The most disheartening remark for a teacher to hear from an industry professional is, “these students do not have the right skills.” Equally frustrating would be for the industry experts to hear from the experts in academia that the industry lacks creativity or innovation. This clearly indicates a huge gap between industry and academia.
While both can contribute immensely to each other’s work but there is a lack of interaction, engagement and collaboration. If a student has to join the industry after the completion of any course then it becomes imperative that the right skills are being imparted, which can help them in doing that job well. Academicians cannot do it by themselves, they need additional support.
The National Education Policy emphasizes that the education system must prepare students for more meaningful and satisfying lives and work roles and enables economic independence.
Higher education institutes, according to NEP, should focus on research and innovation by setting up start-up incubation centres; technology development centres; centres in frontier areas of research; greater industry-academic linkages. This can be done when experts from academia and industry work together.
Keeping this in view, UGC has taken a new initiative to bring the industry and other professional expertise into the academic institutions through a new category of positions called “Professor of Practice”.
According to which distinguished experts who have made remarkable contributions in their professions from various fields such as engineering, science, technology, entrepreneurship, commerce, social sciences, media, literature, fine arts, civil services, armed forces, the legal profession and public administration among others and have proven expertise in their specific profession or role with at least 15 years of service/experience, preferably at a senior level are eligible for this post.
While some institutes did have the provision of inviting industry experts as guest faculty but it was limited to a few classes or projects. Therefore, there was no continuity and did not yield desired results. Now, the maximum duration of service of a professor of practice at a given institution will be three years and in exceptional cases, it can be extended by one year. This will benefit both the students as well as industry.
The Professor of Practice can leverage their network and create opportunities for the students in the industry. It will become easy for higher education institutes to place their students with their support. This will also lead to the emergence of a more collaborative relationship.
The Professor of Practice can bring in specific assignments to academic institutions such as consulting projects, research engagements, corporate training, etc.
This is going to be a win-win situation for the institutes as well as the industry if the right kind of people are appointed and if they are provided with a conducive atmosphere where they are able to ideate and innovate rather than struggling to fit in the existing system.
Here are some suggestions:
- Professor of Practice should be involved in all stages of the teaching-learning process from curriculum development to evaluation. Since the industry is changing at a fast pace, the curriculum should also be reviewed and revised more frequently keeping in view the industry requirements. Universities/colleges/institutes should reject the inflexible system and adopt innovative pedagogies. The pandemic has shown us how the entire teaching fraternity moved to online teaching in no time. The teaching fraternity should continuously explore new ways of teaching and see how professionals can be made part of this process.
- Professor of Practice can collaborate with industry professionals who can take responsibility for mentoring a few students every year. This means providing students with industry exposure by having regular interaction with them, involving them in research and writing, taking them to meetings, and inviting them to events. This will not only give students exposure to how the industry works but will help them in a great way to build their own professional network.
- Real-life research Professors of Practice can collaborate with academicians for research like audience research, product research, media monitoring etc.
- Faculty Enrichment While it is an excellent idea for industry professionals to be there in higher educational institutes, it is equally important for the academicians to have an immersive programme in the industry. Though teachers are expected to attend Faculty Development Programmes to upskill themselves from time to time. There should be flexibility in the system where teachers can choose classroom-based learning or practice-based learning. Professors of Practice can help in organizing such immersive programmes
- Co-creation of content: Pandemic has shown how bricks were replaced by clicks. While there are many advantages of offline learning, online too has its own share of advantages. Learning can happen anywhere at any time. Since this online learning will continue in future, content for the online courses should be prepared both by Professors of Practice and Academicians
- Last but not least PoPs can help in organizing seminars and conferences in collaboration with each other to share best practices and discuss emerging trends. During pandemic we were bombarded with webinars and conferences. Both academicians and industry experts conducted these webinars to keep themselves engaged and to learn new things. But the industry was organizing these events for their own practitioners and academia for their fellow teachers and students. But the silver lining is that there were very few instances where practitioners and teachers shared their experiences with each other. There is need for more of such collaborative events where academicians and practitioners join hand to deliberate and discuss on the issues related to the sector.