Professor (Dr) Sandeep Sancheti, Provost (Vice-Chancellor) at Marwadi University, Rajkot, speaks to India Empire’s Yogesh Sood

By Yogesh Sood

You have been a President of the Association of Indian Universities and have wide experience as an academic leader. What made you join hands with Marwadi University?

I was already a part of the University’s board and hence was familiar with the management, their aspirations, and background. It is a young and dynamic institution with good foresight. It has a NAAC A+ accreditation, a high-level disciplinary multi team, is fully electronically governed, a fantastic ERP is in place, financially it is very sound, international systems have been ramped up, there are unique facilities like supercomputers. It has been an endeavor in life to help and nurture a young institution where we can make greater use of our creativity and experience to define their path. That is what resulted in me coming to Marwadi University in Rajkot.

One of your prime concerns has been to let a student function with full creativity. Please share with us some of the steps in enhancing student creativity taken by you…

Creativity cannot be bound, it is generally infinite. Allowing students to reach their full or a high level of creativity is the biggest challenge. Due to various factors that are not necessarily purely academic but arise from a complex mix, some of the students end up choosing courses and programs that are not as per their own requirement. They are forced by peer pressure into doing something. Besides, languages can act as barriers, methodologies of teaching and learning, and also teachers can be difficult, timings can be a bottleneck for those that are late risers. Quality is also an issue in most institutions. We deal with these through different sets of offers and opportunities that include: 1) Mobility across domains. 2) Time and speed of one’s choice for a four year program. 3) Providing relevant material in advance, and in an online mode. 4) The five Ws and one H are being promoted.

India has seen many bright minds leave for foreign shores due to a paucity of research facilities. We understand your University has taken steps to look at research and development in a way that can benefit India’s growth and aid its industry. Please elaborate…

Research is a very wholesome term in my opinion. Basically it means something new in general. In academic parlance can also mean testing and development, consultancy, innovation, incubation and entrepreneurship. The value of research is not necessarily doing routine things, it is more intelligence driven where new knowledge is developed, and, therefore, investment of time, energy and resources is required. All three things put together will lead to facilitation of research and research outcomes.

First and foremost requirement is an environment of research, and personally promoting research, appreciating those who are doing research, giving them time and space for research, rewarding them. Then there are schemes like seed grants, collaborations, external exposure and training, conferences and seminars, support for patents and IP, these are some of the avenues that are there.

Our research trajectory is on a very high growth profile. As an example I’d like to cite that our field weighted citation index is 2.08 which are similar to the FWCI of Stanford and Harvard Universities in the USA. Similar is our performance when it comes to citations per publication or per paper which is 7.35. That is almost close to Oxford and Cambridge in the U.K. We are nowhere lagging behind in spite of being young.

We have also developed a lot of industrial connections, particularly since we are in Rajkot, a city of industries. We have industry supported labs that are already established, particularly for foundry and mechanical-related domains. We have also done technology transfer and in doing so we’ve partnered with some of the national institutions of the Government of India as well. All this makes us believe that our research capabilities are good, our output is good and we can keep on scaling it up.

Please let us know your views on India’s role in the Education Sector as a leader in the G20 set up…

As per my understanding the G20’s main focus is on economic and financial issues but today the education sector is strongly related to it. Therefore the G20 which is growing in its impact can play a vital role in the education sector in the world as well. During this year, India has gracefully opened its doors to foreign institutions to set up campuses in the country. This had been under consideration for a long time, but only this year was it given a final shape. Even though at a draft stage, a bill to this effect allowed some of the institutions to enter GIFT City, Ahmedabad. This will make the quality of education better, especially when delivered at a lower cost compared to what it is when studying outside India, which a large number of students do. A better and stronger model would allow Indian students to get some form of international exposure. This is internationalization of students at home, and this can be done by not charging high fees. I’d say that Marwadi University is a leader in this space. Being young, we have taken care of this from the beginning. We also have 15 percent of the student population from the international domain, from more than 50 countries. We are one of the top institutions when it comes to internationalization of higher education in India.