Education : Private enterprise, principles for excellence….

One of the arguments in the education space, in India, that I get to hear from the traditionalists is that there is no role for private enterprise in the education space. As they consider private enterprise is only for plundering and making profits and the very purpose of equity and access will be compromised as quality will reach only to those who can afford and not beyond. Contrarian to this, worlds best of the universities are private!

I have always been conscious of this premise and I keep measuring my thoughts and deeds against it to benchmark how true am I to the very purpose of reaching to every child and enabling to realize ones potential.

For a couple of days, I was in LPU, a private university campus in north India, that ‘claims’ to be the largest residential campus in the world with 18000 residents and about 36000 individuals during any working day! I was invited by the university through CL Educate’s local office at Jalandhar to interact and motivate the students of the university with one of my sessions, ‘Dream it, Do it!’

I have been to this campus before too, but this visit was an eye-opener as I had the opportunity of walking through the corridors of decision makers, had the fortune of interacting with over 1500 students during these sessions, and also experience not only the members of the top management of the university, but also observe and feel the action down to the ground through the hierarchy of execution. And I came back with quite a few lessons….

A. With vision, passion and perseverance everything is achievable. The LPU campus, in a matter of a decade, occupies almost 1000 acres of land with a sea of humanity. It started with one building and a couple of acres in 2001.

B. Yes, in main-stream education, to build a campus, you need to have a good financial backing with deep pockets, at least in the initial years of infra creation, talent and student acquisition. Once you get numbers, it will generate surplus to expand itself. Yet, 8-10 years of staying power is important.

C. The more you spend in the initial years for building the awareness, along with the building of institution, the greater are the chances of student acquisition and faster expansion.

E. The visionary who conceives the institution is not enough to carry out the vision. The visionary has to recruit more competent top level management team that shares his vision, be passionate to convert it into reality. It is not about building buildings, but building an Institution that will last for generations and generations, that contributes to the nation building.

D. In the quest to fill numbers and shore up the top-line and bottom-line do not ever compromise on the quality of the students that you recruit.. If you do so, there is a great possibility of a downward slide. You may have numbers, but no substance.

E. The leadership needs to be robust enough to create systems and processes that would promote excellence and only excellence. It needs to demand efficiency and efficacy from every member of the larger family. Mentoring and monitoring, both are as important, in imbibing the culture of purposefulness and excellence across the layers. It is all about taking ownership!

F. Are we rigid as an institution to confine ourselves to the ‘ancient’ syllabus defined? Are there cobwebs? Are we abreast with the rapidity at which the world is changing? Our curriculum and pedagogy have to be at the cutting edge pushing our faculty and our students to be learners for life time, while excelling. Openness to not only incorporating the best of the practices, but also to promote open, fearless interaction and exchange of ideas and initiatives is the key.

G. Does the spirit of innovation run through the veins of the institution? Do you promote taking decisions at every level in the interest of the institution and that of the learner? Innovation in operations is as important as innovations that may change the direction that institution takes. It keeps the joints well oiled for rapid shifts.

Of course, the highest level of endeavor that keeps this spirit alive and kicking is research. As an institution it should be integral to the vision and action, pushing every faculty to excel in their chosen field, by creating world class labs, fabrication units, design and shop floors to experiment.

I. Most importantly, how learner centric are we? How honest are we in helping our students excel? Am I helping every student grow leaps and bounds in the quest to excel. Can I strive to imbibe the spirit of excellence among every learner in the precincts of my campus?

LPU may have gained the mass, in numbers, but sadly it has a long way to go on the dimensions of quality, excellence, innovation and more importantly honesty and genuineness towards the student. So are most institutions of higher learning in our nation. Lest we should have be been figuring in the world rankings. Yes, If the founders are keen, I felt, LPU has gained enough financial muscle to establish the benchmarks in every respect, in India and perhaps be among the best in the world!

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