Uma Keni Prabhu
Some universities in Maharashtra are proactively trying to reorganize the higher education system in order to increase the employability of students. Educationists feel that this is the need of the hour as the “traditional courses do not equip students with requisite skills to become employable.”
The academia is either busy actively seeking industry inputs or joining hands with foreign collaborators to design new and relevant courses. Baba Saheb Ambedkar Marathwada University (BAMU), for instance, is reorganizing its degree curriculum. SNDT Women’s University (SNDTWU) is adding new courses to its repertoire. It has also signed MoUs with leading foreign universities for creating new career channels for their students. Making students employable seems to be the latest mantra.
Experts believe that universities are seeking to create more number of adequately skilled workers only after various reputed organizations like NASSCOM pressed the panic button regarding the utter “un-employability” of Indian students. NASSCOM said that of the 400,000 odd engineering graduates who pass out every year, only 20% meet the requirement of the Indian industry. Rest have to go through rigorous training before industries can use them.
Dr Vijay Pandharipande, Vice Chancellor (VC), BAMU says, “From this academic year, we will have vocational courses instead of traditional courses.” With inputs from the Marathwada Chamber of Commerce, BAMU has planned six degree courses in the field of:
BAMU has designed a five-year integrated course after Class 12 leading to a Master’s degree. The system is flexible. This means students get a Diploma if they drop out after two years, a Degree if they take a break after 3 years. They will get a PG Diploma after four years, and if they complete the five year course, they get a Master’s Degree. Students from any stream can enrol for the Banking, Finance and Insurance or the Travel and Tourism courses. However, for the rest, it is mandatory to have Science and Mathematics at the plus-two level.
The six new age courses will have only 12 students per batch. BAMU is reorganizing the course structure. In the initial years students will have to go through all the basic courses. In the advance years, the component of the vocational specialization will increase progressively. A student will spend three months in a designated industry for hands-on knowledge and earn credits depending on the work done. A typical week will have theory lessons on four days. Student can work for the remaining two days. “It is earn-while-you-learn model,” says Pandharipande. “We are endeavouring to create an enabling environment.”
Moreover, students may learn at their own pace and have a choice of earning more credits. They may even drop out to take up a job and may rejoin the course anytime. At that time they will be evaluated on the basis of a report they submit regarding their work experience. They will also have to face a viva, do a literature survey, a case study and a case analysis to be eligible for the course. The student`s industry supervisor and a university professor will do the evaluation. “The UGC definition of a credit is 15 hours of learning. But in the new system that `learning` has to happen. Only then a student will earn credits.”
Funding is a huge issue, says Pandharipande. BAMU plans to utilise services of its existing faculty and industry experts to cut costs. “The industry has promised to give our students internship and half scholarships and has promised to provide gap funding till the courses stabilize,” he says.
SNDTWU has signed MoUs with many reputed foreign brands like Rutgers State University, USA, University of British Columbia, Canada, and Malaysian Open University, among others, for student exposure and exchange, credit sharing, faculty exchange, student internship and collaborative research. Rutgers University has shown interest in SNDT’s “India Studies” program, which is going to be a combination of classroom teaching and online studies.
SNDTWU has also started a new course called “Leadership for Local Self Government” for women representatives of the local self governments. This is a distance learning course. Women councillors from Kalyan-Dombivili Municipal Corporation have already enrolled for this course. “We want to empower women,” says Dr Vasudha Kamat, VC, SNDTWU. “We will teach these women information technology - how to surf and download government circulars, how to get quotations, fill tenders, etc. We are creating informed women leaders.”