Thursday, December 22, 2011

Equity and access at UC Berkeley

Promising "disruptive progress," the engineering college at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, has named an associate dean, Oscar Dubon, for equity and inclusion to help it increase the number of students and faculty members from underrepresented groups.

The college's first step will be to improve its "yield"—the percentage of students who actually enroll after being admitted into either the undergraduate or graduate engineering program. The Dean Sastry believes that more money would make a big difference. "Fellowship support is the primary factor in improving yield" at the graduate level, he says. Winning over high school students is more complicated, he admits, and the college plans to try everything from overnight visits to summer research experiences. The plan also discusses various approaches to improving student retention rates, as well as a long-term strategy for recruiting more minority and female faculty members.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

US National Science Foundation model of university-industry cooperation

I recently came across an interesting programme conducted by the US national Science Foundation to promote research cooperation between industry and university.

The Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRC) program develops long-term partnerships among industry, academe, and government. The centers are catalyzed by a small investment from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and are primarily supported by industry center members, with NSF taking a supporting role in the development and evolution of the center. Each center is established to conduct research that is of interest to both the industry members and the center faculty. An I/UCRC contributes to the Nation's research infrastructure base and enhances the intellectual capacity of the engineering and science workforce through the integration of research and education.  As appropriate, an I/UCRC uses international collaborations to advance these goals within the global context.

This is a model that could be emulated by Indian universities.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Body shopping in higher education

The media reports show that there is a spate of higher educational institutions in India (engineering, management) signing bipartite agreements with the foreign universities; mostly with those not known for high academic standing. Why this sudden increase in the Indian institutions? Does it help improve the academic standard of   higher educational institutions in India?? I feel curious.

One thing is sure, the academic standard will improve only if the components of research and mutual faculty exchange are involved in such agreements. However the fulfillment of academic term by the students at Indian and foreign campus is prominently highlighted.  Who pays for the cost? Parents obviously!

A word of caution for the students and parents: Check the academic standing of the foreign institutions, before you pay through the nose.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

IIT JEE's new avatar

It is high time, the State level CETs are abolished and all aspiring students appear for one national level examination, IIT JEE. According to the recent decision taken by the IIT council, the marks obtained in the State level Board examination shall be given due weightage. 


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Engineering colleges technical events

It has become customery for the engineering colleges to organise some student-related technical event, annually.  Such events mostly consist of paper presentation, model-making, project competitions and so on. 

Recently I read one engineering college organised a conference on nano-technology. Nano is a very catchy word. How many faculty in the engineering college are carrying out research on the subject? Is there a laboratory available for the purpose in the college? All these aspects are overlooked. 

It is high time the University looks into the quality of papers published by the faculty. Serious efforts are needed to guide the faculty to carry out fruitful research work. Most faculty think carrying out research requires huge money. That is not correct and there are ample examples to prove it is wrong. The research must have high impact value, in terms of solving the techno-economic problems faced by the industry, society and the country. 

Besides, it is necessary to pay attention to the quality of projects carried out by the students at the undergraduate level. Providing proper guidance to the projects remains a largely neglected area in the engineering college. 

The organisation of technical events mentioned in the first paragraph will be useful only when the institutions improve the quality of teaching and research and also play adequate attention to the students projects. After all we require competent faculty to evaluate the students performance in these events.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Purpose of education

I think the most important purpose of education is to offer opportunity to individuals to discover their self. Continuous remediation of students' deficiencies is a very important aspect. Educators in India should take a cue from US experience.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Industry stint for teachers: Will that solve the problem

The Maharashtra State (India)  minister for higher and technical education Rajesh Tope on Thursday said the industry experience will be compulsory for teachers in all government run technical institutions. Changes would be made accordingly in the recruitment rules for teachers. The Minister added:  “When an individual completes his/her graduation, he/she starts teaching immediately in institutions. If the teacher has some work experience in an industry, it would benefit the students and the faculty as well”. Yes! The standard of higher education has gone down. However, it is doubtful whether sending teachers to the industry will solve the problem. Having worked 36 years in the industry, research and teaching, I have got some idea of the problem. To be specific, the quality of teaching, especially in engineering, has gone down due to the following reasons:

(a) Lack of research in the educational institutions: It should be appreciated that the teacher engaged in research shall definitely become a good teacher in that subject. This is unlike the universities in US and other countries, where majority of the industry-oriented research is carried out in the Universities.

(b) Lack of competence: It is generally observed that individuals go for teaching, when they do not get other jobs. Teaching requires devotion. An individual will do well in teaching only when he likes it. 

(c) Inadequate remuneration: The remunerations in the educational institutions are poor in comparison to the industry. 

Understanding an industry takes years. Sending a teacher to industry for few months will serve no purpose. It will not add any value to the teaching. 

As Abraham Lincoln once said, "Anything that you understand, you are able to explain". That is the problem with many teachers. They are poor at teaching because they do not understand the subject. Quite unfortunate indeed, but that is the reality. That problem is not going to be solved, visiting an industry for few months. We need to understand, students go to college to learn academics. Whole life is ahead to obtain industrial experience. However they will not be able to relate with the industrial experience, if they remain poor at fundamentals.  


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Effective public speaking

The students, teachers and researchers must remember the following aspects while presenting their case on the public platform:

  • Develop a clear and concise speaking style—especially for those for whom English is a second language
  • Organize your points logically around a central key theme
  • Understand your audience and determine the best way to make your case
  • Use visual aids and body language to enhance the impact of your message
 In order to obtain detailed guidance on the subject, read the following book:

 Author: D Eric Walters and  Gale C Walters
Publisher: CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group
Price: $ 24.95