The dim job prospect in the market is pushing many students to accept “non-traditional” career choices as traditional. There exist two separate worlds – academia and industry. Both worlds have a very different mindset and goals. Unless they are brought together, students will have a hard time to enter the industry, even if they have straight as to show for it. Industry institute industry comes in the play to bridge the gap between these two worlds. In today’s competitive world, Industry Collaborations is not just crucial for placements and recognition, but to get a better boost in their research. Vivekanand Education Society’s College of Pharmacy (VESCOP) has always been contributing to the healthcare sector with the links and partnerships they have with the industry. “We always encourage our faculty members to interact with the industry. The strong industry-institute relation has helped us to be recognised as the Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (SIRO) centre from the Department of Science and Industrial Research (DSIR, Government of India) over last 3 years “, says Dr Supriya Shidhaye, Principal, VESCOP.
VESCOP takes its rich heritage from its founder, Late Hashu Advaniji, who entered the education field through Vivekanand Education Society (VES) in 1962. A pioneer in the education sector from its inception, today VES is spread over 3,75,000 sq.ft. land housing 12 buildings and 28 institutions including creche to PhD centre with over 2000 employees and more than 18000 students on the campus. Aiming to provide a program directly related to the community’s health, Shri B. L. Boolaniji , senior-most trustee and currently President of VES, established the Pharmacy College in Chembur, aligning it with the then perspective plan of the University of Mumbai. VESCOP was started in 2007, and Dr Supriya joined the VESCOP family as the principal in 2009. With Shri Boolaniji as the President of VES, Prof Jharana Das, former Principal of VES Arts Science Commerce College as the chief coordinator, supportive VES management and the dedicated faculty members and committed support staff, VESCOP is scaling greater heights with their combined efforts.
One of the top few reputed Pharmacy Colleges affiliated to the University of Mumbai, VESCOP is striving hard with a mission to work closely with the industry and work on solving problems for the industry and envisioning to create competent pharmacy professionals that positively impact healthcare in the society. At the forefront of helping the community in these perturbing times of a pandemic, the entire building of Vivekanand Education Society’s Institute of Technology (VESIT- in the same campus of VESCOP) was given to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to set up and run as an isolation centre for COVID patients. The entire building was handled by the BMC for about 2 months with 150+ patients.
The Institution’s Innovation Council of VESCOP organised an “E-Idealogue” competition on a virtual platform. The competition was focused on presenting varied ideas in combating COVID-19. “The competition was open to all UG, PG and PhD candidates from all over the state. No participation fee was taken, and a lot of interesting ideas were put forth which could impact the pandemic scenario directly if worked on further”, adds Dr Supriya. Also, the Rotaract club of VESCOP along with the Rotaract District 3141 has started a project called “Sahayak” to help persons with the need of any ration or medicine.
Trailblazers of Online Education in Pharmacy
The pressure on students and higher education institutions is high. Schools and universities have been closed, and exams are postponed. Classrooms are going virtual and admissions for the upcoming academic year are fraught with confusion. According to UNESCO, over 320 million students in Indian schools and colleges are currently impacted. The pandemic has pushed the world to drastically reinvent ways of coping with the ‘new normal’. After the initial phase of a complete overhaul, it is critical to understand the short and long-term impacts and future measures.
As the current education system continues to perform the same functions, i.e., teach students to think intensively and critically, the Pandemic Outbreak has helped ignite the technology revolution in the higher education sector by harnessing blended or hybrid learning. Though it was assumed to be tough, now the students and teachers have become receptive to this methodology, weighing over conventional platforms in the COVID19 scenario. “We have adapted to the ‘new normal’ by deferring the teaching-learning process, adopting online examination model based on the guidelines of the regulating bodies, revamping the academic calendar, training teachers through technical webinars, creating virtual labs and modules for students that go beyond the syllabus, and conducted an evaluation for the final year students on online platforms”, says Dr Supriya.
Currently, the Higher Education Institutions in India are hindered with primary challenges like on-campus safety of students, infrastructure, and shifting to online teaching. Understanding the pulse of quality education and before the dawn of COVID19, VESCOP had already recognised which parts of student learning experience can be substituted, supplemented, and complemented by digital technology. Adapting to the unprecedented pandemic times, VESCOP joined the revolution with a team of dynamic teachers educating students using synchronous learning via LMS (Learning Management System) platform. The team ensured that there will be no compromise on quality while using online learning methods. All teachers and students are now trained to use LMS and will continue to do so. “Looking at the success rate, we may continue to offer 20-30% online lectures along with on-campus offline classes since the idea of blended learning opens the door to the possibility for students to learn important concepts from experts seated in any corner of the world”, quips Dr Supriya.
