Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Monday, February 09, 2015

Education Scenario: Non-Conventional Courses A 'Hit' But Indian Universities Failing To Meet The Demand

Though universities like Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai University and Nagpur University offer some innovative courses, the attractive ones are being offered by the private standalone centres, which often lack recognition but charge hefty fee for the course.

Kshama Gandhi, a class-12 science student of a Mumbai school, is neither interested in pursuing engineering nor a medical career and has been devoting a lot of time these days surfing net to find something more "exciting" and "satisfying" than the traditional career options.

"I would like to take up a course in gemmology or film-making as these provide me with a bigger canvas to enhance and put to use my creativity; but I am concerned failing to understand why the top universities are not offering these courses," says Kshama ruing that her parents are not in a position to spend Rs 3-4 lakh fee and send her to a private institute.

Like Kshama, several youngsters wish to explore themselves. Hence, from gender studies to wine tasting, ethical hacking to digital marketing, and archaeology to gemmology.., every new 'offbeat' course is being welcomed these days.

Ismeet Chandiok, a professional chef from city who now owns a dog food company, is currently pursuing a course in 'canine nutrition' from a US institute as there is no such course available in India as of now. "The 6-9 month-long course is being taught online for which they charge Rs 60,000. The way pet food industry is growing in India, we will soon need a large number of pet dietician but unfortunately Indian universities are yet to wake to identify the need," says Chandiok.

Though universities like Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai University and Nagpur University offer some innovative courses, the attractive ones are being offered by the private standalone centres, which often lack recognition but charge hefty fee for the course.

Rest fall in the scope of "online and distance education" courses offered by Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU), Nashik. Their demand has gone three-fold in past three years, thanks to working professionals, say officials, but their limited recognition is a major deterrent for the youngsters.

According to education experts, many firms hire students who have pursued these specialized degrees and diplomas. There is a huge scope of entrepreneurship also. Courses in spa management, pet-grooming, transportation etc. offer such training; gemmology, counselling, digital marketing etc are aimed to encourage the youth to start their own venture.

How affordable are offbeat courses?
Only to some extent. While courses offered by the Centre and state-run universities are in affordable range, they have limited seats. Most of the courses related to animation, films, TV industry, fashion and designing are offered by the private universities and institutes which fall in unregulated but booming market. One may have to shell out Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh a year to get a degree and diploma.

Are traditional varsities doing enough?
No. Traditional universities are still focusing on core programmes, leading to a huge gap in demand and supply. However, some universities like Tata Institute of Social Sciences are much ahead in devising and launching innovative courses keeping job scenario and trends in mind. Naresh Chandra, Pro Vice Chancellor of Mumbai University seeks to highlight, "We have started BA/BSc (human science), BA (culinary arts), BCom (transport management), BSc (interdisciplinary), MSc (renewable energy) a year ago in some colleges. University will launch a centre of oceanography in Sindhudurg this June."

However, these efforts are inadequate, feel students. Amit Suryavanshi, a UPSC aspirant who is pursuing a diploma course in local government from Nagpur University says, "With changing times and preferences, several new areas of endeavour have come up to offer exciting growth opportunities to youngsters. While private universities have diversified themselves, traditional universities are yet to scale up their efforts as per the need of the society."

Why foreign varsities getting popular?
Because they offer those courses which Indian youth seek to learn. Besides, a large number of management and computer science related courses – for instance the EdX offered by MIT and Harvard, foreign universities and institutes luring Indian students with their attractive MOOCs programmes free of cost. Some foreign universities are making money too.

Is it because of erred govt policies?
Yes. Maharashtra government for instance, which provides grants to universities for conventional courses, doesn't do it for innovative courses. Hence, all such courses become three-four times costly, making it unaffordable for many.

Raghvendra Tripathi, deputy regional director of IGNOU says, "Since state governments drag their feet to extend the aid for innovative courses, universities find it difficult to offer them. Private colleges do offer them but cost factor affects the enrolment."

Hari Chandan, director of Institute of Open and Distance Learning at Mumbai University admits that the traditional universities have to scale up their efforts to meet the surge in demand of variety of courses. "Universities are autonomous and can devise courses as per their choice. But they are yet to understand that every sector is important now and innovative courses are key to success of all traditional varsities."

Lack of regulations is another major issue which government must address, say experts.

Some offbeat courses available in India
1) Tea tasting and marketing
Available at: Birla Institute of Futuristic Studies, Dipras Institue of Professional Studies, Assam Agricultural University, Indian Institute of Plantation Management
2) Diploma in entrepreneurship administration and business laws
Available at: National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata (online)
3) Pet grooming: Scoopy Scrub, Delhi, Fuzzy Wuzzy Pet Grooming School, Bangalore
4) Film making, film editing, autodesk: Zee Institute of Media Arts, Mumbai, Whistling Woods, Mumbai
5) Footwear and leather goods designing: NIFT, Footwear Design and Development Institute in Rae Bareli (UP), Kolkata
6) Gemmology: Gemmological Institute of India, Gemmological Institute of America (India)
7) Mountaineering: Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Dehradun
8) Ethical hacking: Institute of Information Security, Indian School of Ethical Hacking
9) Archaeology: Institute of Archaeology, Delhi, run by ASI.
10) Spa Management: Sohum Wellness Academy, Mumbai, Ananda Spa Institute, Hyderabad and Orient Spa Academy, Jaipur
11) Food Technology: Amity University, Lovely Professional University
12) Digital marketing, social media marketing: NIIT
13) Gerontology: Institute of Home Economics, New Delhi, Calcutta, Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, TISS
14) Rural studies/development: TISS, Bhavnagar University and Nagpur University
15) Forest and wildlife conservation: Indian Institute of Forest Management, Amity University, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Bangalore
16) Leadership program in politics: Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT) School of Government (MITSOG), Pune
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