Prof. (Dr.) Premendu Prakash Mathur, Vice Chancellor of Birla Global University (BGU) said technology will bring a revolution in educational institutions amid the Covid pandemic. In an interview, he said the teaching-learning experience is going to stay forcing the institutions to be digitally compliant.
1. It has been five years since BGU in Bhubaneswar came into being. What do you think are its salient features and USPs?
The University aims to be the best destination for aspiring new-gen professionals. It is committed to redefine ‘quality’ in education with state-of-the-art infrastructure and very learned and committed faculty. The University is very friendly to the students and tries to realize their dreams by providing relevant courses which are updated periodically. The University also provides multidisciplinary courses and helps them to develop their communication skills. The University translates the Birla philosophy of promoting Art and culture. The University is offering courses under choice based credit system and has already started adopting various aspects of NEP 2020.
2. Are you planning to expand to newer areas of learning and research? Any new courses on the anvil?
The University currently offers Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral programs under Schools of Management, Commerce, Social Science & Humanities, Communication and Law. From this academic year we will be starting a School of Applied Sciences with courses in Data Sciences. We have also started MBA in Business Analytics and specialization in Banking Technology. Eventually we plan to add many more applied courses including LLM.
3. COVID-19 pandemic has caused serious disruptions to various sectors and education is certainly one of them. What changes have you adopted to ensure academics doesn’t suffer?
Of course the current pandemic has caused disruptions in higher education in the whole world. Since our University is having good IT infrastructure and the students were also connected the teaching did not suffer. But the class room experience cannot get replicated in online teaching. However, the examinations were held in time and thus the students could graduate in time and also could get jobs and admissions in higher classes. The teachers adapted to online teaching, mentoring and conduct of proctored online examinations. Our admissions as well as training and placements were also done through online mode.
4. Does online education suffice? Do you think there is a need to move towards breaking the old education order and evolve new ways of teaching, research and evaluation?
Basically teaching-learning is best done in a very interactive classroom. The students do not learn only from the classroom lectures but with the interactions outside the class rooms and also through their peers. This kind of experience got very much limited during pandemic time. Moreover, the engagement of students got challenged due to unstable internet connectivity. I feel that the change has already happened and we may not be liking to completely go back to the old regime. There have been many advantages also. The students could attend a very large number of webinars and lectures where the speakers were from different part of the world. I feel that hybrid mode of teaching-learning is going to stay. All the institutions have to become digitally compliant and thus the technology will play a very significant role in the educational institutions in future.
5. Private Universities are seen as expensive and elitist. Would you agree? If yes/ no, the reasons thereof?
Private institutions appear to be expensive but the kind of services they provide in the life cycle of a student have also to be weighed. They are much more progressive and adopt changes in all the academic aspects like syllabi, examinations, trainings and placements. You will be surprised to know that in most of the so called elitist private institutions children from middle class dominate. Parents feel that their children will get better deal in the private institutions which many time is true. They plan and save the money for sending their children to private institutions right from primary schooling. Incidentally in the USA most of the top ranking institutions are private. I have seen that many private institutions in India are also becoming competitive and are trying to provide best education.
6. The majority of our students still depend on state-run educational institutions. But quality is gradually becoming a matter of serious concern. How do you think quality can be ensured while keeping the costs of higher education within an affordable range?
It is true that most of the students depend on the state-run educational institutions, which face many challenges like faculty shortage, poor infrastructure, limited involvement of faculty in over all development of the students. This is the reason for the students opting for admissions in private institutions, which are growing very fast. I am sure that higher enrolment and competition among private institutions would definitely keep the cost of higher education under check and quality of education high. I have no hesitation in sharing that many private institutions like BGU are providing quality education at a very reasonable cost.
7. How do you think BGU can collaborate with other institutions of higher learning, private and state-run, to ensure parity and inclusiveness?
BGU has been collaborating with various institutions of higher learning and professional bodies in order to provide the students best learning experience. The University prepares a very progressive course curriculum with the inputs from academicians and industrial experts. We prepare better syllabus than most of the state-run Universities. BGU encourages students from diverse backgrounds and offers a large number of scholarships.
8. What is your vision for BGU and what would be the timeframe to implement it?
I envision to see BGU as a multidisciplinary institution with various branches of science, humanities and social sciences available to students. We have already taken steps to start a new School of Applied Sciences from this year. It is a never ending process but I wish to see a large number of options available to the students within the next five years.
9. Any word of advice for students, teachers, researchers and parents?
I wish to share that the institutions must maintain good relationships with all the stakeholders. I would suggest that teachers should always strive for the best in teaching, research and social responsibilities. Teaching methodology has to be constantly reviewed and problem solving abilities, adaptability, and creativity along with soft skills should be tested. At the end of the day, the stake holders look for how resourceful you are, how much you can deliver for their benefit and how you conduct yourself. So, we should have the right kind of attitude. We must try to learn throughout life. The students must also be taught to be lifelong learners. We must have constant dialogue with parents.
10. Anything else that you would want to highlight or add.
I would like to urge the students to dream big and keep themselves engaged to chase them. Never give up. Your life is not made up of DNA, protein and fat alone but most importantly with time. Never waste it. Do not try to emulate others but live your own dreams. A small failure may be prelude to big success.