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Monday, September 20, 2021

Why one should study Engineering at JKLU?

 JEE results are out and students other than those who have performed exceedingly well and are preparing for JEE Advanced, are now starting to think of what engineering college they want to choose for their under-graduate education.

So let me warn. This is a marketing post. If you are thinking of a college for engineering or you know someone who is looking for admission to engineering programs, please do read, share, comment, get in touch, etc. Not interested in finding out the magic we are doing at JKLU, skip the rest of this post.

The most important reason to select a college is its quality of education, and the main proxy for this parameter is the faculty. (I know a lot of people consider placement statistics as a proxy for quality, so we will talk about that too later in this post, but let us talk about faculty for now.) There are three things I would like to state about our Engineering faculty:

  • The faculty to student ratio in our engineering programs is 1:12. This is perhaps the best ratio in any engineering college in the country. And this does not include faculty of Communication, Humanities and Social Science, Management and Design, who do teach many courses. If we include them, then the ratio will be 1:10.
  •  More than 75% of our engineering faculty has a PhD degree. Again, I am not sure how many engineering colleges (other than IITs, NITs, and a few top colleges like BITS, LNMIIT, etc.) can boast of such a percentage of PhDs. And this number is increasing. We stopped recruiting non-PhDs some time ago, and all existing non-PhDs have been asked to enroll in PhD programs.
  • A majority of our engineering faculty have at least one degree from IITs, NITs, BITS or abroad. So they have been exposed to excellence and that builds a culture of excellence on the campus. Again, compare this with the background of faculty in other institutions that you are considering.

And it is not just that the faculty is great. The pedagogy is great too. JKLU strongly believes in Project Based Learning. We did this transition to PBL in 2018. Earlier too, we were claiming to do PBL like everyone claims. In 2018, we said to ourselves, let us find out the world leaders in PBL and understand how to do it right. We found out that Olin College near Boston is the Gold standard of PBL. And they run a one week program every summer to teach academics from around the world how they do it. We invested heavily into this, sent a team of teachers to Olin for that program, then brought their faculty to JKLU for further training and help in transitioning to PBL. This summer, we again deputed a team for this one week program at Olin. To understand what this is, you may read one of my old blogs on my Olin experience. So you start doing projects from the very first semester with a lot of guidance from faculty.

One of the flexibility in our system that we are really proud of is spending a semester at an IIT, IIIT or another fine institution. There are institutions like IIT Kanpur and IIT Gandhinagar who have a process of admitting students of other colleges for a semester or two. However, hardly anyone makes use of this facility. And why wouldn't you want to study in an IIT if you always wanted to be an engineer. The problem is that most colleges do not have a system of counting the courses done at those IITs towards their own courses. And the second problem is that most colleges will ask their student interested in spending a semester elsewhere to pay full fee at both their home institution as well as this other institution, making it very expensive for the student. In case of JKLU, we have a process of replacing our courses with the courses you do elsewhere and we do not charge you tuition for the semester you are studying elsewhere. This has meant that almost 10% of our students spend a semester elsewhere (or did before Covid, last 3 semesters have been an exception). In the year before Covid, we had 6 students spend a semester at IIT Gandhinagar alone. We also have an agreement with IIIT Delhi, one of the finest institution in India for Computer Science and related disciplines under which our students can spend a semester there (and despite Covid, one student is spending the current semester there).

We also have agreements with several foreign universities for our students to spend a semester abroad. Some of them reduce tuition for our students. Some of them make it easier for our students to get admission in Masters programs if they had spent a semester abroad with them. University of Amsterdam does not charge any tuition from our students. Universities where one can for semester abroad include University of Birmingham, University of Florida, and many others. Of course, we also allow our students to spend a semester in any fine institution abroad including those with whom we do not have a formal tie up. We truly believe that having a global exposure is very important for a career in today's world and provide such opportunities to our students. Do ask the colleges you are considering if they entertain a possibility of spending a semester abroad.

The cohort that you will study with will have good academic credentials. As of today, about 92 percent of our students admitted to engineering programs have scored more than 75% marks in their 10th class. The median 10th class score is 86%. (This year, with board marks in 12th class not always reflecting the academic preparation, we decided to take a look at 10th class marks, which are usually lower than 12th class scores.) Frankly, I do not know if even IITs can claim this in terms of school level performance of their students.

