Exclusive: Interview with Pro VC of KTU
This individual is responsible to implement Kerala’s most significant reforms in Higher Education. The young and vibrant, former Director of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), now the Pro Vice Chancellor of Kerala Technological University opens up the plans of the University to become India’s first world class university. Following is the transcript of his discussion with the Principal of the ACE College of Engineering.
Q. What is the vision of Kerala Technological University?
Kerala Technological University is formulated to unify the technological education systems in Kerala. Right now, we have around 163 engineering institutes in the state. Leaving just 9 out of these, rest of the 154 will come under the purview Kerala Technological University (KTU).
So, we are going to have a common umbrella for all the technological institutions in our state. KTU’s prime objective is to upgrade the quality of these institutes and elevate them to the level of international standards.
In 2014, Time Magazine conducted a survey on higher education and published World University Rankings. None among the 679 Universities in our country was within the first 200 position. Nevertheless, we can see that countries like China, Hong Kong and Singapore have achieved tremendous improvement in higher education. A number of Universities in these eastern countries have crossed the world class benchmark in higher education. Our aim is to make KTU by improving the quality and standards.
Q. It is heard that the Ministry of HRD is planning a credit based system Will this going to be beneficial for the Engineering students?
The credit based system is in place in all universities in Kerala. However, this system has many pitfalls. Right now, universities allocate a particular credit to a particular subject . KTU will implement the actual and sensible credit system on par with with IITs and foreign universities. It will give freedom for choosing a particular subject. We think about both the core and the electives. This facility is made available in the academic curriculum of KTU.
Q. Does KTU support the transfer of credits from other colleges and universities?
Of course. It is required. According to the academic ordinance issued by the Kerala Technological University, we have maintained that the credit transfer facility is available in KTU. Whatever the credits a student earn from prominent universities, we can take those credits. We can also transfer the credits that students earn from KTU, if other universities are ready to accept it. So the credit transfer facility is perfectly available in KTU’s academic curriculum.
Q. KTU is talking about the cluster based system. Can you please elaborate on that new concept?
The concept of a cluster based framework was originally discussed in Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India (MHRD). They have given directives to the institutes and institutions in the country that academic autonomy must be prevailed in Institutions. In this direction, we are in the first stage in achieving academic autonomy. Ultimately, there will be academic autonomy to the institutions . At that time, each institute will be able to develop their own curriculum, their own syllabus, conduct the examinations, publish the results etc. It is not easy to achieve this capability. Quality is going to be the most important concern at this stage. KTU has permitted the autonomy of the cluster than giving autonomy directly to the institutes. We have formulated cluster of colleges in each districts. E.g. Thiruvananthapuram Cluster, Kozhikode Cluster etc. There will be a chainman to each cluster, who will be appointed by the university. Normally the chairman will be an eminent professor from a national institute like IIT or NIT etc. There will be a convener who is a professor from that cluster. In the initial stage, we have given autonomy at the postgraduate level like MBA, M.Tech, MCA etc. Those courses are given academic autonomy that the clusters can decide upon course, curriculum etc. bytheir own.
Q. How can the University maintain academic quality in these clusters?
We already have given certain directives and published the scheme including the postgraduate ordinance of KTU. The clusters can form syllabus and curriculum within the framework of this scheme. We will not dilute those minimum guidelines. The clusters can add up and improve with whatever they feel feasible. To ensure quality we are appointing an eminent faculty from a National Institute as the chairman of the cluster. Quality is something we maintain unadulterated throughout the system of Kerala Technological University. Clusters are here to incorporate enhancement in academic quality through regular modernisation.
Q.There is a fear among the students about the admission and examination process. Can KTU prevent the exodus of the students from Kerala to other states?
As we discussed earlier in our talk, we have 163 engineering colleges in the state. Every year, these institutes open around 63302 undergraduate seats for admission. However, our admission process in Kerala has a little delay comparing to the neighbouring states. It is because of the entrance examination and the publishing of plus two and CBSE results etc.
The students and parents feel that if they won’t get admission here in Kerala, there will be no other option exist after the allotments in Kerala. That’s what makes them migrate to other states and be on the safer side.
We already have a Supreme Court guideline that the admission process should start from first of August itself. Government of Kerala has taken initiatives to publish the entrance results very soon. The successful candidates will complete the admission criteria very soon so that the supreme court guideline will be met. KTU has given a lot of recommendations to the government about what should be the admission criteria, the admission process, when it should start and end. Through KTU’s new curriculum, we are about incorporate a lot of new components that could improve students’ learning experience. It is an outcome based syllabus. It is not simply mugging up of those textbooks prescribed in the syllabus and write the examination. I think engineering is not a subject to mug up like that. The students are given complete freedom that to go beyond the prescribed text books. We are going to conduct an open-book-examination. The fear among students that the examination process is difficult is about to be dispelled.
Another issue in Kerala is about the publishing of results by different universities. It is getting very much delayed because of many reasons. Take any University in Kerala, you can see examination is conducted now but results will be published after 6 months. So the publication of results is delayed in Kerala. This grave issue has to be eliminated. KTU has decided to publish the results within 5 days after the last examination. All the examinations will be online and KTU will evaluate answer sheets online. KTU will be a complete paperless office and it will be a digital one within a span of few years.