With their goals and objectives centred around preparing students for the rapidly changing pharma field, VESCOP is preparing its students for an impactful career in the healthcare industry with experiential education to develop scientific and technical skills, by encouraging them to participate in webinars, team projects, online internships and take up additional courses to become skilled in the pharmaceutical functions. In addition to this, VESCOP is all set to conduct online campus interviews in the future for their students, enabling them to explore many placement opportunities outside the cities and broadening their horizons of the prospects for the students.
Blending Practical and Theory Learning
Offering an innovative platform bolstering integrated course-work to address the evolving Pharmaceutical science industry with a focus on projects, assignments, internship, and team collaborations, VESCOP’s versatile education model, prepares its students for careers in research, regulatory and commercial roles to work in a variety of settings. Providing exposure to the pharmaceutical industry that is deeply woven throughout their program to give their students a unique insight into different prospects and career paths, Dr Supriya quips. “During our program, students are also encouraged to discover new passions via co-curricular activities that hone them into well-rounded professionals. This was even recognised by the National Centre of Quality Management and awarded the College with top three ranks in two consecutive years, 2018 and 2019 in the contest of ‘Best Educational Quality Enhancement Team’ The team members representing VESCOP were Mrs Ashwini Wani, Mrs Sonali Munj and Mrs Pradnya Korlekar.”
Preparing their students with the four key skill-sets, i.e., Technical Expertise, Research Aptitude, Soft Skills, and Entrepreneurship Skills, VESCOP has formed a strongly interconnected network to make a tremendous impact in the pharmaceutical industry, with 1000+ alumni uniquely positioned to excel in a variety of careers addressing technical and management skills. In addition to empowering the students with technical knowledge, it is equally important to build the correct attitude in the students. VESCOP takes due care and has built a culture where hard work and professional attitude are imbibed into students right from their first day in the institute. By creating a state-of-the-art infrastructure, the institute has set up laboratories with the latest equipment. “Our Central Instrument Laboratory has high-end research instruments such as Diffusion Cell Assembly with Auto Sampler, Dissolution tester with Autosampler (Make- Teledyne Hanson), HPLC (Make – Shimadzu and Jasko), FTIR (Make – Shimadzu), Cold Centrifuge (Make – Thermo Scientific, Ultracentrifuge(Make-Beckman), Particle size analyser (make-Malvern), etc”, adds Dr Supriya.
Channelising the minds and efforts of the students in a correct direction, VESCOP has a Mentoring Cell, Program Committee, VES Leadership Academy and Research Centre (VESLARC), Competitive Examinations Guidance Cells, and a Campus to Corporate Transition Program in place to put in the structured efforts of the students and reflect their outcomes through student’s participation during their academic tenure. “when students graduate from the institute, they come up with flying colours and are placed in the industry very well. Our students are known in the industry for their hard work, professional attitude, and sound technical knowledge”, opines Dr Supriya.
Shaping Pharmaceutical Professionals
Consistently receiving research projects from the industry, VESCOP has provided consultancy for companies like Cerelia Nutritech Pvt. Ltd., Gangwal Chemicals Pvt. Ltd., Solumiks Herbaceuticals Ltd., to name a few. Having joint collaborative research centres with P and G and MOUs with companies like Aqua-Dry Pharma, Veredox Healthcare, B&B Pharma, Adroid Biomed, VESCOP has been developing in various ways and has been recognised at a national level through a survey by AICTE-CII as the ‘Best Industry Linked Technical Institute’ with a platinum ranking in 2019.
Having filed 6 patents for the innovative and dedicated research work carried out by research students under their guides, some students of VESCOP have pursued the road less travelled and have started their ventures. “Mr Chetan Girish Mahajan, an alumnus of our institute, founded Veredox Healthcare Pvt. Ltd., an organisation that is involved in contract manufacturing, marketing, and consultation of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products globally, and Ms Ruchi Singh co-founded Cerelia Nutritech, an IP based social enterprise contributing to the enrichment of the quality of life by developing innovative healthcare solutions”, points out Dr Supriya.
