In an exclusive interview with Higher Education Review, Dr. Anil Rana, Director, Manipal Institute of Technology, share his valuable insights on the ever changing landscape of Indian engineering education, the skill gap in the Indian engineering sector, the rising popularity of online programs and more.
Most engineering colleges in India still struggle to offer industry-centric practical education to students, which have caused a significant industry academia gap in the country. What is your opinion regarding the lack of quality in engineering education in the country?
The lack of quality of some engineers graduating from various colleges across India can be attributed to the mushrooming engineering colleges with inadequate facilities and inexperienced faculty. But not all colleges fall in this league. The gap in industry and academia may also be attributed to the pace in which the technology changes in the industry today and the time delay in course completion and updation. The third factor is the lack of interaction between the two.
A 2020 report stated that 63% companies in India report shortage of talented employees especially in the engineering and IT domain. What is the reason behind this and how can engineering educators solve this issue?
Establishing a very strong relationship with the industry is the need of the hour. Our curriculum must be designed in line with the expectations of the industry. At the same time, we must focus at the delivery of the knowledge too. The pedagogical requirements of today demand industry experts to be engaged in the class room delivery too. At MIT, we have adjunct faculties who regularly take classes and make it interesting by bringing out case studies and real world problems experienced by them. With UGC's path breaking approval to hire "Professors of Practice" from industry, we may be able to take this to the next level.
Rapid advancements in technology and automation in particular have changed the engineering landscape forever while still only 2.5% of engineers in India possess artificial intelligence skills. How can educators keep their students up to date with the latest technology trends?
Enhancing industry-institute interaction through IAC (Industry Advisory Committee) initiatives, participation of industry experts in the curriculum design process, curriculum conclave and industry representative's involvement in the Board of Studies (BOS), industry sponsored labs and projects, involvement of adjunct faculties from industry are important.
Flexibility in the curriculum is essential too. The curriculum can have a core component that addresses the fundamentals and a flexible component that may include dynamic courses by way of electives. Besides this, flexibility in delivery & assessment methodology also helps the students choose the courses that meet their expectations and are in sync with the rapidly changing industry requirements.
Leveraging the expertise and facilities available in online mode of education to connect with the leading industries and research establishments, cutting across geographical boundaries is also crucial. Taking the projects from industry/organizations and executing it with the help of students and research scholars helps them remain relevant and updated with the latest developments.
The popularity of online programs has been on the rise with more premier educational institutions starting to come up with innovative online engineering programs. What are the tangible results these online programs can offer and how do you see its impact on conventional engineering education?
Such online programs enhance the coverage of engineering knowledge in the country. It will lead to building awareness and will help in selection of the career paths for the students. Online courses help provide flexibility to the students to choose the type of the course, time and pace of delivery. Sharing of knowledge is easier irrespective of the regional constraints. The coexistence of both; conventional as well as online programs is the best option as it provides both the depth as well as the breadth of engineering knowledge. In most of the engineering domain, practical labs are very essential and cannot be sidelined. Similarly, projects where students get to perform actual task by themselves under the mentorship of an expert have an invaluable component of learning which cannot be replicated by the online version of knowledge delivery.
More companies have started to prioritize on the skill sets of a candidate rather than just employing someone because they have an engineering degree. Considering this, what will be the value of engineering degrees in the future?
The concept and value of engineering degree will remain the same. But the manner in which the curriculum is being introduced to students is bound to change. Introduction of certificate courses, industry sponsored electives, invited lectures from companies, industry sponsored labs are some ways by which the value of engineering education can be enhanced. It is important that the students are given an opportunity to get exposed to the latest trends by means of MOOC courses and other certificate programs apart from the regular curriculum so that they acquire the necessary skill set along with an engineering degree.
Reports suggest that Indian engineering graduates are far behind their international counterparts. What are some of the teaching pedagogies that you are aiming to implement at Manipal Institute of Technology to bridge this gap and create world-class engineers?
It is imperative that graduate engineers have the skills that match the industry requirement. At MIT, we have some of the best practices to ensure this. These practices provide experiential learning to the students and give them the confidence to face the corporate world. The 'Major Student Projects' (a unique initiative where the institute provides infrastructure to build a technical project to compete in national & international competitions) are an example of this. We have a dedicated co-working space for the students who are involved in these projects. Around 22 teams are involved in developing models, participating in international competitions, applying for patents etc. The University funds them substantially to carry out their work. The process is continuous with one set of students passing the baton to the next team through very stringent process of short-listing and interviewing.