Emerging Trends in Engineering Education – Indian Perspectives

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education –
Indian Perspectives

A SWOT analysis provides a glimpse into the national technology education system. The role of the
All India Council for Technical Education(AICTE) is highlighted. The recently announced National
Mission for Technical Education provides the strategic directions for the future. A SWOT analysis of
an Engineering Professional, a comparison of the XX and XXI century Engineers, and the distinctive
characteristics of XXI century Learners and Teachers illustrate the challenges ahead. The
globalisation and internationalisation perspectives and the cultural impact of globalisation are next
discussed. The national Quality and Accreditation initiatives are described, and the challenge of the
Digital Divide is highlighted. The importance of Partnership and Collaboration, in general, and of
nurturing Alumni-Alma Mater Relationship are stressed. Finally, some recommendations of a recent
ATN-IITs Conference are indicated.
1. A Swot Analysis of The National Technology Education System
Table I provides a SWOT analysis highlighting the distinctive characteristics of the National
Technology Education System.
2. The Role of AICTE In The National Technology Education System
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) Act was passed by both the Houses of
Parliament in 1987, with the mandate to ensure “the proper planning and coordinated development of
the technical education system throughout the country, the promotion of qualitative improvements of
such education in relation to planned quantitative growth, and the regulation and proper maintenance
of norms and standards in the technical education system and for matters connected therewith”.
Among other things, the Powers and Functions of the Council include: technical manpower
assessment; coordinated development of technical education in the country at all levels; disbursement
of grants to institutions, promotion of R&D and innovations; promoting technical education for
women, physically challenged and weaker sections of the society; promotion of an effective link
between the technical education system and other relevant systems; evolution of performance
appraisal systems for technical institutions; Faculty development; laying down norms and standards;
fixing norms and guidelines for fees; grant of approval for starting new technical institutions and
programs; grant of charter to professional societies; laying down norms for granting autonomy to
technical institutions; steps to prevent commercialization; guidelines for student admissions;
inspection of technical institutions; steps to ensure compliance with the directions of the Council; and
establishing and sustaining the National Board of Accreditation.
3. The National Mission for Technology Education
The Ministry of Human Resource Development announced this Mission on January 10, 2002, with the
main objective “to prepare and implement a long-term strategy for Technical Education in the
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The Terms of Reference of the Mission include : the laying down of policy for expansion of the
highest quality of technical and management education in the country; planning for a substantial
expansion in the technical manpower, particularly in new and emerging areas; developing India as an
internationally acclaimed technical and management center; ensuring balanced regional development
of technical and management education in the country; promotion of postgraduate education and
research in higher technical institutions; and overseeing the several initiatives of the government such
as accreditation and quality assurance.
4. A SWOT Analysis of An Engineering Professional.
Table II highlights the SWOT of an Engineering Professional.
5. A Comparison of The XX And XXI Century Engineers
Table III brings out a comparison of the desirable characteristics of XX and XXI century engineers.
6. XXI Century Learners And Teachers.
The XXI Century learners: have never wound a watch, touched a typewriter, played a record album,
calculated with a slide rule, traveled in a steam engine, handwritten a letter, nor known a world
without computers. Today’s school kids know more about technology than do their teachers. They get
bored, if they are doing only one function at a time; they need multiple stimuli. For example, they
watch their computer screens, listen to music through headphones, and carry on conversation, all at the
same time. They have short attention spans, and have the attitude of take-it-all-at-once.
The XXI century teachers have several challenges to overcome. “The teacher is no longer the sage on
the stage, but the guide on the side.” The teacher is becoming less central to the learning process.
Learning with technology has to start by educating the teachers.
7. Stakeholders In The Engineering Education System
Table IV depicts the stakeholder relationships and the value addition achieved in the Engineering
Education System.
8. Globalisation and Internationalisation Perspectives
8.1 Globalisation of Higher Education.
􀂙 The rationales for globalisation are quite different for developed and developing countries.
􀂾 Economy : While for DCs, it is for favorable trading opportunities and expanded
markets; for LDCs it is : deregulation, enhanced privatization and currency integration.
􀂾 Education : While for DCs, it is for enhanced markets for educational products, processes
and services, and for making up for reduced indigenous demand; for LDCs, it means study
opportunities abroad, for those who can afford, and competition to local institutions.
􀂾 Employment : While for DCs, it leads to erosion of jobs and competition from low-wage
workforce from LDCs; for LDCs it leads to off-shore jobs and opportunities for short-term
employment abroad.