The next important consideration is that of cost. Not only we are charging tuition which is much less than our costs (with the JK group covering the losses), we are completely transparent about it. You can see the exact cost of all four years on our website. But the bigger deal is our extremely liberal and transparent scholarship regime. Please note that we have made scholarships extremely liberal this year to celebrate 10 years of the establishment of the university. In particular, we have made continuation of scholarship in all four years easier for this batch. Also, the scholarships cover not just the tuition but all academic fees and even hostel fees. On our scholarship page, you can find not just who is eligible for scholarship this year and how much scholarship you can get, you will also find out the conditions of its continuation in all four years. For students with JEE Mains percentile of greater than 92, one can actually study for free for all four years (other than the cost of mess and electricity). You won't find this kind of transparency, particularly regarding continuation of scholarship in successive years, in most colleges.

There are many other aspects of a great engineering college. Great infrastructure. A very green campus. Even though we are very small currently, the students are very active with lots of clubs, technical societies, sports, etc. They participate in several festivals of other colleges and conduct our own festivals (and did so even during Covid). We have a world class design school and they offer a couple of courses to all engineering students, and exposure to design is becoming almost a requirement in industry these days. We have been setup by 125-year old JK Organization, so our industry connect is really strong. The curriculum has the flexibility of several electives. You can choose to take courses in any of the latest streams like Machine Learning or Cyber Security or IoT or Automation, etc. We are one of the few institutions in India to setup Atal Incubation Center. So a strong support for your startup ideas. A great leadership team. The board is full of people who have built this nation. The academic council has people from best universities around the world. The internal leadership consists of people who have studied and worked in top institutions in the country.

And finally, let me talk about placements. My own belief is that one should focus on quality of education and not on placements because if you have a great quality of education, but campus does not see many companies visiting, you may not get the first job of your choice, but the quality of education will take you far. But I know most people are not convinced by this. We had great placements till 2019, but in the Covid years, we were hit a bit harder than other good colleges and in 2020 and 2021 graduating batches, the placement was between 80-85%, which is very good compared to most colleges, but not what we were used to. But as economy is back on track, we are making special efforts for 2022 batch, and within 2 weeks of our placement season, one third of our batch has already been placed with a minimum CTC of Rs. 4 lakhs. One should pay attention to minimum because if we were agreeable to companies paying 2 lakhs to 3 lakhs, we may have placed the entire batch so early in the year. The highest CTC so far is 10.0 lakhs though there are interviews pending for companies offering 15L and higher. The median is 6.3 lakhs. And those who know me personally would know that these are not cooked up numbers unlike most other colleges. The number of companies already committed to visit us in September are half the number of graduating students. Eventually, we expect the number of companies visiting us to be more than the number of students graduating.

So don't worry about the placement. Focus on your education. Focus on quality. Do hard work. Have high aspirations. Have the aspirations to change the world. And no doubt, you will succeed.

It is not possible to write down everything here. But let me invite each one of you to visit the beautiful campus and see things for yourself. You may contact me directly for any queries. You may visit admissions page at: https://applications.jklu.edu.in/lp/application2021.html

Best wishes. Jai Hind.


Monday, August 23, 2021

Collaboration with Indian institutions

 A few days ago, someone sent me the link to a news item, Cluster system to be initiated in nine Hyderabad colleges. These 9 colleges are working on an agreement with each other to allow students of other colleges to take their courses with a process of credit transfer. Later, there would also be faculty of one college teaching a course in another college.

This caught my attention. Of course, NEP 2020 talks about creating clusters of nearby colleges, and this seems the first such step to implement the same. The reason this caught my attention was that we often hear of Indian institutions signing MoUs with foreign universities, but not so much with Indian universities. And I have pointed this out repeatedly in my social media posts. So happy to see that NEP2020 is beginning to address that at least for colleges which are physically close to each other.

 But what about institutions geographically far apart. Even if just consider teaching, it should be possible to register for an online course sitting anywhere, and in the post Covid era, even spend a semester fully at another institution.

And collaboration is not necessarily only for student exchange. As I have personally done in the past, faculty can teach a course in another institution. Of course, joint research projects are something that faculty in good institutions are already doing. But there can be collaboration in other processes also.

