Education: Best new courses for the changing world

Data and digital is prominent, but students have other interesting options, too

gallery-image Rahul Samuel Anilal | Bhanu Prakash Chandra
gallery-image Keerthi Janardhan Reddy
gallery-image K.N. Subramanya | Bhanu Prakash Chandra
gallery-image Sanjoy Sircar

It is going to change the world, says Rahul Samuel Anilal about his undergraduate course. He is pursuing bachelor’s of engineering in artificial intelligence and machine learning, one of the recently introduced courses at R.V. College of Engineering (RVCE), Bengaluru. “AI has relevance in all domains,” he says. “The versatile nature of AI is recognised by corporates around the world and is reflected in the substantial funding for AI research. Humans can leave the drudgery of everyday life to this invention and have more time to do what they do best: decision-making, creativity, cultural arts and more.” He adds that AI will increasingly offer promising career prospects.

“AI has relevance in all domains and will increasingly offer promising career prospects. —Rahul Samuel Anilal, student pursuing BE in artificial intelligence and machine learning
Keerthi Janardhan Reddy wants to be a brand manager and says focused courses in her MBA, like digital strategy, will help lay the foundation for her career.
“Data science has assumed utmost significance. An individual was generating 1.7MB of data per second by the end of 2020. —K.N. Subramanya, principal, R.V. College of Engineering, Bengaluru
“Experiential courses will enhance the readiness of students to deliver on the job. —Sanjoy Sircar, director, PGPM, Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai
“[New] programmes are aligned with market demand and industry requirements. —Major General (retd) Bhaskar Chakravarty, director (admissions), Amity University, Noida
”India is expected to have more than 11 million vacancies in data science and analytics by 2026. —Vallurupalli Vamsi, assistant professor, Shiv Nadar University, Delhi-NCR
IIMB has started electives on analytics for e-commerce and retail operations, and project management in its postgraduate programme.

Anurag Kashyap, a student at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, is fascinated by the study of data. So, when he heard about a new elective on analytics for e-commerce and retail operations in his postgraduate programme, he was thrilled and wasted no time in opting for it. “It (the elective) gives a holistic understanding of critical issues in e-commerce and retail operations, and the role of analytics in solving these problems,” he says.

Like Rahul and Anurag, many students are taking advantage of such new courses. Colleges and universities across the country are fine-tuning their programmes or introducing fresh ones to cater to changing requirements. For instance, after starting the BE (AIML) in 2021-2022, RVCE is planning to introduce BE programmes focusing on data science and cybersecurity for the next academic year.

Explaining the rationale behind the new courses, K.N. Subramanya, principal, RVCE, says that the adoption of AI and ML in core sectors such as health care, agriculture, energy, automotive, infrastructure, manufacturing and banking and finance has led to an increase in demand for engineers with specialised knowledge and expertise in AI and ML. He adds that data science has also assumed utmost significance. “An individual was generating 1.7MB of data per second by the end of 2020,” he says. “Going forward, there will be increased demand for skilled data science professionals across industries.” A specialised course in cybersecurity, he said, would give students a comprehensive understanding of contemporary cybersecurity and how to apply the techniques in the real world.

Areas like fintech and edtech have become more relevant. As a result, more domain specialisation courses are becoming available. For example, Great Lakes Institute of Management (GLIM), Chennai, has started specialisation courses in e-commerce, fintech and edtech. The institute has also augmented its strategy offerings by reorienting strategy-related subjects to bring in digital strategy and introduced more courses in digital, web and social media marketing and analytics.

Sanjoy Sircar, director, postgraduate programme in management, GLIM, says that the focus has been on introducing experiential courses that will enhance the readiness of students to hit the ground running and deliver on the job from day one. “The domain specialisation courses deal with a fast-evolving business landscape where the current handbook of rules do not apply,” he says. Sircar adds that employment opportunities being generated in the new-age sectors are immense and that students need a deeper understanding of the sectors to take advantage of the opportunities.

Hands-on approach: Gururaj H. Kidiyoor, dean (academics), TAPMI, during a lecture. He says applied learning segments are being added to more courses. Hands-on approach: Gururaj H. Kidiyoor, dean (academics), TAPMI, during a lecture. He says applied learning segments are being added to more courses.

Keerthi Janardhan Reddy, a student at GLIM specialising in marketing, wants to work as a brand manager. She believes that courses such as brand management, consumer behaviour, digital strategy, consumer-focused product planning, and channels and pricing decisions, will help lay the foundation for her career.

IIMB’s elective on analytics for e-commerce and retail operations aims to equip students with the knowledge and confidence to apply analytics in the field, says Prof Ananth Krishnamurthy. The institution of excellence is now also offering an elective in project management that aims to introduce the fundamentals of the discipline and equip students with the skills necessary to execute projects in any domain. Prof Nishant Kumar Verma said the elective was added because project management has evolved into an indispensable instrument for organisations to hone their internal operations, seize any external opportunities quickly, and anticipate and prepare for future challenges.

T.A. Pai Management Institute (TAPMI), Manipal, has rolled out experiential courses in sustainability and strategic thinking that use simulations. The institute has also introduced a supply chain management course with simulations. This will give students a cross-functional understanding that will enable them to perform in operations and supply chain roles. Another interesting course that TAPMI launched recently is marketing performance metrics. This is expected to help students enhance their performance in sales, distribution, brand management and revenue management roles. Prof Gururaj H. Kidiyoor, dean (academics), says TAPMI has increased its use of experiential methods, which was already notable, in recent years and that applied learning segments were getting incorporated in more and more courses.

