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April 18, 2022 Monday 10:05:48 AM IST

Is Time Ripe for Entrepreneurial Universities in India?

Rajagiri Round Table

The concept of ‘entrepreneurial university’ is gradually gaining currency in the globalized world today in response to the need for regional entrepreneurial development, startup culture and job creation.  It has gained prominence as a knowledge and innovation actor, key to competitiveness, stimulation of economic growth and wealth creation.

As it stands, India’s strength in higher education lies in the thousands of universities with central and state universities constituting close to 50% of the total. Large number of private universities, deemed-to-be universities and centers of excellence add to the backbone of the higher education system of the nation. While publicly funded universities and centers of excellence have always focused on teaching and fundamental and applied research, private universities are yet to clearly redefine their roles in the changing milieu, rather than remaining as teaching universities.

Is it time for reimagining private universities as entrepreneurial universities that develop an eco-system comprising of techno-hubs, development of new technologies and prototyping of products in close association with existing industry. They shall also cater to students who develop their leadership and entrepreneurial talents supporting them with startup facilities like vibrant incubation and acceleration facilities right at the campus.

In this context, the 76thRajagiri Round Table Conference was held on October 13th Wednesday 6-8 PM on the topic-Is Time Ripe for Entrepreneurial Universities in India?


The entrepreneurial university eco system refers to the idea of universities acting as entrepreneurs to contribute to regional and national economic development. Following the economic downturn caused by the financial crisis of 2008, governments in high income countries have increasingly sought a role for universities to stimulate regional economic development, according to Dr Brenda Fellows, Professor of University of California Berkeley Walter A. Haas School of Business. She said that United States of America (USA) is what it is because of a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship that tries to solve real world problems.  Most successful US eco system do not necessarily translate effectively for foreign based universities aiming to achieve similar entrepreneurial outcomes. As a consequence, universities in other countries need to accelerate their success rate in forming companies based on academic research, she added.

You cannot use the same prescription as other nations to solve the problem of entrepreneurship in India, according to Dr Hossein Nezakati Alizadeh, Associate Professor at Sunway University Business School, Malaysia. The success lies in how the system facilitate, harmonise and manage complexities, he added.

Academic Autonomy

One of the pre-requisites to developing an entrepreneurial teaching in higher education is academic freedom for universities, according to Biju Vithayathil, Director of Amity School of Business, Kochi. “We need to give lot of academic freedom to Indian universities so that innovation takes place and has the seed of approval by the concerned authorities.  There is too much controlling power in the hands of bureaucrats. Entrepreneurial culture can evolve involve only if there is freedom in places where they are supposed to nurture. Academic institutions need that breathing space to and autonomous colleges are not really autonomous in our country,” he said. 


Attitudinal Changes

Indian economy is supported to a large extent by Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSME’s) and by and people are by and large used to dealing with uncertainties. However, when it comes to higher education, there are only a few entrepreneurs emerging from our engineering and technology institutions, according to Prof Dr M P Ganesh, Head of Entrepreneurship Development and Management at IIT Hyderabad. ” It is because we consider education as something which gives certainty. We see universities as a place that can provide certainty to students which is anyway lacking in the economy. To escape the chaos, students take to engineering and get a job. Universities are seen as places that will get you a good job with a good salary and perks.” The challenge is to bring an attitudinal change in families and society so that more students are motivated to start their own ventures.

Family Support

Along with innovative idea, leadership skills, learning and endurance, family support is also critical for our youth to start new ventures, according to Dr Thomas George K, Director of Lead College of Management, Palakkad. “When I asked an MBA class how many of parents will support the idea of entrepreneurship after studies, hardly three hands went up. Later, one of the students who said her father had agreed changed his mind,” Dr Thomas George said.


For better economic growth, the entire country has to become entrepreneurial, according to Dr Varghese Panthalookaran, Professor, Rajagiri School of Engineering and Technology (RSET) and Director of Rajagiri Media. “We have developed a Pallikkutam Pedagogy that develops the entrepreneurial mindset in children from pre-school to pre-university levels based on the National Curriculum Framework. Together with what they learn at school, children are involved in entrepreneurial activities with parents at home as parental support is vital for developing the entrepreneurial mindset.”

Veena Nair, Marketing Consultant said that parents need to promote critical thinking by making them ask more and more questions themselves based on the innovative idea they share.  “The reason why mothers and wives are uncomfortable or apprehensive of entrepreneurship is because they don't understand the concepts. We are brought up in a culture rooted that teaches our children to aim for secure government jobs or private sector jobs.” It is important to familiarize students on business, how entrepreneurship leads to betterment of economy, quality of life and simple economics can help develop an entrepreneurial mindset at a young age, she added.

Entrepreneurship in Organisations

Students can no longer think of joining an organization at the entry level and expect steadily climb the ladder based on academic knowledge or skills. They need to have innovative ideas that can be transformed into products or services, according to Jacob T Verghese, Chairman of Steag Energy Services.  “If you are not innovative and enterprising, you can’t even move beyond the first ladder in an organization in which you start your career,” he added.


Accreditation Criteria

India has presently two type of universities- one, exclusive teaching universities and secondly, teaching and research universities. However, the need of the hour is promotion of entrepreneurial universities.

The present accreditation and approval criteria followed by University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is based on performance of an institution in academics and research. The Volatile,Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world demands the introduction of a third criteria-entrepreneurship in universities and autonomous colleges, according to Dr Varghese Panthalookaran. 

Promotion of entrepreneurship in institutions should also be used as a criterion for evaluation of faculty members, according to Dr JT Verghese. Leading US universities display entrepreneurship in the way it is funded through public and private investment and also universities investing in stock markets, securing Alumni funds to establish chairs etc.  Universities in USA allow faculty members to invest in the projects of their students which is not allowed in India, Biju Vithayathil said. There is an urgent need for regulatory bodies to give more such flexibility and freedom to universities in functioning. 


Recommendations

1) Entrepreneurial Education: Universities in India need to become entrepreneurial in all respects to help studentsface the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. The conduct of education shall be transformed into an entrepreneurial mode in all the universities and affiliated colleges in India. Appropriate changes in pedagogy and curriculum shall be introduced.

2) Entrepreneurship Education: Universities need to prepare the students to become job creators and wealth creators of the nation rather than just job seekers. Modules for entrepreneurship development shall be part of every education programs offered by the universities and other higher education institutions.

3) Parental Education: Parents are found not to generally support of entrepreneurial engagement of in students and discourage them from venturing. Parents shall be educated that they see the disruptions happening in science and technology which are powerful to kill many prospective jobs available today by the time students complete their studies. Programs for parental education shall endeavor to change the parental attitudes towards entrepreneurial education.


4) Focus on Interdisciplinary Education: Inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary learning should be provided in

higher education institutions as compartmentalized learning limits the opportunities of students to get a wider perspective required to launch their own ventures.

5) Entrepreneurial Development as Criteria for Accreditation: Along with academics and research, promotion of entrepreneurial learning should become compulsory criteria for accreditation of higher education institutions.

6) Need for Uniquely Indian Model for Entrepreneurial Universities: Available models of entrepreneurial universities (e.g. US Model) may not be suitable to Indian conditions. Hence, a fresh model for entrepreneurial universities for India that facilitate students to work on their ideas through effective communication, collaboration, connectivity with industry and financial support shall have to be explored.


7) Entrepreneurial Universities for Regional Entrepreneurship/Job/Wealth Creation: A uniquely Indian model of entrepreneurial universities shall work on solutions for pertinent regional problems with a global outlook and shall operate us locus of local job/wealth creation. Universities shall be part funded by industry and government to attain this objective.


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