www.highereducationdigest.com | June 23, 2020
Dr. Maya Dodd completed her Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University, where her dissertation, “Archives of Indian Democracy” focused on technologies of witnesses since the Emergency of 1975-77. Subsequently, she also completed post-doctoral fellowships at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance at JNU, and with the Committee for South Asian Studies at Princeton University. Prior to that, she received her B.A in English Literature from St. Xaviers College, University of Mumbai. She also taught Rhetoric and Composition while receiving an M.A. in English from the University of Florida and also during her graduate study at Stanford University. Since 2007, she has been at FLAME University and currently serves as the Assistant Dean for Teaching, Learning, and Engagement. At FLAME, she has also served as the Chair of the Department of Humanities and Languages, and the FLAME Centre for South Asia. At FLAME she teaches Literary and Cultural Studies and offers several interdisciplinary courses such as Cybercultures, Digital Humanities (DH), South Asian Cultural Studies, and Indian Intellectual History.
With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing countries to suspend international flights and implement successive lockdowns, college students looking to pursue their degrees abroad have been in a fix. Indian students, who form one of the largest groups studying at foreign locations, are particularly staring at an uncertain academic future.
However, not all is lost. Away from the limelight, Indian universities have been steadily building their campuses and capacities in order to meet global standards. They can now deliver what students have been eyeing on foreign shores. Apart from obvious reasons such as fewer costs and more familiarity, here are the top ten reasons why undergrads should consider applying to Indian universities –
- Multidisciplinary Learning –
Indian universities are increasingly putting students in the driver’s seat and allowing them to choose from a wider range of courses. Considering the growing diversity of economic fields and opportunities, universities have also increased the number of offered courses, subjects, and electives, along with opportunities to avail liberal education with more options for interdisciplinary learning. Recognizing the importance of multidisciplinary exposure for all-round development and success in today’s increasingly complex world, the National Education Policy has also proposed integrating liberal education in the current higher education system.
- Learner Centricity through Digital Capabilities –
Way back in 2003, the UGC explored digital technologies to impart a personalized curriculum and prescriptive learning in order to boost learner-centricity and began the process of incorporating such technologies into education. Before the pandemic, universities were allowed to conduct up to 20% of courses in the online mode. However, the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have accelerated the digitalization process, with the government now allowing universities to conduct 40% courses – double the earlier – online. Universities are also trying to adapt to the gaps in Internet access in India by trying to offer pre-recorded classes that require low bandwidth and connectivity for viewing.
- Fundamental Skills –
A strong foundation ensures that students write well, communicate effectively, think critically, develop and empathy and feel for the world around them. Global citizenship comes from a strong education in these fundamentals. Recognizing this, both government and universities are focusing on imparting fundamental skills – both soft and hard – to make students more employable. Vocational courses are being revamped, and extra classes for communication skills, networking techniques, and IT skills are offered both on and off campuses.
- Improving Assessment Structure –
The assessment structure is also undergoing changes as more and more universities are moving from the rote-learning-one-exam pattern to continuous, all-round assessments, focusing on innovation, grasping, and applicability. This structure is further backed by active learning which not only equips the students to tackle the assessment structure but also prepares them to handle original, real-life challenges.
- Faculties and Mentors –
In order to enable India’s young demographic to compete globally, Indian universities are stepping up efforts to expose students to more global trends, practices, challenges, and cultures. They are increasingly hiring a talented faculty that has not only high scholarship but also global exposure and outlook from which the students can benefit. Such faculty are sourced from all over the world, many of them being Indians who have studied abroad. Through such faculty, the best resources and opportunities become available for students. Professors increasingly participate in mentoring students through research collaborations, teaching or extracurricular activities, and help them build character and make professional choices.
- Experiential Learning –
Many universities are encouraging students to learn ‘out of the book’. Hands-on engagement with communities, technologies, firms, and institutions across the country is getting integrated into university curricula. A plethora of pedagogical practices like field visits, in-depth interviews, research, and interns, as well as unconventional activities such as archival documentation and filming/recording, are now regarded as enrichments to the learning process and encouraged. This kind of experimental learning is particularly bridging vast cultural gaps within India, and also between Indian and foreign universities.
- Research –
Perhaps the largest area of reform in India’s higher education is academic research. Once considered to be the exclusive domain of postgraduate education, research has quickly seeped into undergraduate education as well. Even higher secondary education has begun to respond to this development in colleges and universities by introducing students of XI and XII standards to research methodologies through hands-on projects. Apart from updated libraries and access to online knowledge repositories, universities are also connecting their students to various prestigious journals and encouraging them to not only read them but also publish in them.
The UGC has declared a number of fellowships and scholarships for academic research in almost all disciplines. While the fellowship stipend is modest, it is now comparable to average salaries in the private sector.
- Infrastructure –
Universities are also improving their infrastructure with two objectives – one, to make Indian students globally competitive with access to knowledge and resources of global standards, and two, to attract students from abroad and internationalize the campus. To achieve both, universities are increasingly investing in state-of-the-art facilities for sports, performance and fine arts, cultural activities, conferences, student support, research centers, labs, and international collaborations and connectivity.
- Residential Life –
The improved infrastructure has greatly improved on-campus life in India. Indian universities now offer the campus experience most students go abroad for. They provide ample space for peer learning and peer mentoring and establish strong alumni networks that support students even after they graduate. Such an atmosphere not only helps students to grow but also makes college a beautiful experience.
- The Experience of Studying Abroad –
Thanks to increasing foreign collaborations, Indian students can have an international experience while being enrolled in Indian institutions. Many foreign universities, from the best in Business Schools to Ivy League Universities, have signed MoUs with good universities in India. This translates to a meaningful tuition neutral arrangement for students in India too, who often get to spend a semester studying abroad with their credits transferred. Further, with more foreign students choosing Indian campuses, Indian students can get a taste of an international campus without going abroad.
- Prof. Maya Dodd, Associate Professor – Literary and Cultural Studies