With a very active placement cell that works tirelessly to place its students in eminent pharmaceutical companies and allied sectors, the institute’s Placement Cell organises activities like Career Guidance Programmes, Mock Interviews, Group Discussions, and Interpersonal Skills Workshop. Also, VESCOP hosts an HR Summit, where HR Managers from various companies are invited to conduct training programs for the students. “It operates round the year to for locating opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students. On invitation, many reputed Pharmaceutical companies have visited our campus and have recruited the candidates”, adds Dr
With 50% of their students pursuing Higher Education and the remaining opting for placements, Dr Supriya says, “We have successfully maintained our placement percentage above 90 Percentage over the years. To name a few eminent companies which have placed our students are Pfizer, Cipla, Rubicon, Merck, P&G, GSK, Nestle, Sanofi. Students also opt for Allied Healthcare sectors such as Pitchman Communications, Aditya Birla Insurance, Medlife, Aspira Diagnostics”.
Chalking out the Next Steps
Promoting entrepreneurial skills among their students, VESCOP has established the Institution’s Innovation Council (IIC), a recognised unit of MHRD’s Innovation Cell, to motivate and train them to become successful entrepreneurs through innovation. “This initiative involves conduction workshops and participating in different Hackathon events, that not only boosts the confidence of students but also helps to create a healthy environment for innovation”, says Dr Anilkumar Gandhi, the advisor and associate professor of VESCOP working actively to frame the innovation and start-up policy for VESCOP. . Also, the management of VES under the leadership of Shri B. L. Boolaniji gives a helping hand to the innovators to file patents which gives a boost to the researchers at VES. There is a Patent Cell in the institute which helps students and faculty in patent search, patent drafting, responding to examiner’s queries, IP due diligence, and so on.
Aligning with their vision, the students of VESCOP develop soft skills, knowledge, professional skills, and ethical attitude of students through their ‘Campus to Corporate Transition Program’. “We lead our students towards holistic development and push them to be sensitive towards the community, a quintessential quality required to positively impact the healthcare of the society”, says Dr Supriya.
After the B Pharm program getting recognised by NBA and receiving permanent affiliation by the University of Mumbai, VESCOP is setting itself to get the NAAC Accreditation, which is mandatory for higher educational institutes to get the autonomy by UGC. The institute is recognised under Section 2(f) and 12 (B) of UGC act 1956 which makes the institute fit to receive central assistance for students and teachers related schemes. This recognition would help them mark their presence as a research centre. “To provide a conducive working environment, to foster an entrepreneurial culture, and provide opportunities to transform business ideas of the students, alumni, and faculty, the VES has started the process of creating an incubation centre.” says Shri B.L. Boolaniji.
Very keen to participate in translational research, VESCOP is filing for more patents through innovative research and commercialisation of patents in the long run. Being in the pharmacy field of education and aligning with their vision, the institution has taken initiatives to increase hospital collaborations. “We work tirelessly and with positivity for every single initiative. Every individual associated with this institution believes in teamwork. From the infancy, we all worked with zeal to crack the accreditations, inspections, and ranking framework with the attitude that all these mandatory requirements are going to raise the standard of excellence in every aspect of our institution. The University of Mumbai has recently recognised our efforts by awarding Overall runner up the championship and Overall championship in Medicine and Pharmacy in 52nd Inter-collegiate Avishkar Research Convention: 2019-20”, concludes Dr Supriya.
About Dr Supriya Shidhaye
Having a PhD (Tech.) in Pharmaceutics, Dr Supriya is the principal at the Vivekanand Education Society’s College of Pharmacy since 2009. With 27 years of academic experience, she specialises in Novel Drug Delivery System, including a controlled release drug delivery system, mucoadhesive drug delivery system, nanotechnology, and solid unit dosage form, Anti-cancer Drug Development. Having started with collaborating with the Industry, Dr Supriya has filed 4 patents, attended around 73 seminars and workshops, and presented 18 papers as the resource person and published 51 papers in national and international journals. A recognised research guide from the University of Mumbai, she has guided 32 students with grade A for M.Pharm and 3 students for Ph. D.(Tech.). Currently, Dr Supriya is guiding 5 students for M. Pharm and 4 students for PhD (Tech.). Since past one year, she has also undertaken the responsibility as the Chairperson of the Board of studies(Ad Hoc) in Pharmacy at the University of Mumbai.