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The academia-industry handshake

Forbes Marshall Limited, a Pune-based company working in the area of process efficiency and energy conservation, some time back, donated `50 lakh to the College of Engineering, Pune, an autonomous institute of the government of Maharashtra.

education Updated: Nov 13, 2013 10:48 IST
Ayesha Banerjee

Forbes Marshall Limited, a Pune-based company working in the area of process efficiency and energy conservation, some time back, donated `50 lakh to the College of Engineering, Pune, an autonomous institute of the government of Maharashtra. This donation was in kind, not cash. The students had to develop a steam power plant on campus. One batch of students worked on the design, the next batch procured the material, the third worked on assembling it, the fourth looked after the distribution, and the fifth is working on steam generation. It’s being done step by step, over four to five years. Now a generator is being developed, to be run by steam turbines and the power that will be produced will be supplied to one of the labs on campus. “So, thanks to a company, our students are now experienced in developing a steam power plant,” says Anil D Sahasrabudhe, director of the college.

Established in 1854, the institute is the third oldest engineering college in Asia. The long history and the fact that Pune is a big industry hub in terms of automotive and mechanical industries has helped. “We have always had good opportunities and by the 1940s and 50s, when the industry started booming, we developed a strong culture of interaction with the industry - even before the IITs came into the picture,” says Sahasrabudhe. Industry-related projects have come into the college even for the postgraduate programmes. As part of the ‘sandwich’ BTech programme, the students spend one year in any industry out of the four years. The fact that the industry became autonomous from 2003-04 allowed the administration to build a curriculum around industry-academia participation. “We have industry representatives in all disciplines in our Study Board, they suggest what is required and accordingly we tailormake our courses,” Sahasrabudhe adds.

The College of Engineering is among seven institutes that scored high in a survey by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) of industry-linked technical institutes. In its second year, the survey, from May to June 2013, was conducted through institutes logging in to the AICTE portal. Participants provided information for evaluation on the basis of curriculum, faculty, infrastructure, research and consultation, placements and governance.

In 2012, the focus was only on engineering institutes approved by AICTE in six basic subject streams: Mechanical, civil, electronics and communications, computer and IT, electrical and chemical. This year, the scope was expanded to include all streams of engineering and management, pharmacy and architecture. The number of participated academic institutes has also jumped from 156 last year to 1,050 in 2013.

This is one of the most natural things to have happened and should have happened a long time ago,” says Dr SS Mantha, chairman, AICTE.

Institutes on top

Computer/IT engineering: Sona College of Technology
Interaction: With 54 companies. Tie-ups with Cisco, Oracle, IBM and Infosys for interships, industrial visits and in-plant training

Patents filed:
Three

Electronics and communications engineering:
PSG College of Technology
Interaction: Industries represented in board of studies and advisory council.

Civil engineering:
Walchand Institute of Technology (WIT)
Interaction: About 409 services assigned to WIT by industry

Electrical engineering:
Kongu Engineering College
Interaction: Has 32 industry representatives on its board of governors. Assigned 72 services by the industry for research etc

Chemical Engineering:
Institute of Chemical Technology
Interaction: Doing contractual research and providing advisory services to companies. Has 21 industry-sponsored endowment faculty chairs

Management:
XLRI, Jamshedpur
Interaction: About 16 members on board of governors. Faculty provides training to about 60 companies. Has 80 visiting faculty from top companies of the country
Mechanical engineering: College of Engineering, Pune Interaction: Students sent on six industrial visits in a year. About 41 companies provided internship training


‘Real linkages happening only in engg institutes’


Working on the AICTE-CII Survey of Industry-linked Technical Institutes 2013 has been quite an experience for people like Shalini S Sharma, head-higher education, CII; Lucia Real-Martin, director, emerging markets - Asia and Aziz Tayyebi, head of international development, both from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Manoj Kulkarni, vice president - human resources, Pennar Industries.

What was interesting for Sharma was the discovery that “real linkages between academia and industries are happening only in engineering. Institutes are getting actual projects and offers for research from industries.” Management remains confined only to the human resource part, she says. A positive outcome was that the information received this year from the academic institutes was largely valid this year. Last year’s inputs were so “exaggerated” that institutes were warned they would be named on the AICTE site, Sharma reveals.

Real-Martin and Tayyebi feel the exercise has been “a big experience on practical experience and ethics.” ACCA was the professional body working with CII to produce the report, conduct workshops all around the country, making stakeholders aware of what was required for the survey and help with the data analysis.

After the institutes were shortlisted, the jury, which included Dr YS Rajan, Dr Vikram Sarabhai distinguished professor, Indian Space Research Organisation, among others, studied the papers sent by the institutes. They had to look at the courses, streams and papers. Then a further 39 institutions were shortlisted and site visits were made.

Institutes now have also started recognising the importance of documentation, keeping records of interactions with industries, internship programmes or visits and lectures by industry experts, says Sharma.

Kulkarni of Pennar, who made several site visits, however, has a word of advice. “The skills development programmes of the institutes are not done in a structured manner. They don’t have a very clear idea of what they are looking for. They should understand what is needed and mould their students accordingly. My onboarding is a lengthy process and I would be happy to get industry-ready professionals for my company,” he adds.

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