Barely a few weeks into the job, the youngest director general of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, KG Suresh, speaks to HT Education about his vision and plans for the institute. He also talks about the institute’s focus on strengthening regional media centres to promote regional journalism and plans to set up the best safe, clean and green campus in the country.
As head of the institute, what changes are you planning to bring about? What will be your focus – strengthening infrastructure and the institute’s position as the best in research and faculty or working for a university status?
I plan to restore the image of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication as the premier media institute in the country both in terms of teaching and media research. There is a plan to turn it into a national communication university or a deemed university. It could be taking any of these roles. The government has not yet taken a final call. I have taken over two weeks back and my priority is to restore the pre-imminent position of IIMC as premier media training institute and enhance it further. There is a misconception that only radio, TV and print journalism is taught here. This is also the academy for the Indian Information Service. This is the place where the army, paramilitary forces, central PSUs, their officers, foreign government officials get their communication training. This place also conducts refresher courses for media personnel. The institute was expected to set certain benchmarks for the industry, my objective would be to achieve that – to turn it into a role model for other media training institutes in terms of quality of teaching, research and quality of publications which has been a neglected area. I would also be looking at a stronger industry-academia interface.
What about faculty? Do you plan to bring in more media experts on board?
I am looking at implementing an interdisciplinary approach at the institute. I would want to get international media experts on board, specialists in different subjects – management, finance and economics. I am not looking at permanent faculty for these subjects. First, I have vacancies that I need to fill up. I would like to have a vibrant visiting faculty of not just eminent people, but also people who are actually in the industry in the thick of things. I will also be looking at institutional arrangements so that there is greater synergy between the industry and the institute.
Are there any plans to set up more IIMC campuses across the country besides the existing five?
The IIMC campuses in Delhi and Dhenkanal have been operating for long. Four more centres have been added in Aizawl, Amravati, Kottayam and Jammu. The idea behind opening these was to train regional students and prepare them for both the mainstream and regional media. We want to develop them as centres of regional excellence.
We have five campuses across the country - Jammu in the North, Kottayam in the South, Dhenkanal in East and Amrawati in the west and Aizawl in northeast. These are just centres, I won’t even call them campuses. I would like to have more regional input from these centres. Right now we have a course in Oriya journalism offered at the Dhenkanal campus, I would want the Jammu facility to teach Kashmiri and Dogri journalism, Kottayam holding classes in Malayalam journalism, Marathi journalism in Amrawati and a journalism course in a north eastern language in Aizwal because the future of Indian press lies in regional media. I am looking at these things but these are ideas right now.
What about upgrading infrastructure?
We have one of the finest media libraries in the country. It has over 25,000 books. I plan to get them digitised and made available to researchers. I want it to emerge into a resource centre for scholars and researchers, a major media resource centre for the entire subcontinent. Digitisation is the key area that I will be looking at.
For whatever reason, we could not celebrate the golden jubilee of the institute last year in an appropriate manner because there was a transition. We will be organising a befitting golden jubilee celebrations this year through events and seminars. Going forward, IIMC should become a media and intellectual hub.
I am also looking at better facilities for students in hostels. I also plan turning it into an environment friendly campus. We are looking at upgrading physical facilities for students on campus along with mental training. I am thinking of having yoga facilities, improve the badminton, lawn tennis and volleyball courts, we have no dearth of space. We have to first look at funding because the regional centres are still in the process of building infrastructure, getting land from the respective state governments. I am focusing on setting up a clean, green and safe campus. I have recently got a woman’s guard for women hostellers and a fire safety audit is being implemented in the Delhi campus. CCTVs will be in place soon.
What about courses?
Currently there are about 342 postgraduate diploma students on campus, besides mid-career journalists from other countries attending the 17-week diploma course. They are from Jordan, Cuba Bangladesh Nepal, Sri Lanka, Latin America, West Indies, Africa etc.
We need to be prepared for a three-year degree course in case we are given a university or deemed university status. But my first objective is consolidation, then expansion and diversification. Academic excellence will be my priority.
I am a firm believer of CME or continuing media education. Except for big media houses, there are hardly any refresher courses available for media professionals. Continuing media training has to become an integral part. Media industry interface is important from the point of both the students and professionals who should once in a while come back to school, learn the latest in terms of how news, features are written globally.
What about rankings?
Instead of looking at global media rankings, we first want us to be ranked in the Indian ranking system. We have to be realistic, let us set Indian standards first, let us first become a role model for other institutions across the country.