Early experiences of PES University are sketched here and the journey has been worth every minute.
Importance of higher education and research – The economic progress of any nation is determined by its natural resources, intellectual resources and financial resources. These resources should be appropriately utilized to create wealth and prosperity for its citizens. The quality of these resources can improve only with literacy, education and innovation in producing new or better products and services for the current globalized market. Higher education (covering post graduation) and research improves country’s competency which plays a crucial role in the country’s war against poverty and obscurantism. In India, there are 700+ universities in the form of public universities, private universities, deemed universities, government-aided universities, and central universities. All these universities have been catering different segments of students maintaining traditional standards in teaching-learning and evaluation processes. The compelling need of the hour, in this globalized world, is to have more universities preparing competent individuals with research bent of mind to solve real problems of the country. PES University which was established in 2013 is working towards achieving this goal and has undertaken this transformational journey by concentrating on the following:
University as opportunity – PES has considered the University status is an opportunity to (a) introduce flexible curriculum with interdisciplinary and research flavor, (b) adopt global teaching-learning as well as assessment practices and (c) meet student aspirations to become competent global workforce.
Statutory Regulations – The government has a set of statutory guidelines in the form of physical infrastructure, staff quality, and financial corpus that defines the eligibility criteria for declaring the university status. The status provides a lot of freedom with responsibility and accountability. The success of any university depends on the judicious utilization this freedom through careful planning and design of framework keeping basic hygiene factors intact.
Vision and Leadership – The leadership with a vision, broken down into measurable goals and strategies, has to be in place. The leadership, at several levels that can communicate the vision and motivate the whole organization to work towards the stated goals, is one of the most challenging phases of transformation. The leadership has to create confidence and sense of belongingness in each and every member of the organization and consider inputs from all corners.
Structure – University status means a big change in the structure of the organization. It is easy to understand how this change requires many more roles to be played and the challenges of talent acquisition that go with it.
Academics – In order to produce the right talent, it is necessary to understand the gaps that exist between what is required and what is available. Once the gaps are known, it is needed to strategize to build those competencies. A whole new academic regime is required to be designed and implemented. Assessment of academic performance of students requires an extra effort to evaluate all aspects of achievements to solve real-time problems.
Research – It is the responsibility of universities to create new knowledge in ways that can be used to benefit society. This is generally a slow and time-consuming process, achieved over decades. The first few initiatives in this regard sets the pace and direction for the future. This also needs a lot of financial capital in the form of laboratories, world-class research talent, equipment and so on. It is important to recognize that one cannot expect short-term returns and that the returns are only in the long run. Effective research usually thrives in an environment of freedom and delegation. The importance of leadership in creating such an environment can never be emphasized enough.
Culture – It is the culture of a university that makes it different and better than another one. Leadership at various levels have an important role to play in creating a research and academic culture that is empowered. Culture dictates what is the expected behavior of staff and students in a given situation. The right culture goes a long way in making people work together with the same spirit.
Mindset – The last but not the least important is the mindset of the people involved in building the institution. The big change required in thinking from a university context is the most challenging. Preparing oneself for the larger purpose is a great lesson in itself. Change of mindset makes achievement of goals that much easier.
In summary, building a university requires a leap in vision and mindset. It then needs establishing the right goals and strategy to meet that vision. In the process of implementing the strategy, it needs research orientation, enhancement of competency across all levels, supported by a proper structure. The leadership needs to communicate the vision and govern for results – both short-term and long-term.