For example, can we collaborate in admissions. We already see government institutions doing join counseling. We also see that technical universities doing joint counseling for all engineering colleges affiliated to it. But what about universities. Slowly the number of students enrolled in private universities is increasing and the number in affiliated colleges is decreasing. If some of the private universities join hands and do admissions together through a common portal, similar to that offered by technical universities, this would be a great convenience for the students and parents. They don't have to fill a large number of forms, they don't have to pay money to multiple universities to reserve their seats and every time they get a better admission offer, seek refund from the previous one, and so on. And it is not just the convenience of students and parents. It also reduces the cost of student acquisition for the universities. The amount of money spent in admission publicity by private universities is humongous. If there is a common portal then all participants in the common admission process can reduce their advertising cost. And note, it is possible that every college may have its own admission criteria. They don't have to have a common merit list for them to use a common portal. Just like NITs and IITs don't have a common merit list and yet they use a common portal. So we all keep our academic autonomy and freedom to decide our admission criteria and still use a common portal. One huge advantage is the geographic reach of the university increases. If there are 5 universities who all have their sphere of influence in their region, a common portal will mean that students checking out the university in their region will notice the universities of other region as well.

This is my long cherished dream that I have been writing about for more than a decade. I recall when I was at LNMIIT more than a decade ago, I had written to private universities within Rajasthan making this suggestion. It didn't happen then, and it may not happen in near future, but I will keep working on it.

Similarly, why can't we have joint degree programs between two universities of India. In fact, one of my dreams is a program where a student spends time at 3-4 institutions and get a joint degree signed by all these institutions. Again, we work with foreign universities for these things and not within the country. This will allow each institution to leverage their strengths and contribute the most in that area.

I hope there are others out there who think similarly, and I would be happy to take any collaboration proposal which is of mutual benefit to the board of JKLU for consideration.


Monday, August 2, 2021

JKLU Partners with University of Birmingham

This week we announced a partnership with University of Birmingham in UK. We are very excited about it since UoB is a top 100 university in the world and getting access to such a university for our students will obviously boost their learning and their careers. The current partnership will mostly benefit our engineering students though we will keep working with them in the future to expand the scope of this relationship.

The partnership entails two things. One is being able to move to UoB after completing their 2nd year at JKLU and earning the under-graduate degree from there (in a total of 4 years) with cutting edge specializations, and the other is a semester abroad program.

The first aspect of the partnership is applicable to students of Mechanical Engineering and Electronics Engineering. They can pursue degrees in Mechatronics, Robotics and Automotive engineering. Of course, they can also continue with a broad based degrees in Mechanical or Electronics too, if they so desire. Students who are performing well at JKLU can get lateral admission to these bachelors programs at UoB. This will be of interest to those students who want a specialization in their Bachelors degree and may want an international career. The fact that UoB is situated at the heart of innovation in UK, and has been rated number one on the list of UK universities most frequently targeted by the country's top employers in 2021 is a big plus.

Studying abroad is expensive but these partnerships bring the threshold lower so that more people can afford it. In this particular case, one needs to spend only two years abroad and hence there is a cost reduction. Also, when you go through this partnership, there is a significant scholarship (up to 20% of the tuition there) that further reduces the cost. And what JKLU does is that it will charge the same tuition from students interested in these programs as it charges other engineering students (unlike some other private institutions who have a higher fee for students who show interest in such partnerships). In fact, since students interested in such partnerships will have to have a higher marks in 12th class, most of them will get a substantial scholarship from JKLU (usually between 50% and 100% of both academic fee and hostel fee, check our website for exact rules for scholarships in the first year, and rules for continuation in successive years).

It may be noted that the current policy of UK government is to allow foreign graduates of UK universities to stay on for two more years after graduation. Of course, these rules keep changing. But the current policy appears to be to attract foreign students to UK by allowing them extra time beyond graduation and also allow work visa to highly qualified individuals.

JKLU has always believed that exposure to the best in the world is extremely useful for students in their careers and those who can afford it should go for it. The future of work is in working with teams across nations, across cultures and across disciplines and an exposure to diversity and high quality as a student will prepare you for that future. For those who cannot afford, we do try to bring in faculty from different backgrounds, sometimes for full courses and sometimes for guest lectures. And we are delighted that our engineering students will have an option to spend a semester (maximum two) at UoB.

If you are interested in knowing more about this or any other international partnership of JKLU, please write to international.affairs@jklu.edu.in