Industry-Academia Collaborations: Imperatives for Sustainable Development

Global pursuit for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) has brought the Higher Education on the forefront of the
Developmental Agenda across the world. It is primarily because of the increasing role which knowledge plays in
development and more so because of the rapid pace at which Knowledge gets generated and becomes obsolete, writes Dr Umesh Chandra Pandey, Regional Director, Regional Evaluation Centre, Indira Gandhi National Open
University, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, for Elets News Network (ENN).

Dr Umesh Chandra Pandey, Regional Director, Regional Evaluation Centre, IGNOU, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
Dr Umesh Chandra Pandey, Regional Director, Regional Evaluation Centre, IGNOU, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

We are witnessing an ever-growing class of Knowledge Workers who need to update themselves and stay productive at their workplaces. Major proportion of such new class of knowledge aspirants belong to corporate world. Academia has to respond to such increasing demands of lifelong education. It’s hardly a matter of choice but an economic compulsion of the knowledge society we are living in.

Situation is challenging for the academia as they have to reach out to work places of the corporate workers and deliver education at the time and place of their choice. Educational Systems are under obligation to adopt flexible ways and means to serve work place requirements and bridge the gap with corporate world. Open and Distance Systems are therefore emerging as the only viable alternative due to their inherently “Flexible and Innovative” nature.

Industry Academia Gap: A Cause for Concern

A weak functional relationship between output of educational system and requirements of job market has serious challenge for the economic development. The situation has attracted the renewed attention of policy makers keeping in view the Sustainable Development Goals. Draft New Education Policy of India underlines that weak linkages between University and Industry is one of the reasons for poor research and development. It is increasingly being realized that structured knowledge created in the Universities should blend with the tacit knowledge of the Industrial Workforce. Such a fusion of knowledge and experiences will help to accelerate Industrial growth. On the other hand, it will also help the academia to further explore innovative technologies for increased resource and energy efficiency. To facilitate an effective interface between academia and industry, several policy initiatives have been suggested which includes the provision of having representations from industry in Governing bodies of higher education institutions.

Further, Industry’s job multiplication effect has a positive impact on society. It has been estimated that every one job in manufacturing creates 2.2 jobs in other sectors (UNDP web Site). Hence a strong functional dependence between academia and industry is a developmental imperative. A weak academia industry linkage will make industry incapable of supporting other vital sectors of development.

Role of Distance Education

Open and Distance Learning Systems due to their “Innovative and Flexible” character istics are ideally positioned to work in a Multi Stakeholder Environment.It creates a conducive situation for collaborations and networking with industry. Further Open and Distance Learning systems have been biggest users of technology which enhances their capabilities to reach out to working population. Among all the ODL institutions, IGNOU is the major role player which has the technological capability to run Online Knowledge Repository, satellite channels, Network of FM Radio Stations across the country, Network of SIT Terminals for video teleconferencing, A/V Programmes, Mobile E Learning Terminals Vans (MeLT Vans) etc., which favorably position the ODL system to reach out to diverse clientele through ICT enabled methods.

IGNOU is known for its novel approach of collaboration and sharing of resources .University has signed MOUs with several professional bodies, corporate, Government organisations, NGOs, educational institutions, research organisations both in India and abroad to develop Academic Programmes, to create Self Learning Content, develop Multimedia Content, deliver the Programme and Monitor the activities. An innovative project of Hero Honda Ltd., and IGNOU has been widely recognised as the best innovative initiative of University and Corporate organisation. Some of the other prominent organizations which were involved in IGNOU’s affairs in the past are the Future Learning and Development Ltd. (FLDL), NIIT Ltd, the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), IBM, Bharti Learning Systems Ltd (Centum Learning Ltd), the Cochin International Aviation Service Limited (CIAL), the Institute of Rail Transport (IRT), the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International School of Textile & Management (SVPISTM), Global Talent Track (GTT), Training and Advanced Studies in Management & Communication Ltd. (TASMAC), Everonn Education Ltd., Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd., Sri Sanskar School of Etiquette and Career Development, CORE Projects & Technologies Ltd, etc (Source: IGNOU Web Site). The Centre for Corporate Education Training & Consultancy (CCETC) of the University has an interdisciplinary approach to meet the corporate needs. These initiatives of ODL systems in India are some of the success stories.

Corporate Social Responsibility: A New Opportunity

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has given rise to interesting possibilities of collaboration between Distance Education Institutions and Corporate Houses. The expertise and capabilities of distance education institutions to deliver educational products in remote and far-flung areas can attract the CSR investments. The corporate houses can fund innovative collaborative projects with distance education institutions to enhance their presence in such areas. Whereas Distance Education Institutions will be able to enhance their reach up to hitherto unreached areas, the Corporate Houses will be able to earn brand loyalties in such virgin areas. Such convergence of interests between Distance Education Institutions and Corporate houses need to be fully explored.

Why Demands are So Pressing?

The gaps between academia and industry will have serious consequences for the global pursuits of Sustainable Development Goals. SDG-9 of Post 2015 development agenda of United Nations emphatically highlights the role of Industry. As Industry is one of the core drivers of the Global Economic agenda, any delay to achieve SDG-9 will seriously jeopardize our pursuit to end poverty.

Further, demographic structure of Indian Population have crucial implications for SDGs. The major segment of Indian Population will continue to be young in coming 15-20 years. Moreover India is expected to be the fastest growing economy in the world during this period. Industry and Service sectors are coming up in a big way with expected contribution of 92% of India’s GDP by 2030.Report titled “Higher Education in India: Vision 2030” of FICCI Higher Education Summit 2013 highlights that expected growth will require gross incremental workforce of 250 million given retirements / drop outs. Indian Higher Education has a responsibility to supply major share of this work force.

Interestingly, India will have a labor surplus of largely young people in 2030 with a median age of 32 years. These demographic trends have a far reaching impact for SDGs primarily because rest of the world is aging fast. If suitably skilled such young workforce will be able to respond to the massive human resource required to fulfill the demands of labour deficient markets around the world. India has already emerged as a major source of permanent/skilled migrants going to Australia and New Zealand. India’s IT/ITeS sector currently employs 2.3 million people who service foreign markets (Reference: FICCI Higher Education Summit 2013). Indian companies are spending increasing amounts on R&D and Government of India is encouraging initiatives to boost R&D in the country. Similarly Global companies are setting up R&D facilities in India. Universities have to play a meaningful role in collaboration with corporate houses to implement such R&D projects. The quality of pass outs of University systems will be crucially important to realise this.

Hence, Indian Higher Education of 21st Centure has to develop as a High Quality, Equitable and Affordable for the young people of the country. Indian Higher Education should be developed as not only best in the world but best for the world. Hence, an effective functional relationship between industry and academia is a developmental imperative which has to face the massive challenge to prepare its young population for the global economy. The effective interface between academia and industry will enhance the employability of its pass-outs , will equip them with the required leadership skills for upcoming industrial needs and respond to continuing professional requirements. Bridging the gaps will help the Industry, Government and Society in different ways. The industry will get benefitted as it will readily get the industry ready talent. Government will get benefitted as industry oriented education will help to reduce the un-employability and enhance the income levels of the people from eligible age group (18- 23 years). At the societal level multiple social benefits will accrue like raised standard of living, more number of jobs getting created. The Global Economy will get obvious advantage as any benefit which will accrue in India for young population will have worldwide impact.

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