02 Mar 2021 15:39 IST

Unified by design thinking

A university that educates students in the creative domain, while also grounding them in management

The universe of management studies is expanding. The generic MBA, with its traditional focus on marketing, finance and HR, is by far the most popular but new niches have been constantly emerging — from rural management to sports management to apparel management and so on.

At the newly minted World University of Design, that has claimed Plot Number One of the Rajiv Gandhi Education city at Sonipat in Haryana as its address, and has Ashoka University as its neighbour on one side and the IIT Dehi’s Sonipat campus across the road, there are a host of hyper specialised management courses — both at the BBA and MBA levels. There is design strategy and innovation, service design, fashion business, data analytics, artificial intelligence and design thinking.

While the private university promoted by the Om Parkash Bansal Education and Social Welfare Trust has been set up to educate students in the creative domain, what’s interesting is that cutting across all the portfolio of programmes it offers — architecture, visual arts, performing arts, and design (which has fields like computers design, fashion design, textile design, animation and game design, industrial design, and graphic communication design) — there is a management stream running across all the learning initiatives.

As Sanjay Gupta, the Vice-Chancellor of the university explains, architects, artists and designers require business knowledge to run successful enterprises. At the same time, he argues that design is at the core of everything we do and hence design thinking unifies all the management and creative courses at the university.

Gupta, an IIT Delhi (textile engineering) and IIM Ahmedabad Alumnus who was 15 years the Dean of NIFT and helped expand its campuses, before going on to help set up the G D Goenka University and has conceptualized the WUD, says that if you look at the hiring pattern of companies like Cognizant, Wipro et al, they are hiring designers by the hundreds.

The perception among parents in India is that design courses are vocational — but he argues that coding is actually a vocation not requiring much thinking skills. “It is converting an idea into a product and is skill based, where design is where the thinking actually comes in and where you cannot have artificial intelligence replacing it. It is therefore, one skill or knowledge that is outside standardisation.”

The management philosophy

Sanmita Chitte, Dean, School of Management at the WUD, says the objective behind the programme is to develop managers who help designers do what they do, help them with PR, getting more clients, customer acquisition, how to set up their spaces and things like that.

The courses cover the generic management syllabus, the vocabulary and the calculation and how things work., as well as exposed to nuances of design. “Students can interact with other design departments and understand architecture, and visual arts. These programmes are like a bridge between design and management,” she explains.

The programmes are based on Kellogg, MIT, Stanford exercises. “We have a 'learning by doing' structure. Generic management tends to be theoretical based. The position we have taken is a strategic one,” she says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The person who finishes this course will fit into generic management roles as well as in specialized design agencies, she says. They can become brand managers, do fashion communication, work in BFSI (banking, financial services and Insurance) or pharma or anywhere. “There is innovation capability building which comes via design thinking, and service design. Our people can work with Citibank which have innovation centres or in new product development,” she says.

The comparable courses are with NID, she says, which has a strategic design management programme with a mix of courses from IIM Ahmedabad. Chitte, herself, is an alumnus of that programme. For admissions, Chitte says they put candidates through an aptitude test for creativity and also have a logic test. The fees are around ₹2.5 lakh per annum (only academic – residential costs are extra).

Among the most interesting courses offered at this university is the performing arts BPA/ Integrated MPA in dance, music and theatre which includes a cultural management component. As the articulate Swagata Sen Pillai, the Dean of this department, who is a PGD in dance from Kalakshetra, Chennai and an MBA from IMT Ghaziabad, points out, during the pandemic the hardest hit community was the performing artistes.

This is a programme that hones the dance, music and dramatic skills of performing artistes but also gives them a grounding in cultural administration — the production part of it, the costume, the sound, entertainment journalism as well as the management part. It also drills in the importance of personal brand building for the performing artiste.

Key challenges

As a fledgling university, has it been a challenge acquiring students? Gupta says not particularly — especially as they admitted students laterally in the second and third year. The university currently has 700 students — 60 per cent of students stay on campus while 40 per cent are day scholars from Delhi, and parts of Haryana who take the shuttle arranged by the institute. Of course, during the pandemic when classes moved online, the residential students went back home.

The bigger challenge has been hunting for faculty, says Gupta. “I hunt for faculty all year around,” he exclaims. Most have been drawn from industry.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to the collaborations with foreign universities, it has some international guest lecturers on board, who visited in person pre pandemic. WUD is the youngest university to be awarded a design and innovation capacity building grant under the ERASMUS programme of the EU, and works directly with Brunel University, UK, Politecnico di Milano, Italy, University of Aegean, Greece and IIT Delhi.