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Mu­ruge­san Pon­navaikko, vice chan­cel­lor, SRM Univer­sity, fo­cuses on re­search and in­no­va­tion while tak­ing the univer­sity to new heights

India Today - - CHENNA - DE­VIKA JEET

In June 2011, Mu­ruge­san Pon­navaikko took over as vice chan­cel­lor for SRM Univer­sity. Un­der his guid­ance, SRM Univer­sity be­came the first self fi­nanc­ing univer­sity in In­dia to de­sign, de­velop, con­struct, launch into the space and mon­i­tor a Nano-satel­lite as a stu­dent project. “Fifty four stu­dents from dif­fer­ent streams worked on this project and com­pleted in a record time of two years. They have taken the univer­sity to new heights and I con­sider this as the big­gest achieve­ment for the univer­sity.”

This is just one ex­am­ple of the re­search am­biance cre­ated at the univer­sity by Pon­navaikko. He worked with the univer­sity for four years from 2003 to 2007 and re­turned in 2010 as Provost. Pon­navaikko took over as vice chan­cel­lor in 2011. “Dur­ing the last four­teen months my con­cen­tra­tion has been on the strength­en­ing the re­search am­biance at the univer­sity. Re­vised Ph. D. reg­u­la­tion and the es­tab­lishe­ment of a Tamil academy for prop­a­gat­ing Tamil cul­ture, lit­er­ary val­ues and re­ward­ing Tamil schol­ars, are few of the changes.” Pon­navaikko has es­tab­lished an in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary school for In­dian medicine. This will de­velop her­bal based Ayurvedic medicines for cur­ing dis­ease, such as, di­a­betes, can­cer and obe­sity.

With huge achieve­ments in a short span of time, ex­pec­ta­tions from SRM Univer­sity are on a rise. Pon­navaikko’s feels that the univer­sity is in the right di­rec­tion of growth to­wards achiev­ing

Pon­navaikko on the Kat­tanku­lathur cam­pus with stu­dents in­ter­na­tional ex­cel­lence. A re­search in­sti­tute is also be­ing es­tab­lished to give more fo­cus on in­dus­trial re­search for cre­at­ing in­no­va­tive prod­ucts and pat­terns. “The ba­sic re­quire­ments for a world rank­ing univer­sity are, teach­ing, re­search, ci­ta­tions, in­dus­try in­come and in­ter­na­tional out­look. My fo­cus is to en­rich these ac­tiv­i­ties qual­i­fy­ing SRM Univer­sity to se­cure a world rank­ing”.

The vice chan­cel­lor feels that the stan­dard of the ed­u­ca­tion de­pends on well trained and qual­i­fied teach­ers and the qual­ity of teach­ing plays an im­por­tant role. Fac­ulty mem­bers should be qual­i­fied, com­pet­i­tive and should have a good tem­per­a­ment for teach­ing. The teacher should un­der­stand the psy­che of stu­dents and teach them in a way that would strengthen their strengths and re­duce their weak­nesses. “My main strat­egy is to strengthen the qual­ity of teach­ers; strengthen the re­search am­bi­ent; and strengthen the cur­ricu­lum with skill based in­dus­trial train­ing to make grad­u­ate stu­dents, em­ploy­able or em­ploy­ment providers.”

Dis­cussing the draw­backs of the In­dian ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in com­par­i­son to for­eign uni­ver­si­ties, Pon­navaikko says, “the teach­ing sys­tem in In­dian ed­u­ca­tion mostly aims to coach the stu­dents for univer­sity ex­am­i­na­tion. They are spoon fed and are made to mem­o­rise with­out un­der­stand­ing, to get high grades. Qual­i­ties, such as, independent think­ing, prob­lem- solv­ing abil­ity, ini­tia­tive, lead­er­ship skills and so­cial com­pe­tence are not given im­por­tance in the In­dian sys­tem. Sadly these are the very qual­i­ties that our youth need to suc­ceed in life.”

As a vice chan­cel­lor at the state af­fil­i­at­ing Univer­sity, Pon­navaikko faces chal­lenges, such as, main­tain­ing a good stan­dard of Ph. D. re­search works and the un­rest amongst teach­ers to cope up with re­search reg­u­la­tions. Man­ag­ing po­lit­i­cal pres­sure in an aca­demic ad­min­is­tra­tion is yet an­other chal­lenge. “At SRM Univer­sity my main chal­lenge is the fac­ulty de­vel­op­ment. Most of the fac­ulty mem­bers are young and fresh for teach­ing. They need ori­en­ta­tion and re­fresh­ment in the teach­ing- learn­ing method­olo­gies and re­search.”

The univer­sity has adopted in­no­va­tive ideas in the teach­in­glearn­ing ap­proaches, such as, de­vel­op­ment of learn­ing ma­te­ri­als us­ing in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy con­cepts and de­vel­op­ment of web based learn­ing ma­te­ri­als. For the ac­count­abil­ity of teach­ing, the univer­sity re­quires sub­mis­sion of a teach­ing plan at the start of the se­mes­ter and course re­port at the end. SRM Univer­sity in­tro­duced new con­cepts in stu­dent eval­u­a­tion process to en­sure as­sess­ment of knowl­edge and skill ac­qui­si­tion. “The univer­sity has cre­ated an environment for the stu­dents with all fa­cil­i­ties to in­no­vate and shape their ca­reer, by ac­quir­ing knowl­edge, skill and hu­man value.”

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