􀂙 Globalisation essentially deals with the processes leading to the integration of the economies of
the world, and the acceptance of the market economy world-wide. It has made the nations of the
world inter-dependent and inter-connected.
􀂙 There are two contrasting/conflicting views on the cultural impact of the globalisation process : in
terms of cultural imperialism, increasing homogenization, or what is popularly known as
McDonaldisation or Coca-colonisation; or celebration of the creation of the “Global Village,”
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leading to the demise of the nation-state, and the availability of increasing range of choices, in
terms of : lifestyles, values, technology, commodities, information, entertainment, etc.
􀂙 The ‘global economy’ is also an “informational economy”, in which the method of production
has shifted from : the mass production of goods at a centralized location(Fordism) to a flexible
system of production (post-Fordism) at dispersed locations.
􀂙 The impact of globalisation in India, leading to the opening up of the Indian economy, as part of
the structural adjustment program, launched under the directive of the IMF and WB, has been to
increase privatization and FDI in India, at the same time leading to closing down of domestic
industries, and laying-off of workers, unable to compete with the much greater competitive
powers of the MNCs, and the flooding of the domestic supermarkets with foreign goods.
􀂙 In the present phase of a ‘global economy’, goods and services are produced and marketed by an
oligopolistic web of global corporate network (MNCs), whose operations span national
boundaries, but are only loosely regulated by nation-states; this paradigmatic shift has been made
possible by the IT revolution.
􀂙 The concept of globalisation involves the blending of the global with the local ; it is a strategy
adopted by MNCs while dealing with local traditions in order to enhance their marketability.
􀂙 According to some, globalisation is a process of increasing heterogeneity, shifting identities and
8.2 Internationalisation of Higher Education
Internationalisation of Higher Education is described as:
􀂾 “the complex of processes that gives universities an international dimension”; thus
internationalization encompasses all facets of university life, including scholarship,
teaching, research and institutional management.
􀂾 “the process which integrates an international or inter-cultural dimension into each of its
three core activities, viz. teaching and learning, research and community service”.
􀂾 Includes academic mobility, global or multi-cultural education, area studies and study
􀂾 The rationales include : political rationales, such as peace and mutual understanding ; as
well as economic ones, such as the international labor market.
􀂾 Internationalisation is more a process than an activity with a beginning and an end.
􀂙 The rationales for internationalization are largely similar for both developed as well as developing
􀂙 There appear to be four kinds of rationales for institutions of higher education, national
governments, international bodies, and the private sector, to be actively involved in international
educational activities: academic, social/cultural, political and economic.
􀂙 Internationality has come to mean the capability of equipping graduates with competencies
applicable in a world where national borders no longer hinder the global flow of technologies and
products. It is also the ability of academic communities to attract and integrate intelligence of
any nationality seamlessly.
􀂙 The foreseeable effects of internationalization on engineering education and on its providers can
be categorized into:
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􀂾 cooperation : organization of student and teacher mobility, mutual recognition of credits,
development of a common system.
􀂾 convergence : harmonization of the educational structures.
􀂾 competition : struggle for motivated and qualified students and scientists.
􀂙 Many policy makers consider the internationalization of the university and of the curriculum as
the key components of internationalization.
􀂙 An OECD study provides the following definition of Internationalised Curricula : “Curricula with
an international orientation in content, aimed at preparing students for performing professionally
and socially in an international and multicultural context, and designed for domestic students as
well as foreign students.
􀂙 What we had prior to the 1970s was an ‘international economy’ in which goods and services were
traded across national boundaries by individual firms from different countries, under regulation
by sovereign nation – states.
9. Quality and Accreditation Initiatives
The US National Science Foundation (NSF) Task Force on TQM has come up with the following
definition of Quality Engineering Education :
“Quality Engineering Education is the development of intellectual skills and knowledge that will equip
graduates to contribute to society through productive and satisfying engineering careers as innovators,
decision-makers and leaders in the global economy of the twenty first century.”
The Task Force also points out that TQM is not a destination, but rather a journey to improvement.
There have been several discussions on the fundamental question whether Academic Quality is
quantifiable. It is widely believed that academic quality, like beauty, for example, is an elusive
Two Quotes are given below to bring out the need for quantification, and simultaneously the
limitations of this approach.
􀂙 Lord Kelvin : “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in
numbers, you know something about it; and when you cannot measure it in numbers, your
knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.”
