25 May 2021 19:04 IST

‘Students like flexibility so we created baskets of electives to choose from’

SNU Chennai’s founding VC, says students can micro-specialise in both its engineering and BCom programmes

Prof SK Bhattacharyya, a prolific researcher, took charge recently at the Shiv Nadar University, Chennai, as its founding Vice Chancellor. Prof Bhattacharyya joins from IIT Kharagpur where he was its Deputy Director, and a Professor of Civil Engineering over a period of three decades. He has also served a national institute, CSIR-Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee, as its Director. SNU Chennai is the first private university to be established in Tamil Nadu in 90 years, after Annamalai University, Chidambaram, was established in 1929.



Prof SK Bhattacharyya, Vice-Chancellor, Shiv Nadar University Chennai




Excerpts from an interview:


What is going to be unique about the offering at Shiv Nadar University, Chennai? 

At Shiv Nadar University, Chennai, in the coming academic session, from July 21-22, we are going to start with two schools. One is our school of Engineering; another is a School of Commerce and Management. The Department of Computer Science and Engineering from the School of Engineering is going to offer two programmes which are unique by itself. That’s a BTech programme in computer science and engineering with a focus on IoT and B.Tech in artificial intelligence and data science. 

And the School of Commerce and Management will have a Department of Commerce which is going to offer two programmes. One is BCom in professional accounting and the other is a BCom and BCom (Hons). 

How do you distinguish the two BCom courses? 

Normally, commerce graduates who come out of the colleges, they aspire to write professional examination like CA or CFA. For writing those professional examinations, they need to prepare themselves; these courses are absolutely tuned in to that particular field. 

In BCom professional accounting, we are going to offer the subjects which are absolutely needed for writing the exams for these professional courses, starting from the foundation level to the intermediate level to the final level. All three levels they will be able to cope up with once they go through this programme. 

That’s the prime difference between these two programmes. So, in professional accounting, we have taken care of the courses that are required to appear for those exams. Also, overall, structure wise, we are complying with the requirements of the UGC, as it has certain requirement for the courses. From UGC there are credit requirements and others which we're fulfilling. 

And in the BCom / BCom (Hons) programme, we have given a certain uniqueness as well. 

Students like flexibility so we have created baskets of electives from where they can choose various subjects in the areas of their interest, such as accounting and management. We have also introduced a unique aspect in this programme, where we said that the students who are good, who are maintaining a good GPA, we have given a cutoff. Now those students also can take certain extra credits and go in for some micro specialisation in the engineering stream, say in the areas of artificial intelligence and data science. 

Have you taken ideas from the NEP, which recommends interdisciplinary courses?

The NEP says courses should try and encompass the other disciplines beyond your major discipline. It talks about a multi-disciplinary educational research university. In fact, in our engineering programmes as well, we have built flexibility in such a way that students can fall back on micro specialisations in areas like robotics or say biomedical engineering. Students do not need to confine themselves to their own major area, but they can get an opportunity to micro specialise in other areas as well. These kind of programmes can generate interest for students as in no other place they can have this kind of opportunities. 

We'll also give an opportunity to students to come up with innovative ideas for projects which they think that are implementable. We will attach them to our faculty members, discuss with them, and come up with a proposal and we will get those proposals evaluated. We will give some seed funding so that they can come up with some innovative working model. 

Eventually, will you offer traditional engineering courses like civil and mechanical?  

At this point of time, from the coming academic session, we'll be confining ourselves only in the computer science and engineering areas with a focus on IoT and BTech in artificial intelligence and data science.

These are all new cutting-edge areas. What about the faculty; trained and knowledgeable, for all these programmes? 

We did a thorough search to get some good faculty. We have good recruits. I should say with the total number of faculty for the programmes that we have recruited, I would say they are really good. I am happy with them. 

To deep dive into each of these engineering programmes; what exactly will be taught, as these are very new areas? 

In eight semesters there are different areas. Part of mathematics will be covered, then there will be programming aspects with different languages. How to develop algorithms to get into different kinds of systems in their application areas- application of AI in different areas. Yes, civil, mechanical, electrical, anywhere. They will be studying these different areas like mathematics, software, the programming part, about IT hardware, about microprocessors. These aspects will be covered; this is what they learn in conventional computer science and engineering. Some part of it, we will focus on how IoT is going to be applied in different areas; those applications will be taught in greater detail. 

We have added in our curricula that students will have to go for the internship in industry and if need be the students can find out or we can find out the needs from industry. Students can take one semester off and they can work in industry and then they can come back to their course. That will make the students industry-ready. We have also developed the curricula with a lot of discussions; first amongst ourselves and then we had invited people from industry. 

What is the update on your new campus? 

The campus co-exists with the existing SSN College. It is a 230 acre campus and the infrastructure is ready. We have built classrooms, library, laboratory facilities, apart from the office for the staff members. So the infrastructure is ready to start our academic programme from the coming year. So here in the campus itself we have hostels. It's not only the academic programme from 8:00 to 5:00 but it is beyond as we have extracurricular activities. We recently had two open house programmes where we are trying to impress upon the students that if they stay on campus they will be benefited. 

So what will be the fee structure for your engineering programmes? 

It will be ₹2.25 lakh a year for Indian students and ₹3.25 lakh a year for NRI students and for foreign nationals it is ₹4.50 lakh a year.