Professor Sanjay G Dhande, former director of IIT Kanpur, founder of the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Jabalpur, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Rajasthan, talks about the engineering education scenario today. A member of the Scientific Advisory Council to the prime minister, he is also part of the National Innovation Council. He is also the founder director of Hyderabad-based Mahindra Ecole Centrale, an autonomous private engineering institution that will start its first session in August 2014.
How do you see engineering education today?
Out of 160 million youth in the country, about 40 to 50 million are college-goers. This number is likely to double in the next few years. According to NCAER (National Council of Applied Economic Research), there will be a shortfall of approximately 2.5 million employable engineers by 2020. We need to focus on quality mechanism as in the current scenario only a few institutions are in that elite bracket. Engineering education has to be more international and based on hands-on learning. Manufacturing jobs have fallen to 15% and those in the service sector have grown to 60%. So the private sector and the academia have a major role to play in building a quality education system and ensuring employability.
What changes would you like to see in engineering education?
Emphasis should be given to humanities and the social sciences as engineering is not purely a technical field. It requires students to be well-versed with other subjects. Having good industry-driven research programmes based on a pull model will help.
Is there something that needs to be done to boost the IIT system?
All engineering institutions, including the IITs, must work on tie-ups with foreign universities. There needs to be better coordination between the IITs, the NITs and other technical institutions so that they can transfer credits and even allow students in one institute to take up certain courses at the others. An ideal BTech degree should be a combination of all engineering disciplines and I may propose this to the University Grants Commission in the future. The IITs need to think beyond the JEE. The old IITs must emphasise more on postgraduate education and the new one must focus on 21st century education.
Tell us about Mahindra Ecole Centrale.
The engineering institution has been established through a collaboration involving Mahindra Group, Ecole Centrale Paris, a French engineering university, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Hyderabad. It is based on the Anglo Saxon model of education.
The institution will promote research in energy, environment, and so on, and also ficus on social sciences and humanities. Students must qualify the JEE (Main) and have 60% aggregate marks in the Board exams to qualify. Admissions will begin in July 2014. The academic programme will begin post the AICTE approvals and it willl also work towards approval of an international accreditation organisation such as CTI (Commission des Titres d’Ingénieur, an independent body involved in the development of the European Higher Education Area, established by France).