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The Road to Building a World Class University in Gujarat: Interview with Jeet Marwadi

Mr. Jeet marwadi

Mr Jeet marwadi

1. PLEASE THROW SOME LIGHT ON FUTURE TRENDS IN THE HIGHER EDUCATION ECOSYSTEM IN INDIA AND HOW MARWADI UNIVERSITY IS ALIGNED WITH THEM?

The shift to Education 4.0 has brought greater flexibility, an evolution in education delivery, and enhanced personalization. Acceptance of online education has been accelerated by the pandemic, and a global shift towards digital, tech-fueled learning has acted as a test for Education 4.0 and its focus on the digital future.

Visionary documents such as the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 as well as the Budget 2021 can help influence, as well as establish, some innovations being adopted by institutes today.

Talking about our alignment with the emerging trends, we are already following a hybrid learning model and our teachers are enrolled for advanced training in technology.

New, innovative methods of data collection are continually being developed, which offer new options for ongoing formative, culminating summative and alternative assessments in the classroom. We are exploring the avenue of research-based instructional strategies. Although challenges in curriculum design may arise due to advanced technology integration, we are nonetheless embracing the future. 

Moreover, Marwadi University has signed MOUs with reputed universities in Poland, Romania, America, China, and Dubai for fully and partly funded student exchange programmes.

2. WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT MARWADI UNIVERSITY?

As a program director for the Project Based learning at the University I was involved in planning Design Engineering Workshops in collaboration with key industry professionals and expert designers. The program covered Ergonomics, Design and Systems Thinking, Techno-Aesthetic detailing and building sustainable human centric designs wherein students had to come up with innovative concepts right from ideation to prototype.

As a Trustee at Marwadi University, I take pride in our new Mentorship and Coaching program for all students. I worked with various teams to design and implement the Performance Based Appraisal System for complete transparency in appraisals. The Project Management Office is set up for restructuring & streamlining various processes & systems to achieve resource optimization. Working with the IT team to put in place the systems for scanning answer books; digital assessments; dashboards for quick decision making; mobile apps for students and staff; etc. has been very rewarding.

Having said that, the Indian high education ecosystem by and large still follows the Prussian system dependent on rote learning method which was not designed to equip students 

We have also initiated working towards education that will be demand-led instead of supply-led; Education that will be competency-based instead of knowledge-based; impart lifelong learning instead of front-loaded learning; design curricula that will promote modular degree instead of one-shot going; and finally, we want to move towards learning that emphasises on EQ rather than IQ alone.with critical thinking skills.

3. YOU ARE ALSO A DIRECTOR AT MARWADI SHARES AND FINANCE LIMITED (MSFL). WHAT RESPONSIBILITIES DO YOU OVERSEE AT MSFL?

A few decades back, financial information was closely controlled by professionals and institutional investors but today technology has been an incredible leveller, providing individuals with access to education, information, and tools to make informed decisions and control their financial destinies.

At MSFL, being a second-generation entrepreneur, I have been contributing to the overall growth of the organization with the key transformation from MSFL to MSFL 2.0, focusing on corporate business and governance structure.

I strongly feel that a lot of discussions around services that improves personal finance are centred on measurable economic outcomes like savings, debt capacity, and investments are overlooking and grossly undervaluing emotional security and well-being. When clients are guided towards good choices and have control over their finances, they are happier. I strongly emphasize on assisting investors to feel more secure with sound financial health which puts them in a better position to thrive in all areas of life. Believing in marshalling conscience and placing people in the centre of the global corporate, political, and socioeconomic realm. 

Having the right leadership goals and vision is key to the continued success for an organization like MSFL, which is currently the single largest contributor to the NSE / BSE stock exchange in SLBM.

4. WHAT DOES THE JOURNEY FOR MU LOOK LIKE SO FAR? WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR SIGNIFICANT MILESTONES, AND HOW LAUNCHING VARIOUS PROGRAMS TO SUPPORT ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT GRASS ROOT LEVEL ALIGN WITH YOUR OVERALL MISSION?

What’s needed now is educating future generations on modern industries, emerging technology and experiential learning, so the conjoined efforts by Universities, Enterprises, and Governments can foster an Entrepreneurship ecosystem. 

Diversity of ideas leads to innovation and there’s no better place to see diversity of background, value systems and priorities than at a university. These “frictional” interactions between individuals with competing values trying to work together are the prime source of ideas and innovation.

