Universities and colleges are expected to impart marketable skills that prepare students for the dynamic world of work. Students continue to graduate, and employers continue to hire new talent, which has been the norm for centuries now. In the last two years, however, the skills gap has been widening at an alarming rate amidst the tightening career demands. The gap between the higher education sector and industry is still visible. Although colleges are honing the learners with information and knowledge, the skillset and attitude formation is not happening. Fortunately, at Sushant University, Dr DNS Kumar, Vice-Chancellor, engages the students well in the practical classes, studios, interaction with juries, laboratories-based assignments, and lots of collaborations with the industries. As a result of which the skill and attitude formation is emerging among the students. “I won’t say that our students are fully skilled with the right attitude. But that kind of change in the education system is required. You can’t talk, teach or deliberate and discuss only in the classrooms. You also have to create a platform to learn on your own for the students. Such learning courses are required. Project-based learning, experiential learning, team projects are required. We have to bring this disruption, and that is what the NEP has highlighted – how the education has to reform,” opines Dr Kumar.
Pursuing a Practical Approach in Education
Top of his class, Dr Kumar started his career as a trainee in a private industry where he worked for eight months and introduced the costing system. He went on to work as a lecturer in Goa’s Government College, which he did not enjoy as it was quite monotonous. Dr Kumar did not know what to do once he finished his work. After six and half years, Dr Kumar left the government job and joined a private college, which he ended up leaving after one year and came back to his hometown, Belgaum, and worked in a self-financed private institution. During his tenure of 10 years, he did many initiatives; consulting work, interaction with industry leaders all over India and so on. “This gave me a lot of confidence to play a bigger role and join Alliance University in Bangalore for a short while and then continue my career in Christ University. My job was to showcase the research culture at the university. I used to fund more than 50 departments and thousands of professors and bring people from various parts of our country to review their projects,” reminisces Dr Kumar.
Following his father’s footsteps, Dr Kumar decided to pursue the path of teaching. He also draws inspiration from his economics professor, who helped him understand his passion for education and teaching. “I felt my professors didn’t just teach the subject; they were instrumental to me in understanding the various issues and how the implications of those issues also us. I had a good team of friends around me who strengthened my confidence,” adds Dr Kumar.
Although there were setbacks, Dr Kumar has emerged strong and overcome the obstacles that came his way. “When I was doing my postgraduation, my friends and I used to think how this degree would help us. We did not have proper direction at that time. With the information and awareness available today, the students have something we didn’t have. But, I was hopeful that things would come to help us also. But we can’t wait for those things to come. We have to reach them,” says Dr Kumar.
Dr Kumar has secured four international certificates; Certified Management Accountant, Certified Evaluators from the US, Forensic Finance Experts from the US, and Certified Public Accountant. “Today, it is not knowledge only that is important; common sense is also very important. When you have both, you start innovating and creating skills. And when you get that skill, you start adopting them to address the different issues and problems. When you go into the process of adapting to the societal, industrial, community, to the government problems, your attitude starts changing accordingly and take up the responsibility of addressing the challenge, working and attitude of inspiring the people,” opines Dr Kumar.
Making Higher Education Digitally Competent
Joining Sushant University in January 2020, Dr Kumar immediately got to work and trained the faculty members on online classes through the college’s IT department, which worked out quite well for them during the pandemic outbreak. “I envisioned establishing various centres and continuing education in one of them, in the next 2-3 years. While we were preparing ourselves for that, it gave us an upper hand during the lockdown,” shares Dr Kumar.
Building academic rigour among the students and teachers, Dr Kumar engaged the industry by organizing webinars for the students and faculty members. With the cooperation of the industry leaders, Sushant University has 27 international and national industry collaborations, who pitched in the webinars, conferences, and seminars. Dr Kumar’s journey at Sushant University has been highly successful. He sailed through hurdles and obstacles seamlessly and faced any challenge that came in front of him, and tacked it with ease. “As a leader, I was able to succeed because of the cooperation of my management, my team of faculty members, also the students,” credits Dr Kumar.
Continuously engaging the faculty members, Dr Kumar always worked along with them and never bossed on them. He urges his colleagues and faculty members to work with positive stress and makes sure anyone can reach out to him. “We can learn from the smallest of the small person of the organization. My mantra is to work along with the people. Then everyone will come up with new ideas upfront,” quips Dr Kumar.
Quite a challenge for both the students and faculty members, Sushant University, took quite some time to stratify online, which went very well with their well-equipped platforms. Dr Kumar ensured that the faculty and the students adjusted well, whether it was the interactions and deliberations with the students and faculty members. He assured smooth streamlining of the process without any delays. As the head of the institute, Dr Kumar met the student council and program directors quite regularly along with the students. “We have organized parent-teacher meets, and I had an apprehension that parents might question our teaching methods, but nothing as such came up, and everyone was highly appreciative and commended our academic efforts,” adds Dr Kumar.
While everything was going on successfully, the university faced hurdles in the form of network issue, due to which 5-7% of the students were not able to attend classes. Dr Kumar ensured they received the contents of the class through audio and video recordings by publishing them on the websites, making them accessible to students at all times. Currently working on continuing education, establishing initiative centres, and creating ownership for those centres among the faculty members, Dr Kumar is also working on acquiring NAAC Accreditation and then move on to go for the National Board of Accreditation. “Three years down the line, we want to see how we can improvise on patents and research and endeavour to bring academic rigour for our students,” concludes Dr Kumar.