Last week, three top institutes, IIT Kharagpur, IIM Calcutta and ISI Kolkata, announced a joint diploma program in business analytics. To quote from the news report:
"The first semester at ISI will focus on mathematical foundation,
statistical and machine learning theories for analytics. The second
semester at IIT Kharagpur will focus on the engineering aspects of
analysing huge volume of data. The third semester at IIM Kolkata will concentrate on application of
analytics in functional areas while in the fourth semester the students
will be required to do an internship of six months duration on an
analytics project in a business organisation."
This is a great news for students who get to experience the greatness of three campuses, and learn things from those who are the best in their respective fields. No single institution can be the greatest in all fields and hence programs which require inputs from different fields can be more effectively delivered as a joint program.
This is, of course, not the first such program. IIT Kanpur has been participating in a one-year diploma program called "Visionary Leadership in Manufacturing" which is jointly delivered by IIT Kanpur, IIM Calcutta and IIT Madras, with a small duration spent in Japan. But the way industry requirements are becoming more complex, and knowledge is expanding at a rapid pace, I hope that many more such programs will happen in future.
Of course, there are other models for involving more than one institutes. A student can spend a semester at other institute as a visiting student (or exchange student) and with the credit transfer/waiver, gets the degree from the home institution. This gives a lot more flexibility as the student can really study anywhere. However, when there is option to study elsewhere, the students and their parents are afraid of the unknown. At IIT Kanpur, we approved rules for both our students spending a semester elsewhere, and students from other colleges to spend a semester at IIT Kanpur. But even after 15 years of this, we get no more than one or two applications from our students to go out, and no more than 1-2 applications from outside students to study at IIT Kanpur. (Partly, it is because we don't advertise it enough. But mostly it is the reluctance of the students and parents.) And hence a program which is designed to necessarily spend semesters at different places are extremely helpful.
Academia competes fiercely for students and faculty, and yet we collaborate on research. In the research ecosystem, we write joint proposals, do joint projects, review each others' research output, help each other with organizing conferences, and so on. But when it comes to teaching, that feeling of competition sets in. Perhaps it is because in research we often collaborate as individuals, while in teaching, we need to collaborate as institutions and that is perhaps a difficult issue. But such collaboration in teaching is a win-win situation for all stakeholders. We can attract better students, we can prepare them better, and take pride in their success, while helping our industry at the same time.