NITR: Transition to Top Gear
With the onset of the new session, a wide array of issues can be witnessed at the institute. Team Monday Morning approached our honorable Director, Professor Animesh Biswas to discuss on certain topics. A vivid picture of the discussion has been presented here.
MM: The academic syllabus hosted on the website has not been updated since the last few years. The list of subjects as well as their codes has not changed on the PDF, although in reality they have changed too much. What steps are being taken in this regard?
AB: The task of updating the syllabus is in process. The automation cell of our institute has been approached in this regard and Professor Sarat Patra is looking into this matter. Since, making the entire curriculum up-to-date will take some time; we are primarily focusing on updating the first year syllabus on a priority basis.
MM: The academic curriculum for the first year has been revised completely. Will this be implemented for other batches also? How will the number of credits change for the first year students?
AB: This new curriculum has been introduced only for the first year students. The overall credits have been reduced for the fresh batch but the depth of course will increase factoring in regular assignments and proper student-teacher interaction. The objective is to keep students’ engaged so that they enjoy what they learn. Other batches from second year onwards will run as per the previous system. So, two parallel curriculums will function simultaneously until the 2016-2020 batch graduates.
MM: Given that the curriculum has been revised, have the faculties been provided with any special training with regards to that? Also some departments were already facing a shortage of faculties. When can we expect the vacancies to be filled up?
AB: All the faculties were involved in the revision of the curriculum so; they are competent enough to handle it in the first place. However, the teaching methodology solely depends on the discretion of the faculty members. Considering the vacancies in different departments, we will be publishing “Faculty Position Advertisement” on 31 July 2017. It may take some time to fill up the vacancies as it is a long process and requires approval from MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource Department) as well.
MM: The building for Mechanical Engineering department, the Golden Jubilee Building & the Lecture Annex 2 are under construction for a long time. When can we expect them to start functioning?
AB: The construction works are in progress under the Shapoorji Pallonji group who has ensured to complete the job by March 2018 hopefully. We can expect the LA 2 be functional by December, 2017. The cash flow from the ministry was disrupted earlier but it has been regularized from this financial year.
MM: Pre-final year boys are being offered single rooms but girls of pre-final year do not enjoy the same facility. Moreover CVR hall still has the dormitories functional. Are there any plans to set-up a new girls’ hostel?
AB: Every year the number of female students changes. This year also we witnessed a decrease in the number of girls. So, we have no plans for setting-up another girls’ hostel in near future. Things will definitely be brought into action, but presently we have decided to build a new hostel for married students.
MM: There was a recent fee hike in the postgraduate fees and it was protested by the students as well. Can you shed some light on how the issue will be resolved? Also, there were talks about abolishing the book fee and reduction of SAC fees (considering the decrease in the number of fests).What can be said about these issues?
AB: The Finance committee recommended the fee hike in 2015. However, any recommendation made by the FC has to be approved by the BOG first only then can it be implemented. As BOG meet didn’t take place for last few years due to certain issues the proposal was put up in BOG meeting convened in the month of April, 2017, which approved the FC’s recommendation. Accordingly, the fee hike was implemented from this year only. Now, BOG wants that an “Action Taken Report” has to be submitted which will include all the recommendations made by the FC. Since it took a few years for the BOG to make the final decision, any proposal for fee hike was stalled for last two years. The extra amount which was collected last year as HAIF was only a small part of the proposal for the hike which was implemented by the former Director. Now BOG has approved the whole proposal and we have to accept the decision. Considering the agitation by the postgraduate students, we have constituted a committee to look into it and further decision regarding the hike will be taken based on the findings of the committee.
There is also the factor of the ‘Minimum Wages Act’ wherein the wages of skilled and unskilled labourers are revised regularly. This also demands more money to meet their payment.
Whenever a new financial year starts, a new budget has to be submitted. What happened in case of HMC, the expected expenditure presented is more than the cash inflow. Therefore, I did not accept the current budget proposal and requested HMC to submit a revised budget proposal.
The book fee has been abolished, as it was one of the very first thing I tried to implement. Students should have the freedom to buy and purchase their own books at their own will. SAC fee has not been revised as BOG decided to maintain status quo.
MM: A) You had previously mentioned about your wish to promote undergraduate research work. What steps will be taken this year to promote and facilitate the same?
B) Many institutes have Central Research Facilities which cater to students of all streams. Can we expect something like that in NITR?
A) Provisions have been made in the revised curriculum to allow students to take up project work. It is purely optional as not every student is interested for a career in the research sector, but for those genuinely interested in research & development work, this is a very good opportunity. We have begun interactions with some concerned authorities who provide internships to increase research opportunities for the students as well.
B) With regards to the Central Research Facilities, we are setting up a Central Instruments Facility at NITR to expose students to the latest apparatus of Science and Technology. We are trying to bring equipments from every department under a central umbrella to improve ease of access. It will be expanded under the leadership of Prof.Mukesh Kumar Gupta of the Biotechnology Department. The facility will provide access to high-end equipments to students of all streams and eventually industries too. Training programs for technicians and staff to operate these high end equipments will be organized in summer. For the students, this will promote multidisciplinary research work & providing such facilities to industries will aid industrial development too. Also we can expect to generate a source of income for the institute. The facility is expected to be functional from current financial year onwards.
MM: Do you have any plans to expand the horizons of the TIIR building?
AB: I am interested in encouraging incubation of start-ups from the students and alumni of the institute. We are in the process of interacting with agencies to sponsor any new incubation. The location and difficulty to commute often remains the bottleneck hindering these developments, but we hope to overcome that soon. Prof.S.S.Mohapatra has been appointed as in-charge of this endeavor. This will immensely benefit the students who aspire to be entrepreneurs and it will boost the rankings of the institute.
MM: Considering the NIRF Rankings 2017 of Engineering colleges in India, NIT Rourkela has definitely performed well in all parameters and secured a 12th all India rank. However it was marked that the scores of NITR were quite low in the perception parameter. Why so?
AB: There are basically two reasons for same. Firstly, people in this country are not so aware that a quality technical institute exists in this part of the country. Second and most important factor was that the students and alumni didn’t respond in large numbers or positively on the occasion of filling out the form for this parameter.
From my point of view, the way to boost perception about the institute is to strengthen and perfect the teaching & learning process as well as all other areas, so that our students automatically feel driven to respond and give honest positive reviews.
MM: Are there any plans to digitize the SAC and HMC budgets? What other plans are in the pipeline?
AB: In my opinion, all systems should be transparent & SAC and HMC budget allocation is definitely one of them. It would be wiser to contact SAC on this matter and propose this.
Regarding other changes, the basketball court is being revamped. Two lawn tennis courts, which were in very bad shape, will also be revamped to match international standards. Prof. C.R. Patra is working on the same project.
MM: The alumni relations suffered a setback in the past few years. How is the institute working on reviving it?
AB: I admit that alumni relations haven’t been strong enough historically too. However, Alumni play a very vital role in the development of the institute.
They increment the repute of the institute; provide opportunities to our students and also assistance to students who may require it. So I have furthered interactions with the Alumni, requesting them to collaborate with the institute to bring Nobel Laureates and other eminent proponents of the Science & Engineering field. I have also requested the Dean Alumni to develop a calendar and conduct interaction sessions with noted alumni in the campus. Both these proposals have been approved by NITRAA. The requirement is that all the parts of the institute should grow in a positive note, without any bitterness.