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Excellence Blueprints

Realiging Higher Education to meet Industry needs

The two decades that followed liberalisation of India’s economy have been phenomenal game-changers, having revolutionised the country’s business environment to global presence and attractiveness. By forging international partnerships, penetrating offshore markets, acquiring foreign trades and securing unmatched competitive advantage as a low-cost, high-quality service provider, Indian industry has made its mark on the world map

However, along with this run has come a rapidly growing requirement for equipped human resource drivers to sustain this momentum. Generic out-of-the-textbook knowledge is passé. Employers today are hunting specialised, industry-aligned expertise that fits the new business matrix. And, this is where India’s higher education fraternity must sit up and take notice.

The nation’s higher education focus so far has been like filling an empty glass with academic theoretical knowledge. The role of education is not to fill an empty glass, but to un-lid that can of red bull, unleashing the potential of young minds. Competency skills were restricted to technical and functional abilities only till around the year 2000. With a new millennium came a new milieu. Here is a widening gap that we must identify, understand and bridge. While industry expectations have been galloping at breakneck speed, India’s education system has been lagging behind in readying the new corporate citizens.

In order to realign to industry needs, educational institutions must initiate constructive dialogue with business leaders to understand modern requirements. It is imperative to bear in mind always that, with globalisation, each industry sector has evolved its own complex working mechanism. The space for generic skills has shrunk drastically. We, as leaders of the education sector, must respond proactively to the needs of globally competing Indian conglomerates by understanding the right pattern of skill development.

To meet emerging trends, there is a strong need to launch multi-disciplinary, industry-aligned programmes drawn from industry -academia collaboration. Such programmes must address effectively the needs of key stakeholders, namely, industry managers, academic institutes and students. These courses must focus on delivering specific requirements of industry managers, help academic institution provide relevant human capital, and, in turn, help each student choose the right first move in his career that best matches his attitude, aptitude and ambition.

As a starting point, the entire programme can be divided into three parts:
Part 1: A panel of representatives from each institute to visit their top 10 recruiters of past few years to understand their expectations, to get feedback on performance of hired students, recommendations for improvement, enhance academic rigor to make better corporate citizens and lastly to understand ideal candidate profiles. All inputs collated may be mined to create an industry expectation report with concrete ideas on how to meet these expectations and use the intelligence to groom students.

Part 2: In the second part of the process, each student can undertake a set of scientifically designed assessments to discover latent and active talent-interest, skills, motivators, knowledge and attitude. Parallel to these, the students should be provided opportunities of industry orientation workshops to augment understanding of expected work environment, opportunities, etc. The two inputs can then be employed to identify the most relevant career choice.

Part 3: The last part of the programme should focus on aggregating all information, categorising student profiles in clusters (like risk takers, fast learner, proactive, lateral thinker, etc.) and developing patterns for pedagogical inputs that could help provide the best inputs for grooming students. This cluster information will help academic institutions in correct positioning of its students for better outcomes.

There is no doubt that such a programme, if undertaken in letter and spirit, can galvanise another revolution in contemporary India – of human capital. This is a necessity we can no longer choose to ignore. The programmes will create a win-win situation by better need alignment and can help us short-circuit the average salary war that erupts every year. In the long term, the programme will help academic institutions evolve into dynamic and self-recreating bodies that churn industry leaders across ethnic, cultural and demographic barriers.

We, at Institutional Excellence Forum (IEF), are committed to supporting every such programme, and the Excellence Agenda is the culmination of our spirited efforts to promote dialogue between different stakeholders. Let us not forget that a systemic amalgamation of new thinking, experiments in pedagogical models and continuous improvement is the only way ahead.

The Author

Anuj Panwar,
The author is Founder Trustee of Institutional Excellence Forum and an eminent education leader