What students want: Freedom to ‘shop’ for credits, skill-based courses, personality developmenthttps://indianexpress.com/article/education/what-students-want-freedom-to-shop-for-credits-skill-based-courses-personality-development-4761760/

What students want: Freedom to ‘shop’ for credits, skill-based courses, personality development

In 2004, SPPU adopted a credit-based learning system for its post-graduate courses, which is now used in every course at the varsity. A popular concept abroad that is now being embraced by Indian universities, V-C Karmalkar calls it the ‘reality of future learning systems’.

sppu, savitribai phule, pune university, affiliated colleges, indian express
A file photo of SPPU, which is the fourth largest university in the country today.

From barely 346 affiliated colleges and institutes under the state-run Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) in 1997-1998 to a whopping 234 recognised institutes and 705 affiliated colleges, SPPU, the biggest university in the city, has gone on to become the fourth largest university in the country in the last two decades. Going purely by numbers, the changes in the higher education scene in Pune is evident from the fact that over 6 lakh students from 85 different countries are studying in the city.

Expansion of Savitribai Phule Pune University

SPPU Vice-Chancellor N R Karmalkar attributes the university’s growth to two reasons – the rise of self-financed colleges and the emergence of new professional institutes, especially for engineering and management degrees. “Look at the number of engineering colleges we had… students didn’t have options beyond a handful of institutes. Today, there are so many that majority of seats are going vacant. The case is similar for other professional institutes…,” he said.

More private universities

From one public and four deemed universities about 20 years ago, Pune today has six private universities as well, says Dr Vidya Yeravdekar, principal director of Symbiosis International University. With newer programmes by universities, the main change was the shift in focus from humanities to professional courses like engineering, medicine, law etc. The various educational programmes attracted students from other states as well as from other countries.

“… From around 10,000-12,000 students only a decade ago, the city has about 22,000 students from 85 different countries. Another new trend over the last decade or two is the presence of foreign students from developed countries like USA, UK and even Singapore, who come to the city for short-term ‘Study India’ programmes. Universities are entering collaborations with top foreign universities, and the trend of Pune students going abroad, as well as faculty exchange programmes, has really taken off,” she said.

Credit-based learning

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In 2004, SPPU adopted a credit-based learning system for its post-graduate courses, which is now used in every course at the varsity. A popular concept abroad that is now being embraced by Indian universities, V-C Karmalkar calls it the ‘reality of future learning systems’.

“So, the student takes about 75 per cent courses in his core faculty but has the liberty to ‘shop’. What we mean is that for 25 per cent credits, he can study whatever he likes; a Physics student can take up music or a Management student can pursue a credit in photography. This flexibility is what varsities encourage internationally and in the last two decades, we have taken a step in that direction. At the affiliated colleges, we have recently introduced it at the under-graduate level. If you ask me, it has not been completely implemented and we still have a long way to go. But yes, this step can bring a radical change in higher education institutions,” he said.

Industry-academia linkage

In the last two decades, the industry-academia linkage and interaction has grown manifold and led to substantial changes, not only in restructuring of the syllabus or introduction of practical job-based learning for students, but also in fostering an entire culture of research, and encouraging start-ups on campuses, said Vice-Chancellor N R Karmalkar. “… this industry-academia linkage has played a significant role in restructuring of the syllabi … colleges are trying to involve industry and other stakeholders to improve course content.”

“Apart from imparting technical knowledge to students, we now have to develop their personality and soft skills, in order to make them eligible for applying for jobs with the placement cell…,”said L K Kshrisagar, principal, MIT College of Engineering.

Use of ICT

The introduction of ICT technology in classrooms in the last two decades has meant not just a change in the delivery of content, but introduction of the concept of remote, digital and virtual classrooms. “In the last 20 years, we were introduced to things like digital libraries and simulation technology to show dissection of animals, since the actual procedure is not allowed any longer. Technology has made delivery of content easier, and also introduced e-governance in institutes of higher education, from online admissions to fee payments and exams, making it a more transparent system.

Earlier, due to manual admissions, only students from the neighbourhood area would apply for seats but in online admissions, we get students from across the country. For example, in our MSc Botany course, from 50 applications for 24 seats, we now receive 300 applications from across the country,” said Rajendra Zunjarrao, principal of Modern College, Shivajinagar.

Skill development courses

A couple of years ago, the central government shifted the focus on skill development with its Skill India initiative. Not only did it lead to the establishment of skill development universities for the first time, but a wider choice of courses was introduced for students, leading to an increase in the number of students.

At the state-level, from one lakh aspirants for skill development courses about two decades ago, the number has increased to close to 3 lakh now, said Chandrakant Ninale, joint director (Pune), vocational education and training. “Unlike traditional courses, which are lengthy and expensive, skill development courses focus on specialised areas with a large field that need micro-level knowledge…,” said Ninale.