Dr. Sonal Minocha, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Bournemouth University, the first Indian to occupy such a high academic post in the UK, speaks to Rajaram Sukumar about the university’s research practices and the unseen hurdles Indian education faces…
Q. How is the scenario after BREXIT? Has the flow of Indian students declined or has it remained at the same level?
A. More than the BREXIT, it was the demise of the work visa in November 2012, which had an impact on foreign students. It was the biggest policy change which has been detrimental to not only the higher education but also in Indo-UK relations. The work visa was a good route for students to pursue their higher education and then able to stay for a period of two years and improve their employability.
Q. You want to fuse employability with internationalization. How do you go about it and what is the crux of it?
A. The crux of it is that it should happen in the curriculum as well as in the extra-curriculum. Personal development doesn’t just happen in the classroom. The curriculum should enable a pliable mindset.
Case studies and examples should be a part of the curriculum as there are students who would only focus on assessments and academic performances. We believe that the personal development should happen both inside and outside the classroom. What we have done is that we have something called the course to careers prepositions. We make sure that whether the student is in the classroom or anywhere in the university doing extra-curricular activities, internationalization and employability are embedded in everything.
Q. In management studies, all-round development of students is very important. How much is your curriculum integrated with the industry?
A. It is at the heart of what we do at Bournemouth. We are the only university in the country which offers 100 percent of undergraduate students the option to sit for placements. At least 84 percent of our students sit for the placements. Our internships are integrated placements. Some of our students study for four years instead of three years. Industry is at the heart of it, which is why in QS Stars Ranking; we have got the five stars for employability.
Q. Is it the same with your master’s also?
A. Yes, it is for our postgraduates as well. We don’t have placement opportunities, but we have on-campus and regional experiences. The challenge is that postgraduate course in the UK is a one-year programme, so unless we turn it into a two-year programme (which isn’t that attractive in the market); it is difficult to integrate a placement year in it. In order to compensate this we make sure that our extracurricular provision is industry-focused.
We hold a career week and you will be amazed to know that major participation in this event is by the postgraduates. This is because undergraduate students have got the placement experience. In that one week, we see over 200 employers visit our campus.
Q. Earlier research was done for the sake of research but nowadays, everybody goes for industry-focused research. Is it actually making it more commercial? What is your take on this?
A. There are two aspects to it. Firstly, it depends on which discipline you are working in. For example, humanities might have a particular stance towards knowledge discovery whereas science or engineering might need to be formal industry focused.
Secondly, I believe, that both kinds of research have values. You can’t say that one is important than the other. Ultimately it should benefit the society. It could be through knowledge discovery or advancement of technology or a particular industry. We value and encourage all types of research. If our researchers want to lock themselves away to discover something which will change how the subject is taught, we allow and encourage it.
Q. What is the publication count of your university? Is it at the top of research publications?
A. In the UK we have something called Research Assessment Exercise, also known as research excellence framework. It ranks and assesses the research of any university and we have a large percentage of our research that is recognized globally. In certain domains, we have renowned people working in them. For example in media animation, we are second only to Oxford and Cambridge for the research and the practice-focused research.
Last year in the Oscars, all the films that were nominated in the animation category had our university alumni who had worked on it. This was because of not only our impeccable industry focused work placements but also research. We have spent a lot of time and invested a lot in ensuring that our research is in collaboration with the international authors.
Since it is easy for our researchers to focus on the region and domestic market, we encourage cross-cultural collaboration for greater learning. This adds a lot of value to our students.
We believe that the personal development should happen both inside and outside the classroom. What we have done is that we have something called the course to careers prepositions
Last year in the Oscars, all the films that were nominated in the animation category had our university’s alumni who had worked on it. This was because of not only our impeccable industry focused work placements, but also research. We have spent a lot of time and invested heavily ensuring that our research is in collaboration with international authors.