Dr. Anand Samuel, an expert on air-conditioning and refrigeration, and Vice Chancellor, Vellore Institute of Technology and University, explained the frequent curriculum changes to suit changing needs being made at VIT.
“We can create engineers, train them and lend them for global needs” he says. Excerpts:
INDUSTRIAL ECONOMIST (IE): How do you rate Tamil Nadu in higher education?
Dr Anand Samuel (AS): Tamil Nadu has the correct ambience for higher education. We not only need a system and infrastructure for learning but we also need the right people to manage and teach. Tamil Nadu is very well-poised in this. Education has been on top in every citizen’s list and this has also helped produce excellent teachers.
The government has focussed on improving the quality of education and of late steps are being taken to modernise the education system. We find smart classrooms in many schools and several new technologies are being used at the school level. This helps to equip our children to global standards.
IE: How do you keep pace with the changing needs?
AS: VIT was founded by Dr G Viswanathan 34 years ago with the aim of providing international education at affordable cost. We have been doing it consistently and with quality. We are ranked the No.1 private university.
By the time they finish the course and enter the industry, students’ course becomes irrelevant in the ever-changing world. Our university’s strength is based on our students and hence our curriculum changes very often to suit the changing trends. We are currently preparing our students for the 2025 workplace. To equip them for the future, we constantly upgrade our labs and curriculum to suit the future.
IE: How are you switching to the digital world?
AS: We are working to become a paperless university. Almost 95 per cent of administrative works has become paperless. Students already submit their assignments online. We are working towards making exams also paperless. Last year we made arrangements for 6000 students to write exams on digital pads using a stylus. Once they finish writing, it gets saved in the cloud database and teachers can retrieve and evaluate it on their systems. We are moving towards 100 per cent digital university and hope to achieve it by 2020.
IE: Some unique approaches…
AS: Today students learn better and more outside the classrooms. To facilitate this, we conduct many hack-athons, make-athons, design-athon and similar events. We invite an industry executive who poses a problem to students. They are given 24 or 48 hours. They can access any resource they want and should come up with a solution to the problem. This single-minded concentration and working in a group gives the students a unique experience and abundant knowledge which a classroom session cannot provide.
We also have a unique feature of inviting an industry expert in each course to deliver a classroom lecture. The industry expert speaks on a subject and also on how it is useful for the industry. This helps the students get the industry perspective.
IE: How optimistic are you on the future of engineering education?
AS: We will need more engineers in the future. This is not just for India but for the rest of the world. We should come to a position where we can create engineers, train them and send them abroad.
By 2025, India will have a very vibrant education scenario. We find a lot of interest in courses like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). The concept of Institute of Eminence will create a healthy competition among educational institutions. Government may also open up doors for reputed universities like Harvard and MIT to expand into India.