Higher education institutions need to be highly student-centric: Amity University VC

'Engaging students in group activities is equally important'

114-Prof-Balvinder-Shukla Prof Balvinder Shukla

Prof Balvinder Shukla, vice chancellor, Amity University, Uttar Pradesh (Noida and Lucknow), has over three decades of experience in industry, academia, research and administration. She speaks to THE WEEK about the employability of graduates and the future of higher education in India. Excerpts:

“Higher education institutions need to be highly student-centric” - Prof Balvinder Shukla, vice chancellor, Amity University, Uttar Pradesh

How can employability skills can be developed in students?

After Covid-19 a lot has changed and a student from any stream needs to understand digitisation and needs to develop digital skills. In 2019, when we were implementing the Education 4.0, which was aligned with Industry 4.0, we identified technologies which are extremely important for students of all disciplines and incorporated them in the curriculum. Technologies such as data learning, machine learning. Students learn these technologies and apply this knowledge in whatever job roles they get into. We used to conduct skill development courses for them in partnership with the industry. It helped our students in terms of employability as they were getting skills directly from the industry.
However, we do not prepare all our students for corporate jobs. When students join, we do an aspiration survey and prepare them according to their aspirations. 

There is a lot of talk about ViksitBharat 2047. Your views on this.

The UGC is taking the initiative and meeting all the vice chancellors and has shared the five sectors of ViksitBharat with universities. The universities have created zone wise committees and communicated details about the vision to each zone. They are talking to students and faculty and have come up with suggestions as to how students will create ViksitBharat and how the university will design the curriculum to meet the skill requirements of the future.

We are meeting various companies—the same vision document has gone to industry also. So the industry is also asking academia what can be done together. This is first time this is happening in the country. For instance, now that the privatisation of the space sector is happening, [there is discussion on] how educational institutions can develop the required talent pool. This way we are talking to different industries and companies about what can be done together. From the beginning, we had been transferring technologies to the industry. Now, with ViksitBharat, the industry-academia collaboration will increase manifold. Sponsored research and industry-partnered programmes will increase. We are discussing what the skill requirements will be five years down the line. 

What do your think would be the future of higher education in the country?

The future of higher education in India will depend on how the leadership in the field of education adapts to the changes and gives flexibility to the student as to how they want to and in which mode they want to have their education. Today, a student may go for a programme and exit after sometime, say one year, and then wants to come back after one or two years to the same programme. So, how that experience of those two years can be converted into credits for that student. Such aspects need to be looked at as every experience has a value. 

What are the challenges in higher education in India?

When I was a student, I felt that I was lucky as there was no internet and no mobile, so we interacted with our teachers all the time. Today, the use of mobile phones and the internet has made the life of a student very personal and private. Because of this, many things which are happening in their lives cannot be known by their parents or teachers. So, as a higher education institution one needs to be highly student-centric, so that one is able to support students emotionally and make them strong. Besides that, engaging the student in group activities is equally important which can help them develop social skills and bring in creativity.

Today a student's concentration span is short and one cannot lecture them continuously at a stretch. In between one needs to engage the students in some other activity. Hence the focus should be more on learning than teaching. Therefore assessing their learning level has become important. The challenge is how to bring a student out of their mobile devices towards social engagement.