􀂙 G.N. Lewis : I have no patience with attempts to identify Science with measurements, which is
but one of its tools, or with any definition which would exclude a Darwin, a Pasteur or a Kekule.
AICTE has set up a National Board of Accreditation for defining the criteria for assessment of Quality
of Technical Institutions, both at the under-graduate as well as post-graduate levels. The Process
includes: self-assessment by the Institution, as well as, an Expert Committee Visit, and subsequent
consideration by a Sectorial Committee and the Board. It is gratifying that the necessity for
Accreditation has been instrumental in making almost all the Institutions strive to put in place
mechanisms for addressing Quality issues. The National Board of Accreditation is now making a
proposal to the Washington Accord for Membership.
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10. The challenge of the Digital Divide.
The Digital Divide refers to the gap between those who have access to information technology and
those who do not and; the widening gap in both dial-up and broadband access. It is pointed out that to
understand the Digital Divide, a much more sophisticated analysis is needed, one that looks beyond
access to type and levels of use, acquisition of skills, and motivation to prepare for technology careers.
10.1 The Indian Scenario
Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Union Minister for HRD and S&T, has said : “The scientific knowledge of
the future has to be one which is directly integrated with social requirement. Only such knowledge
can help provide the foundations of a society, which becomes truly sustainable”. It is pointed out that
technology itself is not relevant to mankind; the relevance lies in the human aspect of the technology.
As far as IT tools are concerned, too much information paralyses action, and quality information is
vital. New technology magnifies the gap between the information-rich and the information-poor.
Joseph Dunite has said : ‘If we want the technology to liberate us rather than destroy us, we — the
techno peasants– have to assume responsibility for it”.
While the Digital Divide is an issue of recent concern, the Technology Divide has been an issue for
much longer. There appear to be two approaches to enable a wider population to benefit from the
Technology and Information Revolutions : one is to enhance the level of literacy−basic, functional,
technology and computer−and education among the population; and the other is to design
‘appropriate’ IT tools around the capabilities of the users, such as, for example, the Simputer, which
employs audio/visual input/output (without the need to be literate)
11. The Importance of Partnership
The rationale for collaboration is highlighted by Henry Ford’s statement : “Coming together is a
beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is successs”.
In order to derive the full benefits of Collaboration, it is necessary to identify and remove the
barriers/inhibitors for Collaboration : Identify committed individuals (‘champions’) on either side, and
empower them; enable potential partners to communicate with each other; accord recognition for
collaborative work; put in place institutional mechanisms for promoting collaboration; identify
collaborative partnership as a strategic intent.
11.1 The Case study of IIT Madras
A research university like IIT Madras enters into collaboration with a wide range of partners : other
universities; industry; R & D labs; community organizations; government agencies; funding
/sponsoring agencies; international agencies; and Alumni. IIT Madras has 36 MoUs ( Memoranda of
Understanding) with international universities. The activities include exchange of students and faculty
members, undertaking joint projects, joint workshops, etc. Another interesting collaborative
partnership involves three partners in the area of telecommunications: the faculty and research
scholars undertake designs, the chips are manufactured by a company in the US, which are
incorporated into the devices, which are prototype-manufactured and tested by companies started by
alumni. The technology is transferred and licensed for manufacture by commercially-oriented
12. Nurturing Alumni-Alma Mater Relationship
The strength of this Relationship is a function of : the success achieved by the Alumnus; the credit
he/she is prepared to ascribe to the contributions of the Alma Mater; and the efforts made by each to
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keep in touch with the other. The relationship itself is rather tenuous: such as that between Parents and
Children, as they grow up. There are mutual expectations : the Alumni expect the Alma Mater to
constantly keep in touch with them; communicate with them; continuously enhance its reputation so
that the Alumni can be proud of their Alma Mater; and keep the feel-good factor at a peak all the time.
The Alma Mater, in return, expects the Alumni to feel proud and good about the contributions of the
Alma Mater in providing a good foundation and initial conditions as the basis of their present success.;
constantly keep in touch with it; promote activities that will benefit the Institute, in both tangible as
well as intangible ways; form cohesive groups in the cities they live in , and help each other, if and
when necessary; and provide mentoring and counseling to current students.
