The Indian government has placed enormous emphasis on skill development in higher education. Private universities are poised to lead this change.The Neotia University offers a wide array of courses and emphasises on industry demands. Harshavardhan Neotia, Chancellor, The Neotia University spoke to BE’s Saptarshi Deb regarding his plans for the university and elaborated on the logic behind their unique course selection. Q) What opportunities lie for private players in higher education? Please tell us why you chose to invest in this sector?A) As is the case in many other countries including the US and China, private universities in India will play a major role in human resource development. Among today’s 260 state private universities, at least 30-40 universities will emerge as leaders in education.Our family has always been socially conscious and has given back to the society in numerous ways including the preservation of culture, promoting Indian arts and artisans. In 2008, we had taken over a college on the outskirts of Kolkata on the Diamond Harbour road called Institute of Technology and Marine Engineering (ITME) which was soon converted into Neotia Institute of Technology, Management and Science (NITMAS) to provide quality education in various branches of engineering. This college formed the foundation of the Neotia University.If one has to develop human resources that can take up the challenges of the 21st century, then students should be physically as well as mentally fit and socially conscious with high ethical values. I must say that my colleague, P. J. Agrawal who is heading this education vertical is doing a very good job with the able support from our Vice Chancellor, Prof. A. S. Kolaskar, a well-known academic administrator and scientist. The Governing Board members have also been supportive. We are trying to provide holistic education with Choice Based Credit System in contemporary subjects. We try to ensure that students from economically marginalised backgrounds get a chance in our university. We have established several scholarships and free ships.Q) How is your placement record? Does the university hold regular placement sessions?A) The university has started only those courses which are relevant in the 21st century. Most of the professional courses have partners in the industry. The syllabus is designed to give high weightage to laboratory experiments and on-field training. Further, we follow a continuous evaluation system rather than periodical examinations. Students are also given credits to keep themselves fit by being regular in gymnasium, yoga and for participating in cultural and social activities. Soft skills are developed. It may be worthwhile to mention that all students of the first batch of B.Tech in Robot Manufacturing received conditional job offer letters from Phi-Robotics, Thane, on the first day of their academic session. Even though we have a placement cell, we feel that our students will get multiple job offers in the industry as we have chosen subjects which are generally not offered in many other universities at the B.Tech or M.Sc levels. B.Tech in Energy Engineering, Cyber Security, Data Analytics, and Auto Manufacturing are not offered in many other universities. B.Tech in Marine Engineering, B.Sc. Nautical Science, M.Sc. Biotechnology & Bioinformatics, and M.Sc in Applied Psychology are offered in very few institutes and universities.I may add that even though our university is young, we have started an entrepreneurship cell with the hope that several of our students will become job creators rather than job seekers. For this, we have signed a MoU with Frost & Sullivan Inc.Q) Have industry demands been given priority for designing academic modules for your courses?A) Yes. In fact all academic programmes are designed only by taking into consideration the future demand of the industry. As most of our courses are of four-year duration, we have tried to assess the changes occurring in various industries and designed the courses accordingly. For example, we are aware that “Information Technology” industry is changing and more jobs will be in “Cyber Security” and “Large Data Analysis.” The need of the IT industry will change in the coming years. We have started a B.Tech programme in “Cyber Security” and “Data Analytics” and joined hands with IBM India, a leader in large data science and application and cyber security.Similarly, more robots will be utilised by different sectors of the industry in coming years. We have started a course in Robot Manufacturing. Today, China uses the maximum number of robots in its various industries though it has population of 1.2 billion. The number of robots and types of robots are increasing at an alarming rate. India requires a large number of robot manufacturing facilities. Because of non-availability of trained human resources, we are lagging behind. Our course in “Robot Manufacturing” will try to reduce the gap. We have started other courses too in association with the industry. For example, the Energy Engineering programme in TNU has been started in association with Adani Power Limited. Experts from Adani Power Limited and TNU faculty interacted with each other and finalised the course content. Further, industry persons such as Sandeep Dixit, Head, Adani Power Training & Research Institute, Adani Power Limited, has delivered lectures to our students.Q) Regarding the course on English, is emphasis given on communicative English as that has a high demand in the job market?A) The English language taught in our university at various levels uses an approach that is not followed generally in many Indian universities. We have designed courses to improve the communication skills of our students who have joined various professional degree programmes.We have designed courses, which will provide employability to the students. These are postgraduate diploma courses. For example, a course on “Editing” and “Translation” has been designed for nine months that include three months of field training. The course on editing is designed and delivered in association with Sage Publications. We have also designed a short course in editing called “Online Academic Document Editing” in association with Cactus Communications Private Limited. Students successfully completing this course will be freelance editors of Cactus Communications and will be able to earn `2-4 lakhs per year.Our third level of courses are B.A. (Hons.) and M.A. in English. These are designed not only to provide jobs to students but to make students ready for research and teaching. Q) According to various reports, West Bengal is rich in skilled work force. However job opportunities in our state are low. Is that an impediment for private universities in the state that focus on assured post-graduation employment opportunities?A) It is true that West Bengal has fewer opportunities in terms of jobs as compared to states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat etc. However, the government is taking steps to bring medium and large industries to the state. As a consequence, job opportunities for well-trained youths in the state should get better. We are also focussing on research and development activities and hope that government agencies will start funding. Q) What are the popular courses offered by your university?A) Our most popular courses are Cyber Security, Robot Manufacturing, Applied Psychology, Marine Engineering, and we feel that our Energy Engineering programme is one of the best but the least understood by students and parents. In fact, the graduates of this course have huge job opportunities. Since the energy sector is changing in production/conversion, storage and distribution, there is a huge requirement of trained human resources. Similarly, our course on “Auto Manufacturing” is a unique course. The automobile sector is changing rapidly. These changes are because of the requirements to satisfy environmental laws and energy consumption. Innovation is the key to the sector. India being the third largest manufacturer of automobiles has high requirment of human resources. From this year, we are starting B.Sc. (Hospitality Administration) and diploma in Hotel Operation. We feel that these courses will be most popular as India is becoming a major tourist destination and secondly, we have joined hands with Hotel and Tourism Management Institute (HTMI) Switzerland, so that students will get diplomas from HTMI along with TNU degree. We want our students to have global standards.