Yajulu Medury, a well-acclaimed academician with over three decades of academic and administrative experience, is the Vice-Chancellor of the Mahindra University, Hyderabad. Medury, who headed three other universities earlier, discusses the transformation that engineering education is undergoing; Mahindra University’s association with the industry; and how the pandemic is impacting pedagogy. Excerpts:
What kind of transformation is engineering education going through as deep tech courses take shape?
To be a success in today’s rapidly evolving tech scenario, it is imperative that we expose students to the latest technological advancements and get them to work on the best of products available globally. The students have to be conversant with the latest in supercomputers, robotics, AI, and Machine and Deep Learning, to be able to work and carry out research.
At Mahindra University, we not only have state-of-the-art labs equipped to impart practical knowledge but we also try to engage with the industry and practising engineers to ensure that our students are well versed with the latest trends and requirements.
Engineering education has become highly compartmentalised with students being exposed only to the core subjects. Any change in the offing to change this tunnel view?
Till the 1970s and 1980s, engineering education used to be holistic, with students exposure to multiple subjects. This had changed in 1990s during the IT boom. The industry suggested that the focus should be on a particular vertical to suit its needs. This approach, however, is changing now. Engineering education is getting back to be holistic. Students are coming out more well-rounded as they are exposed to multiple streams.
How has Covid-19 impacted the pedagogy and how have you been tackling the situation to salvage the academic year?
The pandemic has ensured that the educational offerings went completely online. We had an online admission process and had announced beforehand that our first semester will be completely online.
Our pedagogy was, in any case, discussion oriented and not discourse oriented, so learning through guidance is in our DNA. Our faculty and research guides rose to the occasion and ensured that everything went on seamlessly.
What kind of association are you having with the start-up ecosystem
Our focus is on creating a well-rounded professional who is not just industry-ready but will also be an innovator and an entrepreneur. Our Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation works closely with the students to teach the nuances of becoming an entrepreneur. Those who have trodden the start-up path and have become successes also mentor the students.
What are the steps that you are taking to promote innovation and entrepreneurship among students?
We are deeply committed to fostering a spirit of entrepreneurship at the campus. In January 2018, we launched ourCentre , focused on creating a conducive atmosphere for students’ entrepreneurship efforts. The Centre hosts events, workshops, industrial visits and seminars, as well as provides an incubation cell, through Mahindra e-hub, for students’ start-ups. Till date, we have mentored and taken to market 4 of our student start-ups.
How are you making the courses and students industry-ready?
We have close connections with industry – not just domestic but global as well, and collaborations that are mutually beneficial. Our unwavering focus on research, live projects ensure that we have an evolving industry-ready curriculum, which have helped us stay ahead and tuned to the learning curve.
How's Mahindra different from other educational institutions in the league?
Our stated principle at Mahindra is to educate future students of and for a better world. To reach this end, we focus on inter-disciplinary academic excellence, integrating the study of core areas with topics of liberal arts like humanities, ethics, philosophy and design thinking. The idea is to train and create leaders capable of reflection as well as innovation and those who are committed to inclusive and sustainable progress.
The emphasis on being socially responsive and ingraining it in each student is something that makes us different from our peers.
How's your association with Ecole adding value to the students?
Ecole Centrale, now Supelec Centrale, of the Ecole Centrale Group (ECG) of engineering institutions in France is Europe’s oldest and most recognised engineering education training centre. At Mahindra Ecole Centrale School of Engineering, the lineage of Ecole ensures that the pedagogy, strong global industry focus and attention to international best practices is the norm. The close relationship also means global faculty and student exchange programmes and exposure that is unparalleled for students.
How's the university faring on the placement front?
Our University came into existence in July 2020. Prior to that, we were running a stand-alone Indo-French Engineering college, Mahindra Ecole Centrale, under the aegis of JNTU, since 2014.
We had only three batches of students passing out of our portals to date and our placements have been way better than industry. A number of students also opted for higher studies and have been accepted in reputed global schools such as Cornell, Columbia University, Universities at Texas Austin and Illinois Urbana Champaign.