There are barriers however; such as for example : time constraints; time for self and family versus
Alumni activities; apathy/cynicism, in some cases; lack of communication; and history of some bad
experiences. Strategies to overcome these barriers, like in any partnership are : to establish
communication channels and continuously communicate and interact.; to organize Reunions; Regular
Meetings, Chat Sessions and e-groups; Nodal persons to provide a focus; to promote mutual
understanding and respect; to clearly articulate goals and projected activities; to elicit feed back to
reorient or fine tune plans; to ensure fast and precise response; to broadbase the participation; to
provide leadership; to involve current faculty and students; to document success stories; and to learn
from best practices of others.
It is Nostalgia that provides the strong force that binds Alumni with the Alma Mater. The intensity of
Nostalgia is a function of space and time: it is directly proportional to the distance between the current
location of the Alumnus and the Alma Mater; and it is directly proportional to the number of years
elapsed since graduation.
13. Some Recommendations of a recent ATN-IITs Conference
An interesting Conference was held at Indian Institute of Technology – Madras a couple of years ago,
with the participation of the Presidents of the Institutions comprising the Australian Technology
Network and the Directors of five Indian Institutes of Technology. The principal objectives of the
conference were to first learn of each other’s activities, strengths and interests, and to explore ways
and means of promoting collaboration between the two “ networks” of technical institutions.
The recommendations of this Conference are given under two heads :
I. Short-term action to cement the Collaboration and create impact and visibility :
􀂙 Opportunities for Indian students to undergo Summer Training in Australian
Industries/Research Labs/ ATN Universities; and for Australian Students to undergo Training/
Research in Indian Industries/ R & D Labs/IITs.
􀂙 Preparation of R&D proposals in areas of mutual interest for funding by International/ Bilateral
agencies or industries through communication between interested faculty in the two systems.
It would be advisable if more than one Institution from each side would participate in these
ventures. Some examples are listed below :
Aerospace Technologies ; Biomedical Technologies ; Distributed Computing ; Educational
Technology ; Energy and Environment Technologies ; Engineering Education ; IT and
Telecommunications ; Manufacturing Technologies ; Materials Technology ; Ocean
Engineering ; Strategic Planning and Management ; Sustainable Development ; Sustainable
Energy Technologies ; Transportation Engineering ; Water Resources Management ; Waste
Water Management.
􀂙 International Conferences, on a relevant topic involving all the IITs and the ATN Universities.
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􀂙 Exchange of information regarding best practices and innovative initiatives with regard to
Education, Technology and Management.
􀂙 Joint collaborative teaching of courses, at the UG and PG levels.
􀂙 Sharing of Courseware (in different media).
II. Possibilities of Long-term Collaboration
Exchange of UG, PG and Research students ; Exchange of faculty for Teaching, Research and
Consultancy ; Exchange of support staff for Training, Consultancy, Technology Development ;
Collaborative Research, Technology Development, Industrial Consultancy, Educational Consultancy,
Training Programmes for International clients- in Australia, India or other countries – on selfsupporting
basis ; Joint International Conferences, Seminars, Workshops, Continuing Education
Programmes ; “2 +2” initiatives (Industry + Institution in each country coming together as partners) ;
Twinning Programmes possibility ; Formal and Non-formal Programmes in 3rd countries through
Distance Plus Contact Mode ; Continuous exchange of information about new initiatives and
feedback thereon ; Establishment of Chairs in Australia and in India to facilitate exchange of
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􀂙 Aspirations of our Youth to pursue Technical
􀂙 Private Sector initiatives complementing
Government initiatives.
􀂙 Increasing interest of Industry Associations
(such as CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM) and of
Professional Societies to partner and collaborate
with academic institutions.
􀂙 The Accreditation initiatives of NBA are serving
to promote Quality Improvement in the Technical
Education sector.
􀂙 The upcoming World Bank project will provide
the necessary resources for upgradation of
technical education in the country.
􀂙 The QIP schemes have contributed significantly to
the upgrading of qualifications of faculty in
Technical institutions. The scheme has recently
been enlarged to cover non-engineering
disciplines also.
􀂙 The MODROBS, TAPTEC and R&D schemes of
AICTE, as well as of MHRD, have served to
modernize the infrastructure and remove
obsolescence, promote work on thrust areas, and
R&D programs in Technical Institutions.
􀂙 Technical Education perceived as a Business
opportunity by some.
􀂙 Severe shortage of qualified and competent faculty
especially in (hi-tech) ICT.
􀂙 While there are islands of excellence these are
rather few in number.
􀂙 Lack of interest among graduating engineers to
pursue teaching careers .
􀂙 Lack of interest for pursuing research degree
􀂙 Lack of availability of Ph.Ds in Engineering for
faculty positions .