The other important thing that we can provide is resources. From incubators, funding, mentoring, and support – there’s a lot that we offer to entrepreneurs. Inculcating the spirit of prototyping and hands-on learning, enabling an innovation ecosystem across change-makers that fosters entrepreneurship, indoctrinating ‘maker culture’ to drive ideas, demystifying the world of starting and running a business through training and development, business model mentoring, coaching, domain-specific mentoring, identifying and framing problems after collaborating closely with the industry – and finally, help commercialise the technology. 

At MU, we have established an Incubation Center having office space for 10 Startup Teams and 50 seat coworking space integrated with all basic prototyping facilities. (More on this in following answers)

Our university’s way forward will have these propellers:

  • Expand our start-up incubating platform
  • Invite visiting faculty from industry
  • Arrange frequent workshops and seminars to initiate dialogue
  • Create a curriculum based on real market needs
  • Facilitate research funding from Government from an early stage
  • Inspire students to pursue research with higher research grants
  • Encourage high risk‐high reward research
  • Arrange cross visits between private and public institutes
  • Integrate traditional value chains and business ecosystem
  • Help provide commercialisation opportunities
  • Participate in policy dialogues
  • Get on-board leading Entrepreneurs

We recognise and engage in innovation as a reiterative process in which basic research, applied research, and prototype development can stimulate and enhance each other mutually and multiple times in a cooperative process.

5. A SPROUTING OF NEW DIGITAL TOOLS AND UPDATED CURRICULUM DURING THE PANDEMIC HAS CREATED A LEARNING DISRUPTION, HOW HAS MARWADI UNIVERSITY COPED WITH THE SITUATION, AND WHAT CHANGES HAVE BEEN ADOPTED UNDER YOUR LEADERSHIP?

COVID has done away with many old ways of teaching and learning. For about 1.5 years, we have lived without large in-person lectures and high-stake in-class exams. We have successfully delivered 2000+ online classes and conducted online tests through our app built in-house. This app also manages the attendance record of 9000 students, which is about 90%, and 700 employees. There’s a complete online admission process with a virtual campus tour. 

What is the way forward – as I see it, it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build back better! If knowledge is constructed and effective teaching requires an environment that enables learners, how do we change as an institution to mirror this reality? The next step is to figure out what levers need to be pulled at the institutional level to drive organizational changes that align with learning science.

Also, I believe that to keep up with the change, one has to revisit the traditional educational paradigms with a futuristic approach. Students should be adept in skills set by the fast-changing technology; they should be led, but not instructed; information should be made accessible, but not fed to them. Both general and vocational education should make students skill-ready to compete with the outside workforce.

6. WHAT IS THE SITUATION OF PLACEMENTS AND CAREER TRAJECTORY OF STUDENTS ENROLLING AT MARWADI UNIVERSITY?

Our 360-degree career development plan ensures students graduate with a strong sense of professionalism, leadership, and soft-skill set.

Our industry-academia partnership helps our students interact with and learn from the corporate leaders from a broad spectrum of industries, including distinguished speakers from prestigious institutions like IITs, NITs, Stanford University, and NALSAR, while IBM, CISCO, Cyberoam, TCS, and Wipro are our Knowledge Partners. This widens students’ horizons by enabling them to understand management principles and careers through real-world corporate examples from a practitioner perspective.

The fully-equipped Innovation, Incubation & Research Center (MUIIR) is a state-of-the-art center to help students learn about business incubation, scaling, and business model design.

Even during the pandemic, our Placement Cell was ‘business as usual’. That says a lot about our commitment. We had almost 300 companies visiting and just about 800 students were placed. 

Along with giving the right skills, our job is to ensure that the best of the best companies come to the campus and hire the students of our business school. There is strong support from TCS – Tata Consultancy Services with whom we have an MOU. Even during the lockdown, MU students could learn online and practice for Mock Interviews, Online Workshops, and training in Language skills.

7. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GRASSROOTS/ STUDENT ENTREPRENEURSHIP OPPORTUNITIES WHICH HAVE BEEN CREATED DURING THE ONGOING PANDEMIC AT MARWADI UNIVERSITY?

Our incubation and innovation centre (MUIIR) Centre has developed the ‘First-Office’ facility to provide the first step for start-ups. Envisioned as a mentorship ecosystem to help student innovation focusing on real-world problems, the MUIIR Centre has tied up with various government agencies like New Generation Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Centre (NewGen IEDC), The Student Startup & Innovation Policy (SSIP), Gujarat Council on Science & Technology (GUJCOST), Centre for Environment and Development (CED).

32+ start-ups from Engineering, Science, Paramedical and Management are already being supported, with over 62+ Mentors and more than INR 50 lakhs already raised with the help of the MUIIR Centre, till date. Currently the centre is focusing on sustainable development, energy conservation, electric vehicle technology & Industry 4.0. Noteworthy patents applied for include an automatic mosquito breeding killer, pixelori painting, and planar antennas for Terahertz Frequency Applications.

