Dr. Yajulu Medury is an acclaimed academician and a seasoned professional with more than three decades of opulent Academic and Administrative experience. Before joining MEC, Dr. Medury was the Vice Chancellor of Bennett University at Greater Noida, U.P. While in Bennett University, Dr. Medury developed academic partnerships with Georgia Tech for Engineering, Johnson Business Cornell University for Management, Cornell Law School for Law, Babson College USA for Entrepreneurship and others. Dr. Medury has a BTech Honours degree from IIT, Kharagpur and did his MS as well as PhD in Engineering Mechanics from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.
Research is a focus area across the globe, but not so much in India. It is not because institutions do not want to, but because of archaic government regulations that require a large number of courses that engineering students need to take to graduate. This leaves very little time to focus on research. However, things are changing and most private institutions, including Mahindra Ecole Centrale. We are paying due regard to including research as a part of the curriculum itself.
To ensure that we do not lag behind, we need to be innovative in our curriculum, focus on research and incentivize learning. Once we can do these – which hopefully the new Higher Education Bill will look at – I see no reason why we will not witness a much larger focus on research. When your focus is research, the issue of lack of quality faculty does not arise. Naturally, as a head start, you need to recruit faculty with excellent background and proven track record in research at reputed institutions – both in India and abroad.
Faculty development is an integral part of any education system and we firmly believe that the quality of education can only improve if more faculty are encouraged to pursue research besides teaching through the likes of modest seed research funding and help in their applying for research funding from external funding agencies. We at MEC have this system already in place and since we want only the best. We continue to periodically review their progress in research. Our students are encouraged even at the undergraduate level to participate in the research projects that our faculty pursues. We are looking at possibility of setting up MTech and PhD programs soon to enable the goal to focus on research and high-quality training therein. This should hopefully also add to the available talent pool.
Our research focus ensures that we have live projects for the faculty and students to work on and therefore hands-on experience is a given. With the large number of research projects come along a larger number of research scholars who grow from subject matter experts, to researchers and transform to specialists in academics. In addition, industry-connect helps in getting the best practitioners together who can teach, mentor and guide. Faculty grants and a mandatory focus on producing quality research papers in peer reviewed journals also help.
Getting good quality research projects to work on can be a deterrent for other institutions to focus on research. We have been lucky that our constant focused approach to research and putting in place the requisite infrastructure and labs have reaped us great dividends. We are proud to be working with local and global Government and Corporate Research projects. Participation in local and global seminars, research papers and events can also help in building a marketable and visible brand. Once the institutions are a brand, their intellectual capital will obviously be sought after and can prove to be an asset to brand building exercises as well.
Addressing the Wave of Industry 4.0
Deep Industry connections and outreach on reporting quality research are the key elements to become a recognizable entity. Industry connect can be deepened only when you have a proven track record of delivering on your promises within a given defined time period. Academic institutions need to have more industry events across themes that bring in global peers, specialists and corporates to the same platform. The key takeaways need to be implemented to ensure that this becomes not just a one-off event, but an ongoing activity.
Now, the core of Industry 4.0 is automation and digital technology. This is evolving rapidly and we at Mahindra Ecole Centrale have been focusing on this for quite some time by now. Most quality educational institutes have also started to focus on developing new skill sets in emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Machine and Deep Learning, Robotics, Automation, Cloud Computing, Block Chain & IoT and so on for students and engaging with industry experts for teaching and research.
Global collaborations, Research, Faculty focus and Industry connect will help the educators to bring in Industry ready curriculum and lead to up-skilling the engineering students. However, a major issue is lack of flexibility in setting up curriculum that is vibrant and topical. I believe this is the major challenge faced by most academic institutions. We need to have an industry ready curriculum and focus on research and collaborations amongst students. In our move towards a high level of digitalization and automation, we need to create virtual learning environments for our students and develop competencies in them to help them in their professional lives.
The biggest challenge for academicians in India is to keep themselves abreast of the rapidly evolving ecosystem. Global collaborations and close connections with the industry can help in this. The traditional method of teaching is no longer relevant. The academicians need to constantly innovate to keep the students engaged. We at Mahindra Ecole Centrale focus on flip education, where our pedagogy is more discussion oriented than discourse oriented. The focus must be on providing collaborative learning to the students.
Subject matter focus, hard work, excellent communication skills and willingness to learn are the key skill sets that every student should have to get a job of their choice. Since change is the new constant, what we as academics can do is to arm students with the relevant skillsets to help them keep learning through their career.
We focus on a well-designed blend of Basic and Engineering Sciences and Social Sciences to provide holistic education and create a well-rounded professional. Development of creative and critical thinking skills and applying these to complex engineering problems is also something that we focus on. At MEC, we are committed to making the “New Engineer”. Our Vision is to train engineers, both men and women, to be entrepreneurial and innovative as well as technically trained, so that they can meet the greatest challenges of their era, globally.
No man is an island. I firmly believe that the millennial generation knows this better than anyone else. And, they are “connected” more than ever before. They are also aware of what they want and what is happening around them. My only advice to them would be to be responsible citizens, both of the country and Mother Earth, and excel in whatever their chosen field is. And, they just need to remember, collaboration is the key. (As told to the Editor)
More about the Author
Between 2001 and 2003, Dr. Medury successfully established 3 Universities (2 State and 1 Deemed). Prior to that, Dr. Medury was the Vice Chancellor of Jaypee University of IT, Himachal Pradesh and Founding Vice Chancellor of VIT University, Vellore. Immediately before that, he was the Chairman & Managing Director of Educational Consultants of India Limited, a Public Sector Undertaking of the Government of India. He has proficiently held many senior positions in varied Companies/Institutes besides being Member of several Academic Committees/Governing Councils throughout his distinguished career.
His contributions to the field of academics have been widely acknowledged. He has more than 40 publications to his credit which have been extensively circulated in national and international journals and conferences.