The journey from the Bangalore City to Itgalpur, where Presidency University is located, was a refreshing one. As our car raced along the road, leaving the hustle and bustle of a big city and replacing skyscrapers with lush green vineyards, our cab driver looked more relaxed, as if he has not driven his car on empty roads in a long time. He told us, "Itagalpur is a beautiful village sir; the city people have not really explored this area yet." We reached the temporary entrance setup at Presidency University, as the construction of the main gate was yet to be completed. However, before the gates were opened for us, there was a thorough security check, ensuring that nobody enters the university campus without any legitimate purpose.
Through the gate, one could see the frenetic pace of construction activity happening in the Presidency University campus. In a short span of a year, the management has been working tirelessly to create the necessary infrastructure, facilities and amenities to keep pace with the growing needs of the students.The main building where administration and academics go hand in handstands at the centre of a 60-acre land and is equipped with aesthetically designed classrooms, conference halls with the latest audio-visual facilities for an enhanced learning experience and a well-stocked reference and lending library.
Putting together the building blocks for a World-Class University
Since we had arrived early, we decided to take a quick stroll around the campus, to get a first-hand feel of the newly established Presidency University, and talk to a few students to hear their views on the university. We are surprised to find that the corridors were empty, in spite of it being the lunch hour.
Like a mind reader, Dr. Ramachandran, Pro Chancellor and CEO of Presidency University explained the reason behind the empty corridors, "We recently started something that is catching up quickly. To utilize the extra time in the lunch hours, we conduct flash quiz in any of our classrooms, where faculty members pose questions from topics that are not related to engineering, management or law curriculum. This has improved the interaction between students and faculty members."
Today, at Presidency University, more than 80 percent of the faculty members are PhD holders and most of them are from BITS or other reputed institutions like IITs and NITs. "Over the last few weeks, we have been expanding our faculty team in tune with the new batch of students that will be enrolling in the university. Beyond good and consistent academic credentials and substantial experience in teaching a particular subject, we look for passion in the faculty members," says Dr. Nagendra Parashar, Vice Chancellor of Presidency University.
Arjun Amruth, an Engineering student at Presidency University says, "You will meet many people from different parts of the country and from different backgrounds but all with the same goal, to become a good Engineer, which happens on a fast-track at Presidency University."
At present, Presidency University offers eight programmes in Engineering, two programmes in the Law school and five in the School of Management. All of these programmes are well structured with contemporary, relevant and progressive pedagogy and a curriculum that is compatible with global requirements.
Another student, Deepak S. Nambiar, from the School of Management at Presidency University says with pride "We receive professional coaching which refine our leadership and management skills, engage with high quality academic lectures and participate in a strong team-based model approach to learning."
The Future of Employability
In the glitz and glamour of numbers that project India as a major source of human resource in the future, we often choose to ignore that in today's era of knowledge based economy, the quality of workforce is more important than quantity. Presidency University understands the importance of equipping its students with the right skill sets to help them navigate the highly competitive world of careers. Thus, the university actively learns from the best practices of higher education system in the world.
One of them is the concept of Industrial Practice, an educational innovation seeking to link industry experience with university instruction, which was introduced in India for the first time by BITS Pilani under the name of Practice School. As an ideal practice to meet the rapidly changing needs and challenges of a professional workplace, Practice School has been well appreciated by the industry and higher education sector since its inception and is considered as one of the most significant innovative ideas in the undergraduate level, carried out by any educational institution in the country.
"Considering the difficulties, it is better not to have an Industrial Practice programme in the institute. However, if you can succeed, nothing will be more benefiting than the practice school," says Dr. Ramachandran. The success of the Industrial Practice depends upon the cooperation from the industry, the excellence of the students and the commitment of the Institute and its faculty. Hence, for a newly established university, it is a tough call. Dr. Parashar adds, "Convincing the industry for the first time to pick our students for internship is one of the toughest parts. However, that is not the end as there are many processes starting from sending faculty members to the workstations to monitor the students to bring positive feedback from industries so that the next batch will get the same opportunity. Altogether, practice schools will present different levels of challenges as we move ahead."
Though the process behind Industrial practice is highly complex, the university knows that the dividend they get at the end is going to be unbelievable. Dr. Ramachandran claims, "More than 85 percent of the students will be absorbed in the company where they have undergone internships under the Practice School program. At the end, it is the student who decides whether to join the company or look for other avenues." If everything goes according to the plan of the Pro Chancellor and his team, Presidency University students will get opportunities to work for a considerable amount of time in the real industry environment in their third and fourth year of studies. Presidency University also provides alternative options such as Thesis preparation for students who does not want to undergo industrial training. "In the Thesis part, the student's ability to document and their penchant towards research will be fine-tuned. However, 99 percent of the students usually opt for Industrial Practice, as it is a relief from the classroom method of learning to have the feel of being a real life employee," says Dr. Ramachandran.
Inheriting the best feature from the existing models of education and integrating those in the framework of a holistic education, Presidency University aspires to be among the best universities in the world in the shortest span possible. This is evident in the message from the Chancellor of Presidency University, Nissar Ahmed; "A salubrious campus; the latest in technology; the best of curriculum; the expertise of academic stalwarts and industry doyens, define the contours of Presidency University."
Dr. M. Ramachandran, Pro-Chancellor & CEO
Dr. M. Ramachandran is a B. E. in Mechanical Engineering and Ph.D in Renewable Energy Management from Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore. He has served as the Dean in BITS Pilani, and the Founder Director of BITS Pilani, Dubai Campus. An internationally Renowned Scientist in Alternate Energy, having guided more than six PhDs and mentored nearly 20 PhDs, Dr. Ramachandran was leader of several Indian Delegations of Renewable energy experts to several countries such as Russia, Paris and Germany.
While at Dubai he has entered into more than 11 international collaborations with leading institutions and BITS, Dubai. He was recently awarded the most prestigious plaque by BITS, Pilani in recognition of his contributions to the growth of BITS, Pilani, during its Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Dr. B.S. Nagendra Parashar, Vice Chancellor
He worked in BITS, Pilani for more than a decade where he held several key positions, including as Assistant Dean, Practice School Division; was in charge of Practice School & Placement, atDubai Campus and Editor-in-Chief of Journal. He has also worked as Pro-Vice Chancellor at KL University, Guntur, where he introduced a highly flexible and transparent academic structure through standardized systems and processes and as the Provost/ Director (Education) in GMR Varalakshmi Foundation, Andhra Pradesh, where he has brought in innovative practices into the academia.