The Centre has already conducted 50+ programmes to extend further support in the areas of idea validation, business structure, intellectual property, financial health, funding advice. MU has also invested heavily to up-skill its faculty, via initiatives in partnership with IIT Bombay, The University of New South Wales, Coursera, IUCEE, and University of California, amongst others. It is extremely important for us to ensure student success in the social impact ecosystem. With the ongoing pandemic, it is critical to develop the right environment for collaboration between industry, academia, and government.

8. WITH TRADITIONAL CAREER OPPORTUNITIES UNDERGOING A SEISMIC SHIFT TOWARDS REMOTE WORK, DO YOU FEEL THAT AFFECTS THE CAREER OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS GRADUATING FROM HIGHER EDUCATION TODAY?

Remote work will continue in 2021, just as in 2020. The future of remote work will require many changes, including investing in digital infrastructure and freeing office space. For most universities, having faculty work outside the classroom will require reinventing many processes and policies. 

Just like past recessions, the economic recovery from COVID-19 will accelerate automation in the workplace, but this automation doesn’t necessarily have to be a job-killer. The shift of work and education online could create new jobs for engineers working on virtual reality and AI applications. Employers may look for workers who understand how to use more complex computerized equipment.

Organisational focus on protection against infections may drive demand for products and services in that area. Employers may also hire experts in healthcare, emergency preparedness and mental health to plan for future pandemics.

Most importantly, with remote work being normalised for roles traditionally thought of as field work, opportunities for students may increase considering the reduced role of geographical boundaries. This is true even for international assignments.

9. WHAT DOES THE NEXT 5 YEARS OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN INDIA LOOK LIKE?

Higher education institutes could redefine the education ecosystem by enriching the student learning experience, focusing on employability and providing opportunities for research excellence. Responding to the evolving student needs coupled with rapidly changing industry demands, HEIs now have a greater onus to develop an ecosystem that will provide a high-quality educational experience.

Identifying the sustainable practices across the higher education ecosystem and ensuring that important stakeholders are satisfied with their experience is key. Revisions, redesigns and restructuring across the higher education ecosystem while visioning a transformative and progressive higher education landscape, could help the institutes offer a quality student centric and holistic experience to learners.

10. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GLOBAL MOU’S AND PARTNERSHIPS WHICH ENHANCE THE INDUSTRY-ACADEMIA CONNECT AT MARWADI UNIVERSITY?

For Marwadi University, internationalization is one of the most important strategic objectives for institutional development. MU is looking forward to obtaining and exchanging the cutting-edge knowledge & skills required to serve the best interests of the academic community across the globe. To this purpose, MU has signed MOUs with 23 international universities for student and faculty exchange programmes. 

Additionally, Marwadi University has signed MoU with four European Universities under ERASMUS+ programme. Marwadi University has also signed MoU’s with 6 international Universities in Europe, USA, Australia and Israel. In a recent development, we have also signed a Major MoU with COIMBRA group, a consortium of Brazilian Universities comprising 70 Universities in Brazil to facilitate faculty and student mobility in terms of knowledge exchange, research and credit transfers. For MU International Academic, cooperation is also a means for enhancing and fostering an international atmosphere at our campus, thus promoting personal growth, tolerance and understanding of global responsibility among university stakeholders.

11. MARWADI UNIVERSITY (MU) WAS RECENTLY ACCORDED AS A CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE BY THE GUJARAT GOVERNMENT, WHAT DID THAT ENTAIL AND HOW WILL MU UTILIZE THE STATUS?

Yes, that was a big win for us. The Gujarat Government’s team of 20+ experts were enthralled with the state-of-the-art computer-based system, innovation in teaching, high-tech infrastructure, and student development. At present, there is hardly any university in India where more than 11% of the students are from abroad.

The committee conducted an in-depth review of aspects like quality of students and placements, quality of teachers, laboratory and research, infrastructure, examination system, the support given to students in start-up and innovation, scholarships for gifted students, assistance in mastering or running one’s own business, etc. Of the seven universities recognised as Centres of Excellence, Marwadi University is the only one outside of the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar area and is the youngest established university among the seven.

Universities accredited by the CoE will get autonomy in line with the rules of the Admission Committee and Fee Regulatory Committee. Apart from this, these seven universities will be given priority in many prestigious projects of the Government of Gujarat. From the time of the idea of establishing Marwadi University, we had a dream to make Marwadi University a world-class university in Saurashtra which now seems to be coming true. It is not long before Marwadi University will get its place in NIRF, ABET, amongst others.

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