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Prof R V Rajakumar, VC, RGUKT

Interview Date : 15-06-2012

Democracy does not fall from the sky one bright day. It is a process that one finds himself in from birth. It is all about education where children learn to respect everyone’s need and to listen to the advice they get from their teachers. This statement can come only from those who have ‘lived’ learning experientially.

How do you recognize a true educationist?

I would say, by looking at his/her passion to inspire true leaners and genuine seekers.Sitting with Mr Rajakumar, VC RGUKT is a s a l u t a r y experience for one longing to see the ‘revived’ spirit of learning and an egoshattering one for those who live with an illusion that education is all about competition and being numerouno in the rat race.

Meeting an engineer seething with passion for engineering is a rare privilege today. Mr Rajakumar is one such engineer who yearns to see engineers with common sense that is translated into day to day matters, rather than having a mere degree in hand. As the Vicechancellor of Rajiv Gandhi University of Knowledge Technologies (RGUKT), Hyderabad
he is actively engaged in meeting the challenges of building this new University into a model for
quality Engineering education.

Talking about his ‘pet’, Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Knowledge Technologies, he says it is of its kind institute which has the right ambience for the creativity to flourish. RGUKT was established to create opportunities for the rural youth and wanted to set up at least three IIITs in the three regions of Andhra Pradesh which would ensure better opportunities for rural students.

For those who didn’t know, RGUKT’s primary objective was to provide high q u a l i t y e d u c a t i o n a l opportunities for rural youth of Andhra Pradesh. The initial goal was that at least the top 1 % of the rural graduates would be given the opportunity to study at RGUKT.The top 1% of rural graduates is around 6,000 to 7,000 per year. Thus, the three campuses would need residential accommodation for about 36,000 students for the six year integrated program.

The first batch of about 6,500 tenth class graduates was admitted into a six year integrated program in August of 2008. The initial selection was based on the local best model where students receiving the top marks in every subject were selected. There are two more years to go for the first batch to graduate.

What is interesting about this University’s objectives is the first point which clearly emphasises the true essence of learning.

· To impart to each student broad skills of Learning to Learn, Learning to Think and Learning to Live

· To reinforce core values of integrity, respect for all, and care for environment

· To disseminate and advance knowledge in the emerging fields such as Information Technology, Nanotechnology, etc

· To make special provisions for integrated courses including Humanities, Social Sciences and other interdisciplinary areas to impart broad-based education including soft skills.

· To function as a resource centre for knowledge management and entrepreneurship development in the emerging technologies.

· To establish close linkage with industry to make teaching and research at the institutes relevant to the needs of the economy, at national and global levels.

If one closely observes the way the objectives are prioritized it becomes very clear that ONLY if the core values are in place will the actual learning happen.

Prof Rajakumar says “Today’s predicament is that even the senior most professors of so-called big institutes do not understand the how to transmit knowledge and don not even know what is engineering.  Having said that I would also like to reiterate that in RGUKT we have introduced 10-12 hours of orientation on each branch of engineering for the students, where they get to know about the  fundamentals of that particular branch. This ends with the kind of jobs they would get absorbed into. This means students would get 72 hours of just ‘what is engineering’?

How many students today know there are 45 branches in engineering?

The most popular ones being ECE, CS and IT, which take away 60% of the seats, the others remain obscure. Many students are not aware of the other branches and go by the peer decision only. Very few have a clear perception and goal as to which  ranch to choose.

At RGUKT we give students a free choice of combining electives, who says a mechanical engineer should not know what is electronics? Integrated studies is the pillar of RGUKT.

If you ask me mechanical, civil, pure sciences, management sciences are all part of engineering! We need to get out of misconception that all the branches of engineering are isolated. Sometimes I find it amusing when professors of  lectronics disown computers saying that they have nothing to do with it! Hence we need dissemination of the right information to parents and students, educating them about the various options/ career prospects of engineering, instead of just forcing them to pick from two or three. Only when they see a huge bouquet with array of different disciplines will they know how to map their skills and attributes with the domain knowledge. Ideally that is how it should happen.

A student should not select a batch because it is ‘most preferred’ or most lucrative, but which he likes the most! Why RGUKT?
Because at RGUKT, a “Lowest Best Model” is used to select students from a small community like a Mandal which had a few hundred students graduating each year in comparison to selecting students based on a state wide or nationwide ranking system based on marks or entrance tests. Such a practice overcomes the disparity in the selection process between the urban and rural environments. Therefore, the better performance of students in an urban Mandal doesn’t have an impact on the selection process of students in a neighbouring rural Mandal.

The other issue RGUKT is attempting to tackle is the issue of “Early Specialization”. In most cases, once a student goes into a Junior College for a pre-university program, he gets routed through coaching factories that drill them to get the top ranks in entrance tests which will enable him to secure a seat in a good college or university. This kind of intensive coaching makes students uni-dimensional with very little understanding of anything other than what they have been coached in.

We offer holistic education—true to its name-University of Integrated Knowledge Technologies.
We took the entire database of the tenth passed out students and we saw that 17 thousand who are cream of the toppers still applied for RGUKT, instead of going for IITs and EAMCET.

You can clearly see the student’s preferences. We cater to the deprived students who are wanting and waiting to receive quality  engineering. How does it feel to enrol, nurture and groom these students?

It’s abeautiful experience. When students walk into the campus most of them come from such an economic background that they cannot even afford footwear, sometimes they also have vitamin deficiency diseases.
The most beautiful thing is to see these caterpillars come out of their cocoons and emerge as healthy, happy individuals, eager to lap up life. I call this democracy of the womb, which finds its way to express its free will.

Students of Basara Campus speak— Sandhya second year ECE student from Nizamabad is very happy after joining RGUKT as she is moving fast towards her goal i.e MBA. She wants to do managementand likes to become manager. She says there is overall personality development happening because of the games they play, the varied activities they are into and the general camaraderie. TT, indoor games, hostel facilities are very good. They do not bring anything apart from clothes.

Krishna from Viyawadawho is pursuing his second year Mechanical Engineering says machines always fascinated him, especially the earth movers and he can spend hours watching them This passion is well-nourished at RGUKT where can focus on his interest. He also learnt basics of electronics in signals and systems and feels this will help him build a pollution-free machine in future. How would he do that? He says he wants to create a pollution free machine that would not create combustion and pollution.
This would work on electricity and gravity. He is very happy with the application-based teaching that gives him enough scope to experiment and learn Sricharanpursuing his second year ECE and loves the way the teachers impart a practical approach to learning. Because of the ample scope of hands-on activities he was able to create an op-amp device which is a centimetre long calculator that will do calculations in micro seconds!