This edition of the Fulbright-Nehru International Education Administrators’ Seminar saw three educationists from Tamil Nadu, all from the western region of the State, form part of the elite 10 selected to attend the two-week programme.
The seminar enables participants to learn about the various facets of the U.S. higher education, the types of institutions, curriculum, accreditation, student services and fund-raising systems. It is designed for university / college administrators, which include department heads, deans, directors, principals, vice-chancellors, registrars, and so on.
R. Rajendran, principal, PSG College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore; Vijila Kennedy, Director, KCT Business School, Kumaraguru College of Technology, Coimbatore; and J. Akilandeswari, Head of Department, Information Technology, Sona College of Technology, Salem, are back from the “great learning experience” in the United States and are looking to implement the best practices of the U.S. higher education in their institutions.
All three have interesting experiences to share about their tour, having visited more than 15 educational institutions, and interacted with various institutional representatives, including students. The main three factors that have caught their attention are the size of the institutions, the infrastructure, and the human resources, which they say are in abundance there. And, all this is made possible by the generous funding by the alumni, and, to some extent, the industry.
According to Professor Rajendran, Meredith College in North Carolina, the “smallest” college they visited, was situated in an area of 6,000 acres. The infrastructure is “incomparable” and there is no dearth of staff in every section / department in the institutions. For example, a placement cell in every college / university is a separate entity and is staffed by nearly 20 faculty.
Prof. Akilandeswari is in awe of the systematised organisational chart / hierarchy that every institution has, whereby every process takes place according to a fixed system, which is known to all. She is also appreciative of the way cross-cultural diversity is handled in higher educational institutions that ensures that the minorities are integrated well in the social milieu. While in India, reservation in admission is seen as the big leveller, she believes it is during the course of study that such religious and caste minorities should be given additional attention to make them bridge the gap.
One major highlight of the U.S. higher education that attracted Prof. Vijila was the importance it gave to sports. She also underscored the significance attached to making the campuses, including the students’ centres, classrooms, and common areas, disabled-friendly to encourage educating those with disabilities. One of the universities the Indian delegation visited was the Gallaudet University in Washington. This is said to be the world’s only university offering programmes and services specially designed for the hearing-impaired.
The three professors were selected after a “stringent selection process”, and while the trio have the pride of being the maximum number representing a State, Prof. Vijila and Prof. Akilandeswari are the only two women members of the all-India delegation.
- Establish community colleges for those who do not meet the eligibility criteria of marks and fees of graduate colleges
- Devise a flexible / interdisciplinary curriculum
- Encourage research at the UG level
- Strengthen industry-academia partnerships
- Decentralise higher education
- Longer and intensive internships, preferably paid
- Make campuses disabled-friendly for inclusive education
- Move away from mark-based assessment system
- Develop fund-raising culture by alumni / industry