DTU Times interviewed Prof. Anu Singh Lather, Pro Vice Chancellor, DTU on progress in the International and Alumni Affairs departments.
Apart from the East Campus, you have been closely involved with two main other departments at DTU’s main campus, International Affairs and Alumni Affairs. As students, when we compare the university with ranks of IITs and other colleges, we find that there is insufficient linkage between DTU and any reputable university abroad. How has this aspect improved in the last 1-2 years?
We have strengthened the Department of International Affairs and we currently have a full-time Dean of International Affairs, Prof. Vishal Verma, who looks after the same. We also augmented the two offices, International Affairs and Alumni Affairs by making them independent units, supported by the right kind of team and infrastructure. So we have two Deans now, as opposed to earlier, when the Dean of International Affairs was looking after the Alumni Affairs as well. We did not want to merge the responsibilities of one division with another, as this was unjustifiable. Hence, we created the new position as internationalisation is altogether a different mandate for the university. You have rightly stated that that we need linkages with foreign universities. Alumni play a very important role in it. With DTU being a veteran university known to everyone abroad as DCE, we thought that let us pick the threads from the past. In the past too, there have been efforts in making some contacts with the International Alumni. Our national alumni network is quite strong, existing as the Alumni Association They have this tradition of meeting annually. We have provided them an office at the main campus, with staff, so that they can be connected to the students and others. It apparently needed a more serious and active role of the administration, thus we allotted an independent Alumni Dean and office, where he is now taking up all the work.
"...internationalisation is altogether a different mandate for the university."
Recently, I was on a personal visit in the US, where incidentally, I received an invitation from Mr. Durga Das Agrawal, the illustrious alumnus of DCE, to visit him and some 30 other alumni in Houston. In the meanwhile, we were also moving some papers for signing an MoU with Cullen College of Engineering, Houston University. So I went from L.A. to Houston and met these people. That became the beginning to flag off the International Alumni Association of DTU, in a grand form. The 4-5 hours long meeting was emotional as they were moved by the fact that somebody from DTU had visited them. They felt quite committed about it, as the emotional connect was very strong. They then decided to contribute some share of money towards our donation funds. Right on the same day, they circulated a paper to everybody to commit something and the commitment on the table came out to be around twenty thousand dollars. This became the start of the feeling of doing something for DTU. Dr. Durga Das Agrawal and Mr. Mahesh Joshi decided to take the initiative forward and connected to us, back here. They created an Alumni Association, formally got it registered in the US and finished the formal process for establishing it. Next year, the meeting was held in San Francisco, where the participation was 200 people, coming from all over the continent. People like Pramod Haq, who in the US, is known as ‘the man with a midas touch’ since he is a popular venture capitalist and Prof. Yogi Goswami, whose air purifier has become a commercial and popular product across the country. Mr Goswami is a professor at Florida University. I meet alumni who were the front runners in various areas. It was such a pleasure!
"...they were moved by the fact that somebody from DTU had visited them."
Coming back, we took it forward and we have got a contribution of five crore rupees, from Dr. Raj Soin, who has donated this amount for the creation of a multi-purpose hall, named after him, for the students. In the meanwhile, the money is flowing through the alumni platform. Money is not the sole connect we have with alumni. Since Mr Agrawal is also the senator at Houston University, he was instrumental in getting the MOU with Cullen College signed. The MoU is active, there are two PhD scholars who were offered paid internships at Houston University and they have applied for the same. Thus, the linkages have already started establishing and in the same way, there is a long list of MoUs which have been signed with international universities.
How have the signed MOUs helped so far?
I feel that proactiveness and action on the part of the HoDs will help in a big way. What should happen is, the areas in which the students are to be versed in, have to be identified. Therefore, an active participation of HoDs into execution of MoUs results in their success. The connection from HoD to HoD and Dean to Dean needs to be taken forward. Also, a general consensus should be present to process everything, without which we cannot communicate with the collaborating institutes. Hence, an MoU is the basic requirement to go ahead with a collaborative proposal. If there is no MoU, the foreign universities will not acknowledge the partnership. This is how MoUs become crucial, but active participation of the faculties is required to make them successful.
"internationalisation of education... is happening all over the globe."
Coming to internationalisation of education, it is happening all over the globe. We were a little late in doing so. We were only admitting students through DASA, Direct Admission for Students Abroad. The students were coming through the DASA route. But we found that majority of such students were NRIs, rather than foreign nationals. It did not exactly bring in the culture of international students. So we decided to create a separate, new window, wherein, only foreign students were eligible for admissions. We started this in 2017. We created another admissions windows, admission through ICCR and SII. This year we have admitted 174 foreign students through these routes, as opposed to last year, when 28 students were admitted; they are representing 42 countries. It is a great learning as these students bring in the deposit of their own cultural identity, space, level of understanding and skills. It also improves the ranking of the university; universities cannot even participate in such rankings if the internationalisation has not happened. This has been a conscious effort by the university, to create the international office, augment and support it, and we have been successful so far in doing so.
Beyond internationalisation, we also have exchange activities like student exchanges, faculty exchanging and even exchanges of PhD theses, as they are sent abroad for evaluation and evaluation of thesis of international scholars by our teachers.
As I said, that some of the activities have started, but it needs to happen en masse. Because we have just began last year, in the framework of the MoU, the HoDs can identify and tell us the areas to be involved in. The International office would be instrumental in fixing the exchange programs. To begin with, the students should be made aware about these windows and they should approach the HoDs for the enrolling in these programs.
Part I of the interview focussed on DTU East Campus.