture, New delhi. Dr Sancheti is an institution builder and currently is President of Manipal University, Jaipur