􀂙 Lack of adequate industry-institute interaction.
􀂙 Mismatch between education and training
(knowledge and skills) received by graduates, and
job requirements.
􀂙 Inadequate manpower needs assessment and
manpower planning.
􀂙 The widely prevalent affiliating system in our
universities precludes timely curriculum updating
and introduction of innovative reforms.
􀂙 The recent boom in IT industry caused a
disproportionate increase in admission capacity in
this area, at the expense of other disciplines.
􀂙 While the admission capacity at the UG degree
level has been on the rise, a corresponding
growth at the PG level has not taken place.
Table I
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􀂙 For setting up quality Indian institutions –sponsored
off-shore campuses.
􀂙 IT tools are becoming available for Technology-
Enhanced Learning, for widening the reach of
Technical Education.
􀂙 Distance Education possibilities for Continuing
􀂙 Networking of technical institutions, at different
levels, for mutual benefit, sharing of resources,
undertaking major projects.
􀂙 Networking of technical institutions with R&D labs
and industry.
􀂙 Schemes such as TDB, CORE, promoting industryinstitute
􀂙 Many alumni are offering substantial support to their
Alma Maters.
􀂙 The role of Technology and Technology Education
for national development and prosperity is widely
􀂙 In the emerging GATS scenario, Quality concerns
need to be addressed urgently.
􀂙 Competition from international players.
􀂙 The non-uniformity in the distribution of Technical
Institutions in the country, causing regional
imbalances, and inter-state migration of students.
􀂙 The Technical Institutions in the rural and
industrially-backward areas are not as popular with
students, leading to unfilled capacity in these
􀂙 The tendency of our students to prefer IT-related
courses, and to shun other disciplines.
􀂙 The tendency of research scholars to prefer
computer-based research over experimental
􀂙 The ration of diploma programmes to degree
programs is on the decline (much unlike other
􀂙 The Science-base in the country is getting weaker,
which will have an adverse impact on our capacity
for technology development .
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􀂙 Analytical Capabilities
􀂙 Design Capabilities—
􀂕 ability to handle open-ended problems
􀂕 ability to handle poorly-defined
􀂕 creativity and innovation
􀂙 Decision-making, including problem solving
􀂙 Graphical communication skills
􀂙 Discipline, work ethic.
􀂙 Most real-life problems require contributions
from Engineers
􀂙 National policies recognize role of S & T
􀂙 Business recognizes role of Technology
􀂙 Ambition of bright youth to become
􀂙 Globalisation offers opportunities for
acquisition of state-of-the art technologies.
􀂙 Inability to work in a Team
􀂙 Inter-disciplinary knowledge
􀂙 Practical orientation (academics)
􀂙 Commercial orientation
􀂙 Introspective nature, modesty
􀂙 Oral and written communication skills
􀂙 Integrative skills
􀂙 Ability to employ IT
􀂙 Obsolescence (remedy: Continuing Education)
􀂙 Inter-personal skills
􀂙 Public perception and recognition
􀂙 Competition from Scientist, Economists,
Financial Experts, Administrators in high-level
decision-making bodies.
􀂙 Quantitative expansion in Technical Education
without simultaneous Quality assurance
􀂙 Industrial development entails depletion of
natural resources and environment degradation –
Engineers are held are responsible for these.
􀂙 Problem-solving abilities
􀂙 Analytical skills
􀂙 Communication skills—
􀂕 oral, written, graphic
􀂙 Ability to relate to practical aspects of
􀂙 Inter-personal skills.
􀂙 Management skills
􀂙 Decision-making skills.
􀂙 Learnability : learning to learn, on one’s own
􀂙 Yen for life-long learning – continuous
􀂙 Ability to muster knowledge from
neighbouring disciplines.
􀂙 Ability to work in a team.
􀂙 Exposure to commercial disciplines.
􀂙 Creativity and Innovation.
􀂙 Integrative skills.
Table II
Table III
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Tangible / Intangible
Alumni Communication Support
Industrial and
Economic Development
Manpower Development
Government R&D
Social and Economic
Manpower Development
Society R&D
Consultancy Technology Solutions
CEP Up to date Workforce
R&D Products, Processes
Manpower Development Competent Workforce
Employment Livelihood, Prosperity
Career Development
(Faculty, Staff)
Manpower Development
Student (Education, Training)
Prof. R. Natarajan
All India Council For Technical Education, New Delhi, India