Refocusing the lens on research
Historically, India was known as the land of innovation and research, but centuries of colonization has shifted the nation’s focus from creating thinkers to creating followers. Our education system raises students who focus on earning degrees that lead to employment, rather than acquiring skills or knowledge. The lack of focus on ‘problem solving’ within India’s higher-education institutions has not only stifled innovation on the one hand, but also resulted in the low rankings of Indian institutions in international college grading on the other. This year, as we gear up to celebrate India’s 70th year of Independence, it is time to rethink the road ahead and re-imagine the ways to get there.
Shiv Nadar University, a young institution established in 2011, has been working towards this end, with an aim to put research back into India’s higher education programmes right from the undergraduate level. The university launched a unique programme, called the Opportunities for Undergraduate Research (OUR) in 2014. It is outside the undergraduate (UG) curriculum, and helps expand opportunities for learning for UG students, as they study and live in a research- and knowledge-generation environment in any field of their choice.
The university has made necessary investments in research for every level of study. The growth of the institution over the last six years has been considerable in terms of depth and intellectual strength. Till date, the faculty at Shiv Nadar University has published 116 books and chapters, 462 journal articles, and 552 conference papers and presentations. The university currently has 59 active extramural projects and has attracted extramural research funding of ₹18.8 crore. Its internal research investment till date is ₹198 crore.
Peaks of Excellence
An overview of the university’s scholarly activities and their impact reveals several peaks of excellence.
Faculty member, Dr. Ram Sagar Misra, who joined the Shiv Nadar University after a long stint at Oxford, recently discovered, along with his co-researchers from UK, a small molecule-signalling process that has the potential to revolutionize wheat production in India and increase yields by 50% without any genetic modifications. Another researcher from the university discovered the element that can be used to reverse the detrimental effects of mercury poisoning.
The idea now is to consolidate, strategize, and march forward in a way that the overall research output goes up.
The UGC Expert Committee recognized Shiv Nadar University’s efforts by highlighting how within the short span of its existence it had developed a unique multidisciplinary curriculum at the undergraduate level. It provides students with an exceptional, well-rounded education by synthesizing broad and strong multidisciplinary foundation along with in-depth training in their selected discipline. The curriculum puts emphasis on fostering a students’ ability to integrate critical thinking, interpretative skills, scientific exploration, and normative principles. The in-built flexibility of the undergraduate curriculum offers every student the scope to chart out their own academic path and to progress through the programme at their own pace.
The university heralds the way forward for other institutions of higher learning in the country. For one, it is determined to give India its next Nobel laureate.
(This content was created in partnership with HT Brand Studio and not the editorial team)