Innovating Higher Education: Insights From Indian Universities
The next evolution of Indian higher education is underway, and changes are being embraced across the country. From Hyderabad to Dehradun, Mumbai to Pilani, universities are innovating to meet new priorities, be it strengthening graduate employability, improving their academic reputation or launching new learner-first, skills-based programs. The shift to digital learning since the pandemic and progressive vision of the National Education Policy are inspiring hybrid ideas, accelerating this transformation. In conversations with leaders, we see four strategic goals consistently coming out on top in this changing landscape.
Goal #1: Strengthen Academic Excellence
Higher education institutions are creating blended solutions to elevate the quality of education, modernise curricula and make learning job-relevant. They are supplementing faculty-led classes with courses, lectures, and labs online, to keep their content current. Some are offering stand-alone online electives or specializations for emerging technologies or multidisciplinary skills, in addition to the core subjects taught by in-house faculty. Others are using blended learning as a learning resource to optimize faculty time — while teaching an Electronic Systems Design class, a teacher might add on the ‘Introduction to Electronics Course’ from Georgia Tech, much like they would a required reading list. Or, they might flip the classroom, where students do a module online and class time is used for active learning and discussion, encouraging problem solving and critical thinking.
Changes to government regulations have paved the way for greater integration — higher education institutions can now offer 40 per cent of credits in any category through appropriate online courses which they have full autonomy to select.
We are seeing more colleges integrating global online content for credit, to close curricula gaps and ramp up industry-focused learning for their students.
GITAM University is committed to academic excellence, along with traditional methods, they are now arming their students with skills needed to hit the ground running by integrating industry-aligned content into its curricula at scale through a blended learning approach. Along with building skills that make them job-ready, students are widening their horizons, with many exploring online courses in domains outside their chosen discipline as well.
Goal #2 Drive Student Employability and Placements
NASSCOM recently flagged the employability gap among engineering graduates, asking higher education institutions to do more to build strong foundational and professional skills. fDelivering industry-aligned curricula is no longer good-to-have, it is a must-have. For universities, the challenge is how to keep up with the rapidly-changing skills companies are looking for, especially for entry-level jobs where competition is fierce.
Bringing in industry as educators is solving this problem. More universities are turning to online entry-level industry micro-credentials to prepare students for in-demand digital jobs. These microcredentials created by leading employers such as IBM, Intuit, Google, Meta, and Salesforce teach the specific skills needed for entry-level jobs such as a Data Analyst, Software Developer and Digital Marketer.
In a recent global survey by Coursera, almost every Indian student surveyed (96%) agreed that earning an industry micro-credential would help them secure the job they wanted. Their confidence stems from how employers value microcredentials. In India, 92% of employers — higher than the global average — believe that industry micro-credentials help a job candidate stand out.
Institutions like KL (deemed to be) University in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, are doubling down on industry credentials and skilled-based learning to drive positive career outcomes for students, including landing jobs with leading multinationals. Students are given access to a large catalog of online courses, with a greater choice of elective courses to choose from. They are encouraged to develop cutting-edge skills online — 49 students have achieved certification as TensorFlow Developers, using Coursera’s DeepLearning.AI TensorFlow Developer Professional Certificate for preparation. In Pune, Symbiosis International University is enabling students to build multidisciplinary skills online, which is opening the door to more career paths.
These universities are building talent pipelines that are invaluable for industry. Their graduates aren’t just thriving in India’s digital economy, but are globally employable, with the skills needed for growing remote jobs.
Goal #3: Grow Rankings and Brand Perception
In 2022, UPES in Dehradun jumped 35 positions in the NIRF rankings, gaining across parameters like teaching, learning & resources, research, perception and graduation outcomes. Employability has also been a key focus area for the institution, where it is strengthening its industry connect through online content from leaders like Google, IBM, BCG and Amazon.
Our research shows the “ability to find a right or better quality job” is now a top factor for Indian students when they choose an institution or a degree program. By integrating online resources in the conventional teaching-learning process, universities can help students attain better learning outcomes and move closer to their career goals that in turn results in improved employability, and better academic and employer perception that enhance brand reputation and as a by-product of rankings.
Goal #4: Improve access through new skills and learner first programs
India’s top universities are reimagining programs online to scale their impact. BITS Pilani recently launched an online BSc Computer Science degree that is making a high-calibre computer science education accessible to many more students in India and the world. Offering this program on a global online platform empowered the faculty with the resources and capabilities to teach effectively online, while allowing the institution to reach a massive Indian and global online community of learners – learners from 25 countries are enrolled in the program, and over 60% of Indian learners are from non-metros.
Institutions are finding answers to long-standing challenges as they innovate on new products. BITS Pilani introduced a performance-based admission track for its CS degree, which allows even those from non-technical backgrounds like commerce or arts to apply and qualify for the degree. Such programs are equitably and inclusively growing the talent pool for skilled graduates, while furthering the internationalisation of education with high-quality ‘Made in India’ brands.
Higher education institutions have the opportunity to drive much higher value and impact as they help students transition to the workforce. By realizing these strategic goals, universities can play a stronger role in the employment ecosystem, narrowing skill gaps and making graduates productive and employable from day one in the workforce.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house