How world-class institutions can effectively mentor other colleges


We do have islands of prosperity in India. Likewise we do have several islands in higher education as well. We do have world-class institutions, but the wider impact on the society is rather limited. To this end, we need such institutions to act as mentors for at least two other upcoming colleges, one of which should be a rural college. Some nuances of this proposition are sought to be discussed in this article.

Introduction

Delhi School of Economics. Madras Institute of Development Studies. Indian School of Business. Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Loyola College, Chennai. Christ University, Bangalore. Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. The IITs. The IIMs and the NITs.

What do these famous institutions have in common? World-class faculty. Distinguished alumni who have contributed so much to the nation. World-class research has a very wide impact on society. Institutions that have produced so many thousands of entrepreneurs and have multiplied employment opportunities. Now, what can be done to enable these institutions to have a bigger and wider impact on society as a whole?

There are many options. However, the best option is to mentor two other institutions in the same category or allied category and then take the collaboration to the next level by encouraging the particular institutions to take it to the next level. Mentorship should be centered around a) Sabbatical of distinguished faculty b) Faculty Development Programs c) Training the Trainers d) Extending support for meaningful research and e) Enabling the support of institution on a sustained basis.

Sabbatical of distinguished faculty

This is the best method of mentorship. The parent institution should extend a sabbatical to the college that needs to be mentored and an MoU needs to be signed. While 50% of the salary should be extended to the Faculty Member by the mentee institution, the parent mentor institution should pay the rest. The mentee institution should also house the expert in a good rented accommodation with all facilities and provide him free food facilities as well. For example, if the Indian Institute of Technology Mumbai were the parent institution and one upcoming self-financing engineering college in Nashik is the mentee institution, it is not such a big ask for the latter to provide such facilities. This sabbatical for one year will facilitate direct interaction with the expert and bring to bear a big change in the attitude of the mentee institution.

Faculty Development Programs

There are various IITs and the IIMs that conduct the two or three months full-time program on Faculty Development, for the teachers of arts and science colleges and the engineering colleges. These programs provide teachers with the required skills to do a far better job in their careers and also provide the students with superior knowledge. However, this is not enough for a sustained and deeper impact. This can indeed change when the mentor institution regularly trains all the teachers of the mentee institution.

What is really lacking is the spirit to go the extra mile. Due to paucity of faculty members, it is very common to find self-financing engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and perhaps in other parts of the country, where the freshers who had passed out of the same institution just a couple of years ago, teaching the students of the final year. This is just not the right thing to do. It is a big issue and it is the classic chicken or the egg situation.

There are typical examples like the Vellore Institute of Technology and
SRM University that have innovated in terms of providing world-class infrastructure first and then attracting students from all over India and even the NRI students from countries like the UAE and various African countries to study in their campuses. In fact, highly reputed institutions such as these deemed universities can also act as mentor institutions.

Training the Trainers

Imagine a situation where the likes of the Sona School of Management. which is an upcoming and promising B School in the Western Tamil Nadu region, are able to offer quality Executive Development Programs on say, "Finance for Non-Finance Executives" at reasonable cost to the local corporate organizations spread over a radius of one hundred kilometers. Once the teachers are trained in the nuances of some management concept, where the need for training is so high, they can indeed take the consultancy forward and earn additional revenue for their institution. The trai. ning can be done by a team of teachers from the mentor institution and the domain experts from the industry. The example cited is just one example. There is tremendous scope for such work.

The aim should be to vastly improve the standards of at least ten B Schools in each region, so that the quality of the MBA/PGDM program becomes far better. Instead, what is now being done, throughout India, is a situation where the status quo is religiously maintained. To mask the real situation, the educational institutions embark on a number of high decibel advertisements that claim that the B-Schools have all that is needed to embark on very good careers, whereas the ground realities are totally different. This situation can and should hopefully change through mentorship.

However, every such initiative should be through voluntary support, through increased industry-institute collaboration. There should not be any Government intervention, as that will effectively ruin everything. Even today, the Indian School of Business Hyderabad is not even recognized by the AICTE and no one cares. The highest global standards in terms of teaching and research are there for the asking. However, even the leading non-IIM institution in South India, the Great Lakes Institute of Management Chennai, has the AICTE approval for its programs but keeps on updating its syllabus. This is one B School that should play the role of mentor.

Extending support for meaningful research

There are reports of some brilliant ideas flowing from the relatively unknown engineering colleges from the semi-urban and rural areas. Organic farming, for example, has now become such a big craze, even in the Western countries. There should be a sustained movement to encourage further research by the State agriculture universities and more commercial activities of even self-help groups. Once this is done, the local mentor B-School faculty experts can extend their expertise to enable the exports of organic products through the social media. This is a grey area. In fact, B-Schools can play a big role in publishing scope for organic farming in different areas of India, through extended fieldwork by the MBA students, that should be made possible through the guidance of experienced faculty.

The scope of field research work is aplenty and one needs to just do some basic homework in this direction.

Enabling the support of institution on a sustained basis

It is not enough if the mentorship programs run their course for just three or four years. They should go on for several years and become a big movement. There should be a sustained review over a period of three years and the various apex organizations like the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) can indeed play a big role in getting this done.

Nothing works in a vacuum. The imperative need is for collaboration at various levels and once this is achieved, everything will fall in its place.

Conclusion

Certain ideas on the scope of mentoring of the upcoming colleges by the more established colleges have been discussed above. The scope is very wide. There is every chance that when the ball gets rolling, there will be new ideas that will emerge, making the mentoring exercise all the more meaningful in both the short term and the long term.


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