Interview

Threat to private universities is not from foreign universities but from over-regulation of government agencies

Brig (Dr) Surjit Singh Pabla, an IIT-B alumnus is the first
and present Vice Chancellor of JECRC University, Jaipur. He has over thirty
five years of experience in academic engineering profession and administration.
Dr Pabla has over ten years’ experience in command of Army units and
administration of civilian employees in MES in all parts of the Country.

He currently holds various responsible positions such as
President-Indian Council of Universities, Secretary General-Association of Self
Financing Universities, Chairman -Vice Chancellors Committee on New Curriculum
for Engineering Colleges, Director- Geo Syndicate, SINE, IIT Bombay. He was also
member of Yashpal Committee on Reforms in Higher Education and Knowledge
Commission, Sikkim.

You are from the Army
background. How do you look at your role as a Vice Chancellor in a university
as compared to that of the senior level positions in the Indian Army?

Army provides an excellent opportunity to satisfy one’s
patriotic ambitions. It offers a very disciplined and healthy lifestyle. Though
the Army officers are also drawn from the same Indian society, but they are
expected to be much more upright, courageous, selfless and honest compared to
an average Indian. The teaching profession is equally noble and is equally well
respected by the society. Also, there are equally great expectations from the
teachers.

The major challenge in education today is the youth dynamics
which needs skills of a very different kind to handle. One is keen to instill
discipline of a high degree because this youth is the foundation of the nation’s
future. However, one has to remember that these are young children who must
also be allowed to enjoy their growing up.

As a Vice Chancellor, one also needs to bring up the faculty
of the university to the expectations of the students and their parents who put
their faith in us. The challenge here is different compared to that in the
Army, but the satisfaction in doing something for the youth of the Country is
of a very high degree.

What are the new
areas you would like to tap in the field of research and education for your
university?

In its short span of existence, JECRC University has made
its presence felt in the environment and is the preferred destination of
students in the programs offered by it. It has already started the following
schools:

It started with undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral
programs last year and will be admitting students to two Schools of
Engineering, School of Pure and Applied Sciences, School of Computer
Applications and IT, School of Management, School of Arts & Commerce this
year. It will also start a School of Law and a School of Education on receiving
regulatory approvals.

All the schools will offer programmes at undergraduate,
postgraduate and doctoral level. Research is generally an inter-disciplinary
work which cuts across departments and schools. The areas of research on which
the University concentrates are Nano-materials, High End Computing, Robotics,
Energy Studies, etc.

We offer Rs 20000/- per month scholarship to each of our
full time research scholars. This is higher than the Rs. 16000/- per month
scholarship offered by the UGC and other agencies.

How do you look at
the foreign higher education institutions in India? Is it a threat to private
universities here?

Threat to private universities is not from foreign education
providers but from over-regulation by the numerous regulatory agencies
unleashed by Government of India.

With an average age below 30 years, India has the youngest
population in the world. We have over sixty crore young people who, in the very
near future,  are going to be the valued
human resource for the other countries which will have large percentages of old
people over 70 years of age.

With a gross enrolment ratio (GER) of less than 15 per cent
in higher education, we are strangulating the aspirations of our young people
by denying them the opportunities for higher education. The planning Commission
has estimated that we need over 3000 universities in the next few years whereas
we have only around 600 now.

Even the private players in education are not in a position
to meet the challenge at present since the regulatory system in education is
heavily loaded against them. There are six bills pending in the Parliament
which, if passed, will drive the private players out of higher education. Thus
the private players are worried more about our regulatory system than the
foreign educational institutions who should be welcomed. Arrival of foreign
players in education will be of great help in bridging the gap between demand
and supply. Also, it will create a healthy competition leading to overall
improvement in the standard of education in the Country.

Tell us something
about your university’s collaboration with other higher education institutes in
India and abroad?

The Foundation and the University already have
collaborations with University of Alabama, Microsoft, IBM, IUCE, DAAD, CIPRET,
Wipro, Leibniz University Hannover. Discussions are going on with IITD, ARAI in
India, Lancaster University in UK, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Gannon
University, University Missouri, Columbia and some others. These collaborations
will start with faculty and student exchange and will grow into joint research,
twinning programmes and dual degree programmes.

What are your views
about the international rankings, in which none of the Indian universities
could figure even among the top 200?

The international rankings are based on criteria that are
ideal for education in the West. These may not necessarily be fair to
universities catering to diverse societies in the rest of the World. We need
not be unduly worried about these rankings. Best we could do is to create a
ranking system measuring the standards of education suited to the needs of our
society.

These rakings should however not be totally disregarded. As
claimed by the Planning Commission and other government bodies, not more than
ten Indian Universities are up to the mark.

Thus there is little chance of Indian universities appearing
in the top 200 in the world. Though the Government is busy tightening the
screws on the private players in higher education, a close look at the Indian
universities will show that it is the Government universities that are draining
away all the financial resources available in the country for higher education
and are providing poor quality education to the youth.

The only Indian institutions that have made some mark on the
international scene are the IITs, IIMS and few others which are fortunately
free from the stranglehold of the regulatory bodies like UGC and AICTE. Some
private universities and research institutes, which have assumed autonomy
defying the regulatory system in the country, have also made some mark. The way
to go is to provide the much needed autonomy to the higher education providers
in the country as recommended by the Yashpal Committee.

How important is
university-industry interaction in present scenario?

Universities cannot work in isolation. Their graduates have
to be employed by the industry and need to be prepared for it. This can be
achieved by close interaction between the universities and industry. Courses
offered by the universities needs to be regularly updated to incorporate
industry requirements in it.

