SRM University is envisaged to be a multi-disciplinary institution starting off with programmes in engineering, followed by liberal arts, management, law, medical sciences and pure sciences. P Sathyanarayanan, president of SRM University and a young entrepreneur, lives by the motto “Think big, do big, achieve big”. He has been pivotal in advancing studies, research and internationalisation of the university.
Eminent scholars from abroad are being brought in to give an edge to the students in terms of global perspective. Beyond his role in the educational field, he heads a number of organisations in sectors such as information technology, media and entertainment, and construction.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q How does SRM envisage to become a world class university? What measures have been set up?
We call the university a newly imagined university, for a newly imagined world. SRM University in Andhra Pradesh, Amaravati, is a new multi-stream research university. This will offer courses in engineering, medicine, liberal arts and management, providing a truly multi-disciplinary environment for students and faculty to thrive.
The university counts among its strengths a stellar faculty body, 100 per cent of which has PhD and international teaching or industry exposure. This experienced faculty body is supplemented by a robust curriculum benchmarked and designed as per international standards that apply to institutions such as MIT and Stanford.
The quality and flexibility of the curriculum helps our students to meet global requirements both in terms of higher studies as well as employability. This is achieved through inter-disciplinary foundation courses in the first year that help build diverse perspectives, Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in the second year, thorough practice school in the third year and a career-linked capstone project in the final year.
Q What unique elements does the university provide to its students that other universities don’t?
Besides the practices mentioned above, our students enjoy extreme flexibility in terms of the courses they wish to study. They are assisted by expert course counsellors in the customisation of their Guided Learning Track.
The Totally Flexible Learning Credit System provides students choices in majors while opting for completely unrelated minors that can provide different perspectives or opportunities to pursue personal interests.
To top it all, both faculty and curriculum advantages are bolstered by our extensive academic collaborations with marquee global institutions like UC Berkeley, IIT Chicago, MIT, and EFREI. In fact, undergraduate students have an opportunity to go to UC Berkeley, College of Engineering in their first year itself.
Q How do you plan to fuel creativity and zeal for research, discovery and innovation among students?
We believe that learning happens both inside and outside the classrooms. To this end, we have, in a short time, built a world-class infrastructure that fosters a new culture of learning which is multi-dimensional, global, social, experiential, and interactive.
From traditional classrooms to active, problem-based environments and adaptive learning, the latest technology for hybrid curricula, instant feedback and immersive simulation environments, we ensure that students make the most of every moment and opportunity.
Given our multi-disciplinary focus, we also strongly believe that diversity itself is a source of learning for students. Apart from academic strength, our student body also shows international diversity with 15 per cent students from seven foreign countries and representation from 21 Indian states.
As much as 26 per cent of the student body is composed of women. In my experience, this sort of classroom diversity has been doing a lot of wonders for our graduates.
Some of the focus areas for research currently include blue economy, alternate energy, biocomputing, quantum computing, poverty alleviation, health and nutrition. However, it will be misleading to think the zeal for research is limited to the faculty.
Our students have opportunities to participate in faculty research projects as part of their curriculum. Moreover, the focus on experiential learning, on-campus incubators, and the unique Next Tech Lab offer plenty of opportunities for experimentation, learning, and developing depth.
Q The country’s education system churns out students who study for marks and not for development and growth, who have bookish knowledge and not practical skills. How do you plan to change that in your university?
The Next Tech Lab is a proven successful experiment in the field of ground-breaking research led solely by SRM University students. In a short span of time, the lab has built an impeccable track record of winning hackathons, publishing in top journals and has received validation from the finest professors around the world.
This provides a platform for students to learn, do research, implement their ideas and develop skills to disrupt industries and build companies of the future. This is among one of the many initiatives that help to develop a crop of students who have a yearning for learning that extends beyond marks and test scores.
We help them in identifying both inherent strengths and areas of improvement; a focus on self discovery and building competency, which helps them to develop a mindset for lifelong learning.
Q Your motto is “Think big, do big, achieve big”. This pertains more to a business perspective rather than an educational outlook. What are your thoughts on this?
We have been keeping no stone unturned to help bring quality, world-class education to Indian students at a fraction of the cost of a foreign university, who learn to create impact through social innovation and not necessarily purely academic and commercial success.
This has helped make the university relevant for even foreign students. We also provide up to 100 per cent scholarship for warranted cases apart from financial incentives for female students, academic toppers, and sportspersons.
This ensures that truly high quality education, infrastructure, and learning opportunities are not out of the reach of deserving students.