RNTU’s focus is on the holistic learning and development of a student ensuring the effective application of knowledge for a secure future, says Santosh Kumar Choubey, Chancellor, Rabindranath Tagore University (RNTU), in conversation with Elets News Network (ENN).
With the changing times and a maddening race to emulate competitors, what prominent challenges a private university like yours is faced with?
Initially, people did not show much interest towards our private university due to their inclination towards government-run institutions. Gradually, we have developed a trust for us by adopting world-class practices at the campus. Now, we have gained credibility in the region by overcoming the challenges posed due to being located in rural area, as well as providing the best possible education at affordable fee structures.
Lack of research content is another major challenge in rural India that needs to be addressed. We, at Rabindranath Tagore University (RNTU), focus on research and skill-based learning. Unlike other private universities in the region, we have developed an effective research-based educational structure. It helps our students in research-based learning instead of conventional methods. We have ongoing research on internationally trending topics as well as locally-relevant topics, like sustainable agriculture and renewable energy.
As India is facing high rate of unemployablity due to lack of required skills, we have established a skill-based learning curriculum to fill the gap in education system. We are the country’s first university to incorporate necessary skill development courses across all its formal degree programmes. All the students at our university have to learn at least one skill every semester so that by the time they graduate, they are equipped with at least five to six industry relevant skills.
What are some of the innovations being introduced by the Rabindranath Tagore University for improved learning outcomes among students?
RNTU is constantly evolving to inculcate newer dimensions of learning. Some the notable additions to the faculty in the recent times include setting up a lab for Internet of Things (IoT), Simulator Lab for renewable energy, labs on robotics and setting up start-up and incubation cell.
We emphasise on research and patents, for which separate IPR Cell has been established. A separate wing has been started for skills. Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra (PMKK) is supporting skill center of our university. For placement, CRT classes have been started for final year students along with coaching classes for GATE and other competitive examinations.
With placement of students becoming a yardstick to evaluate a university’s status, what has been your achievement level in the context? How significant is innovation to your university?
RNTU has been offering placement assistance and consultancy to all its students. The University’s Entrepreneurship Development Cell is also supports the students in achieving their dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
Our focus on skills, employability entrepreneurship and incubation in addition to the main curriculum has helped us transform our students into industry-ready professionals. We make sure that our students are professional enough for upcoming opportunities by the time they become graduates.
Along with it, the group has established interlinked Entrepreneurship Development Cells and Incubation cells in all its institutions. It is by far India’s only higher education group to receive the Phase-I permission for “Atal Incubation Center (AIC)” by the NITI Aayog.
Innovation lies at the forefront of our operations. Apart from research-oriented learning and embedding skills in formal curriculum, we keep on evolving our educational pedagogies to make them relevant and modernistic.
Almost every other university is enjoying the fruits of collaborations, what initiatives have been taken by your university on this front?
RNTU has partnered with the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore and IITs. RNTU has also partnered with the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology (NIELIT) to train NIELIT scholars with advanced joboriented skills and provide certificates to students after successful completion of the university courses and exams.
Apart from this, RNTU is a partner in water management research partnership with International Centre of Excellence in Water Resources Management (ICE WaRM), Australia. Under this partnership, the organisations jointly hosted an international conference with 20 countries coming out with a charter for reforms and a roadmap. RNTU students are researching extensively on Air Foil Wind Turbine and Solar Reflective Materials in partnership with Benaka Biotechnologies Inc, USA.
The University also holds research linkages with University of SIGEN (Germany), NCTU (Taiwan), Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute (USA), KAIST (South Korea), KYIV University (Ukraine), Tribhuvan University (Nepal) and MoI University Eldoret (Kenya). Apart from this, RNTU jointly conducts post-graduate courses in partnership with BSNL and holds a forward-looking skill development partnership with Reliance Jio and Tata Group.
What steps have been undertaken for research-based learning by the university?
The rural areas of India lag far behind the metropolitan areas in terms of research and research – related literature. This has greatly hindered the development of rural areas. Therefore, an excellent research-oriented environment has been our first and foremost priority.
We have over 15 International and about 30 national level collaborations with organisations engaged in the field of research and education, focusing on cross-border recognition of experts, developing mechanics for innovative projects with quality assurance and forming research partnerships. The key research areas at RNTU are renewable energy, agriculture, biotechnology, literature, arts, material science, nano-technology and environmental science.
With an allocation of rupees one crore seed money and an equal amount of annual budget to promote research, we have established the CRG, which is autonomous body bringing research strength of five Universities of the AISECT Group of Universities, including the RNTU, on a single platform. Moreover, we have nine centers of excellence for research and skills in Energy, Material Science, Earth & Space Science, Agriculture, Arts & Literature, IoT and Cloud Computing, Science Communication, Entrepreneurship and Environmental science. These centers are known as Navratna Centers of Excellence meant to promote research in the university.