There is a large bank of qualified and experienced persons
in the industry who are capable of teaching in universities as visiting or
adjunct faculty. University teachers could also go for short durations to the
industry to gain practical experience and pass on the cutting edge research
that they may have done in universities, to the industry.  The JECRC Foundation already has connections
with over seventy companies through its Corporate Connect Programme.

JECRC University is a
new university. What are the areas you are focusing on?

Most of the Indian universities are stuck in a mould which
is very old and rigid. There is a need to break away from this mould and
provide a flexible environment in higher education to meet the global
requirements. JECRC University is a progressive university breaking away from
the conventional mould of Indian Universities. The curriculum of the programs offered
by the University is based on the current needs of graduates and of the
organizations and governments that are going to employ them.

In addition, a large number of initiatives have been
instituted by the University to enable its students to acquire a true global
profile before they graduate. JECRC University provides a very flexible
educational environment. The following areas will be of special concern:

•Continuous evaluation using a semester system based on the
globally acceptable 10 Point CGPA System of Evaluation.

•Flexible credits based completion of degrees based on a
modular system where students can accumulate credits to receive a Certificate,
Diploma, UG Degree and PG Degree progressively as they earn sufficient credits
as they go along.

•Mobility of students from JECRC to other universities and
from other universities to JECRC University carrying their credits earned in
one university to another.

•Exchange of students with foreign and Indian universities
with transfer of credits. As an example, a JECRC University student can spend a
semester in another Indian of foreign university and come back to JERCRC with
his credits earned in that university which will be considered towards the
fulfillment of credits for the degree he is undergoing at JECRC. Similarly,
students of other universities can spend a semester at JECRC and carry back to
their parent university the credits earned at JECRC University.

• 30 per cent of credits for each undergraduate degree will
be non-core subjects such as value education, environment education, current
affairs, computer applications, fine arts etc.

•There will free electives available to all students of the
University where for example, an engineering student could opt for a subject
like Indian Culture from the School of Humanities.

•The whole campus is WIFI enabled and the University working
is completely automated starting with admissions, delivery, evaluation, exams,
results, library, payment of fees and othe bills etc using an ERP solution.

What have been the
major initiatives in the last one year?

JECRC University was incorporated in May 2012 and has been
in existence for just over six months. Students are provided with high quality
teaching and many centers of excellence for overall development of the
students.  There are many clubs and
associations for pursuit of individual interests and hobbies.  Students are encouraged to participate in
cultural, social and sports activities while pursuing their academic programs.

In addition to the excellent academic environment in the
University, we have taken following additional initiatives for all-round
development of our students:

•Research and Advanced Studies Center for development of
knowledge and promotion of innovation through research.

•Technology Incubation and Entrepreneurship Development
Centre for developing students’ entrepreneurship skills. The Centre encourages
the students to develop new ideas and innovative products.

•Centre for Competition Studies is a vibrant resource centre
for preparing the students to compete in national and international competitive
examinations such as Civil Services, Defence Services, Indian Revenue Services,
State Civil Services and Banking Services. Students are also provided training
for entering into national and international reputed Institutions by preparing
them for examinations like CAT, GATE.

•Centre for Language Studies opens the window for the
students to learn foreign languages. It opens up International career
opportunities for the students.

•Centre for Future Studies and Industry Alliances
(CFSIA)   partners with Industry bodies
and designs programs which are need based and relevant to the corporate
requirements.

•Centre for Arts and Ideas (JU-CAI)   aims to invoke creativity of expression in
the minds of the students and acts as a platform for providing exposure on the
philosophies from different schools of thought. It provides the students
opportunities to interact with eminent leaders from different schools of
thought by interacting, debating and conducting workshop series during their
course of study.  Advisory Board of CAI
includes eminent personalities like Mr. Ashok Vajpeyi, Chairman of JU –CAI, Ms.
Prerana Shrimali, Dr. Mukund Lath, Mr. Nand Kishore Acharya and Mr. Sadanand
Menon.

•Global Outreach Program emphasizes the need for global
reach to students. The University has strategically partnered with
international Universities and research laboratories. The collaborations aim at
enhancing and enriching the academic, technical and cultural exposure for JU
students.

What are the future
plans of JECRC University?

The JECRC University, being a multidisciplinary university,
plans to increase the streams covered by it by starting new UG, PG and Doctoral
programmes in Sciences, Humanities, Engineering, Management, Law, Education,
Fine Arts with effect from 2013 and Medical and Health Sciences Programmes
after five years. By the year 2019, the University will have more than 20,000
students with more than 10,000 staying in hostels on the campus. It will have
1500 faculty members, most of them holding Ph.D degrees. The University will
have a flexible, student oriented academic approach as followed by the best
universities in the World and will facilitate migration of students to and from
other universities in India and abroad.

The initiatives taken for collaboration with Indian and
foreign universities and industry will be further strengthened. The University
will encourage its faculty and students to indulge in research, development of
new technologies and devices; and patenting and incubation of businesses at the
Innovation and Incubation Center which will be established very soon.

The backbone of a university is its faculty. JECRC
University pays special attention to acquiring the best of faculty and
providing professional training, in-house and by sending its faculty to IITs,
NITs and other good universities.

As a special measure, JECRC University has instituted a
large number of scholarships for meritorious students. Children from
economically weaker sections are given special incentives.

JECRC University is poised for growth both in number of
students and quality of education.  It
will have over 20,000 students, half of them staying on its residential
campuses and will be a centre of excellence in higher education in the country
by the year 2015. Government of Rajasthan has been approached for purchase of
additional 100 acres of land for providing state of the art academic
facilities, amenities and sports facilities to the students.

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