‘All students must develop an interest in research’
Dr. S.N. Balakrishnan, Chancellor, Shiv Nadar University, talks about India’s higher education system, essential employability skills for students, and new-age courses.brand stories Updated: May 31, 2018 13:31 IST
1.In an age where private universities are emerging by one and many, how does Shiv Nadar University differentiate itself?
At Shiv Nadar University, we have designed a holistic curriculum so that the students can feel that they are here to learn whatever that they are passionate about. It has been so designed to stimulate the logical and the creative side of each student. We believe that great minds can think unlike. For example, an electrical engineer can excel in sociology and another electrical engineer can explore the relationship between geometry and dance (both actual cases), far beyond the rigid set curriculum followed at many universities.
In our student-centric, participatory-style of education, students are encouraged to ‘learn by doing’, and thus develop the essential employability skill – either in research institutions or in industry -- of creative problem-solving. A teacher-to-student ratio of 1:10 allows the university to excel in this method, with a comprehensive and continuous assessment of students.
The university’s focus has been on research, i.e., generation of knowledge in all disciplines, and to provide integrated, scalable solutions to the issues faced globally. We have so far attracted more than Rs. 21 crore in extramural research funding, published a number of high-impact papers and books, and filed several patents. We have also started an incubation centre, supported by NITI Aayog.
2.While placements across the industry have gone down, how did Shiv Nadar University fair this year?
A total of 101 companies visited Shiv Nadar University to recruit 85% of the students who opted for placements from the graduating Class of 2018. Some of the leading organizations that have recruited students from the university include Morgan Stanley, OYO, Dell, Amazon, IBM, Ashok Leyland, Daikin, Tata Power, Coffee Day Beverages, Amul, Saint Gobain, Shapoorji Pallonji, and Cognizant Dassault Systems, among others.
A substantial number of students have also received graduate admission and financial aid offers from top institutions across the world, such as Purdue University, University of British Columbia, Rutgers University, IE Business School, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, Trinity College Dublin, Carnegie Mellon, University of Texas, Australian National University, and Michigan Tech University.
Some of the top-ranked institutions (in India) to roll out admission offers to the students include IISc-Bangalore and IIT-Bombay.
3.In 2017, Shiv Nadar University launched a master’s programme in Water Management. Can you tell us about the course and why the university opted for it even though it is not taught anywhere else in the country?
Water crisis in India and in many parts of the world has reached alarming levels. This is partly because of the climate change and partly because of the overuse of resources. India’s ongoing water crisis is already impacting India’s social fabric across spheres-- agriculture and farmer well-being, India Inc, and domestic consumers. It affects food security and national security. In addition to states fighting over water with each other or with the Centre, India’s ‘water woes’ is finding a strong echo in India’s foreign relations (with Pakistan, China, and now even Bangladesh).
Strongly aware of the threat this poses to society, the economy, and also to bio-diversity, the university designed the two-year multi-disciplinary post-graduate (M.Sc.) programme on Water Science and Policy. This first-of-its-kind programme and is being led by Dr. Mihir Shah, former Planning Commission member. The students are taught by faculty from India and experts from several other countries. It is only by looking at all aspects of the crisis like science, ecological, social, policies and making field studies that we can provide comprehensive solutions and that is what our programme is about.
Shiv Nadar University is a national university by name and deeds. We are committed to and invested heavily in issues critical to the country. Water programme is first on the list with more to follow.
4.Many students belonging to economically weaker sections of the society might find it difficult to afford private universities due to the fee structure. What provision does SNU have to take care of that?
The university has been established by the philanthropic Shiv Nadar Foundation, which is committed to providing quality education to all, irrespective of their social and economic backgrounds. In order to support talented students, we have various scholarship programmes that cover the full expense of the programme. Nearly all the students at the university enjoy scholarship varying from 50% to 100%.
Over the past seven years, the university has disbursed over Rs. 170 crore as part of its scholarship programme and this year we will offer Rs. 40 crore as the total scholarship pool. Also, we are launching a Gifted Scholarship programme this year to attract the brightest students to our institution.
5.You claim to be a research-centric university. What steps have you taken to ensure that research remains a focus at the university?
We believe that innovation is key to human advancement. We are perhaps the first in the world to make creative design mandatory to Engineering students.
Research motivates one to find solutions that don’t exist, and all students should get accustomed to it at the earliest level possible.
At Shiv Nadar University, we are focused on promoting a research-driven learning environment and therefore, integrate research right from the undergraduate level. Our biggest differentiator is perhaps the annual extra-curricular Opportunities for Undergraduate Research (OUR) programme that was started in 2014.