Major General (retd) Bhaskar Chakravarty Major General (retd) Bhaskar Chakravarty

BITSoM, a b-school established by BITS Pilani, is focusing on providing a new-age business management course. Technology is embedded in the curriculum, which has a high focus on developing leadership skills and deep industry integration, including inputs from industry mentors who engage with each student. BITSoM, located in Mumbai, has brought in Ranjan Banerjee as dean; he was previously dean of one of India’s top b-schools. Banerjee says that the entire course structure at BITSoM is innovative.

“Every student goes through a unique set of courses titled ‘winning at the workplace’, which build multiple soft skills; self-awareness, deep listening and critical thinking are among the focus areas,” he says. “Innovative courses like politonomics and a course on the Constitution helps the student have an integrated viewpoint.”

Amity University, Noida, has introduced a slew of new courses such as BTech with focus on data science, internet of things and cybersecurity, including blockchain technology. Then there is a BSc with focus on nutrition and dietetics. The university hopes to find takers for this programme because of the experience of the pandemic. There is also an MTech in defence technology, which is aligned to the current and future needs of the defence industry. There are also plans to introduce an integrated BTech (automobile engineering) and MTech in electric vehicle technology. The EV course will be conducted in collaboration with TATA Technologies.

“These programmes are aligned with market demand and industry requirements,” said retired Major General Bhaskar Chakravarty, director (admissions), Amity University, Noida. “Recruitment and talent hunt is a continuous and consistent HR policy followed by Amity. The USPs of the new courses entail the career prospects for the students.”

Shiv Nadar University, Delhi-NCR, also has a series of new courses. Focus on digital technologies and their relevance in modern day management education has been one of the key focus areas of the university. It has introduced various courses on business analytics, including ‘introduction to data science using R and Python’ and ‘data visualisation using Tableau’ (R and Python are programming languages; Tableau is a software). It had also launched a certificate programme in data science and analytics for working professionals in 2020. Later this year, the university is planning to start a certificate programme in cloud computing. And, next year, it is planning to start a full-time residential PG programme in analytics—master of science-business analytics (MSBA).

Vallurupalli Vamsi Vallurupalli Vamsi

The stress on analytics by multiple institutions makes its perceived importance abundantly clear. Vallurupalli Vamsi, assistant professor, department of decision sciences, operations management and information systems at the School of Management and Entrepreneurship, Shiv Nadar University, reiterates this. “Analytics is at the heart of decision-making in all business functions these days and the importance and adoption of analytics are rapidly increasing across industries and geographies,” he says. “India, being the largest growing economy and home to a growing number of start-ups, and an IT powerhouse, faces a large demand for trained analytics professionals.” He adds that the global market for data analytics was $231.43 billion in 2021, a 10.6 per cent increase from $206.95 billion in 2020. “India is expected to have more than 11 million job openings for data science and analytics professionals by 2026,” he says.

Vamsi adds that experiential learning is a significant component of all analytics courses. “In the classroom, students learn the conceptual foundations of the subject,” he says. “And as part of projects, they are mentored by the faculty to complete projects similar to the ones they may encounter in their jobs. Students who go through these courses develop sufficient skills to work in various techno-functional analytics roles, including, but not limited to, data scientist, analytics consultant and risk analyst.”

Though digital and data have emerged as key focus areas, Indian institutions are also doing a lot to offer students more choice. Gitam University, for instance, has changed its regulations to provide interdisciplinary options to students. From the 2021-2022 academic year, students have not been straitjacketed into combinations decided by logistic or administrative concerns. “The popularity of liberal education has been increasing,” says the university’s pro vice chancellor (academics) Prof Jayasankar E. Variyar. “We were a science and technology school. We have now recruited faculty in the performing arts, humanities and social sciences, and researchers in the sciences and management. The objective is to make career fulfillment the goal, not the first job.” The university has also introduced a masters’s in public policy.

New programmes at Loyola College, Chennai, include MA (international relations) and MSc (counselling psychology). The MA (IR) aims to integrate students from different backgrounds into the programme. Loyola principal, Reverend A. Thomas SJ, says this mix will build a holistic understanding of the purpose of nations, relationships between countries and international organisations. He adds that the psychology programme was started because of the dearth of mental health professionals.

A couple of programmes introduced by St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, though not exactly “new-age” courses, are noteworthy and, perhaps, especially relevant in the context of the religious divisions that are becoming prominent in society. The college’s department of inter-religious studies has started two online diploma courses—inter-religious traditions, and comparative and applied ethics. Applicants can opt specific modules within each course rather than do the entire course. The principal, Rajendra Shinde, says the first course can help students appreciate the need for inter-religious harmony and the second can help them to become critically aware of contemporary cultural issues and their ethical bases and implications.”

Rector Keith D’Souza SJ, director of the department, says that St. Xavier’s would like its students to become peacemakers in society. “Besides this goal, the courses facilitate analytical and critical thinking, as the students will be exposed to various philosophical viewpoints and argumentation,” he says. “The courses are aimed at broadening personal horizons, by coming to learn about other ethical standpoints and other cultural and religious traditions.”