Q. How can KTU facilitate the placement drive among the member colleges?
We have already discussed it with the placement , officers. Now what happens in the placement is that the good companies will select only certain colleges that perform well and go only to those particular colleges for placements. What we are planning is that we will invite the companies to KTU to conduct the placement drive, not to the individual colleges. The students who are eligible for placements should apply in a particular portal and KTU will conduct placement drives for different regions so that every student in the university get a chance for placement.
Q. Is there any year-out system in KTU?
KTU will follow a credit based system that will have an exact credit assigned for each semester. The student should earn a minimum number of credits, then only he/she is permitted to enter the next semester. He will get a lot of chances to complete those credits in the six months of a semester. The minimum criteria will be there like attendance, work hours etc. If he meets that criteria, he will get a chance to write the University Examination. We will publish the results within 5 days, contrary to the practice of waiting for six months or a year. He will get one more chance to write the examination as supplementary immediately after the results are published. At the time of summer vacation (April, May,) he will get one more chance to clear those subjects. An average student should not have to fear about year-out. I am sure students can easily clear the minimum requirements.
Q. There may be some year-out students from other Universities. How KTU is going to tackle that issue?
Students who are presently registered with other universities will continue wherever they are. In the case of first year students, if they are year-out, they can register with KTU as a new student for the academic year 2015-16 along with the semester-1 students of KTU. They have to cancel their previous registrations and can continue in KTU. The students who are year-out in the first year don’t have to worry about being nowhere. However the subsequent years will not come under this arrangement, so they have to remain with the subsequent universities. KTU can only admit students from first semester onwards.
Q. How do you plan the syllabus of KTU?
KTU has formulated a syllabus which is completely outcome based. After studying a particular subject under the syllabus we need the students to be sure about what he has to do by learning that subject. He no longer needs to mug up just theories but definitely he has to think about their outcome. That’s how we are framing the syllabus for KTU right now. The practicals have given more importance but University will not conduct any examination in practicals. It will be left with the institutes, faculties and the students. There will be ample freedom given to the institute to conduct whatever practicals they want, but within the framework devised by the university. The university has set up just a minimum guideline. It is the responsibility of the institute to mould their children to utilize this facility to make this outcome based system work.
Q. What about the research activities in KTU?
There is a dearth of research activities in Kerala. We have a lot of hurdles to cross to register for a PhD in Kerala. The university concept we have right now, is that of a consolidated research centre with lots of guides available. Yet KTU coming up with a new concept. We already have formulated a draft research guideline that will be available very soon on the website. If a person wants to do research, his first requirement will be to identify the research guide. The student and guide then have to apply to the cluster of the university they are subjected to. The cluster will verify whether that particular scholar is eligible to do research under that guide. So there are no designated research centre. The efficacy of this new concept is that any affiliated institute can be designated as a research centre, if the facility is available in the institute. Some subjects like Computer Science and IT, we don’t need a big set up to do research. So anybody can do research in any affiliated college under KTU. The only requirement is that the M.Tech cluster should approve the student and the guide. The Postgraduate cluster is already functioning to prepare the syllabus. We are forming a UG cluster as well. If a college doesn’t have classes at postgraduate level, it will fall under the district cluster. As we say, any institute can conduct research, it doesn’t mean that we are ready to compromise the quality of research. There will be systems to strictly verify the activities. It is just like a research scholar studies the subjects that he wishes. Before venturing into that, he must publish his research in reputed journals etc. We have very few people with PhD’s in Kerala. KTU’s aim is to have a minimum of 100 PhD’s in a year. This is our initial aim and we are going to give financial assistance to selected students who are doing research under KTU.
Q. Looking into the climatic and Social conditions in the state, how are you planning to attract international students and students from other states?
Actually we should attract students from other states and countries. Kerala has a reputation of being a very fine receptive and hospitable spot under the brand tag “Gods Own Country”. I think we should utilize that stature. Take for instance Bangalore or Hyderabad. In Karnataka every year there are about 16,000 students coming from different countries for studies. Why can’t we attract students to our states is a relevant question. At the beginning of Kerala Technological University, the Vice Chancellor and myself has initiated such discussions and called up the management institutes. We have asked them to form a group
and go ahead as a team. AICTE has a provision that the institution can appoint students under PIO category and in that section we can admit foreign nationals as well. The PIO category has an over and above approved index. If you have 60 approved intake, you can admit 9 foreign students under that category. We have formed a committee and instructed the institutes to apply for PIO approval from AICTE. This has got very easy procedures to follow. Some of the institutes have already got PIO approvals and they are going to admit international students from this year. Education is very expensive in most countries and it is an opportunity for our institutions. If we get as a few as 5 students this year, the number of students will improve in the coming year. Seeing that potential, we have to bring students from other countries and other states.
I wish every success to ACE College of Engineering. ACE has conducted a lot of new initiatives in quality improvement. Recently ACE has formulated a quality assurance cell. I have seen that your students are performing well in academics. ACE students have also presented papers in academic conferences like Kerala Science Congress. These are very good initiatives.
Dr. Farrukh Sayeed’s principalship and leadership is very useful to the institute. I wish every success to students, faculties and the institute.