Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Symbiosis Continues its Momentum, But Can This University be a Centre of Excellence?

Dr. Subhash Chandra, Chairman of Essel & Zee Group of Companies has become the latest leader to visit Symbiosis International University (SIU) campus in Pune.

For Symbiosis students, it was a treat as the self-made billionaire attended a question-and-answer session with them, and guided them about not only his success mantras, but about differentiating between ambition and greed, luck and hard work, legitimate aspirations and illegitimate aspirations.

But for the sprawling SIU campus in Lavale, near Pune, this is not something new, as it has hosted all kinds of leaders including President Pranab Mukherjee, crusader Anna Hazare, Ministers Nitin Gadkari & Smriti Irani, ace journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, and lots more from India and abroad.

Indeed, under its able edupreneurs Dr. SB Mujumdar and Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar, SIU has been pushing all the right switches to remain in momentum.

SIU students too have brought laurels to the campus, the latest being a student team from SCMHRD Pune (a B-School unit of Symbiosis) finishing in the Top 5 in the Asia Pacific Region at the CFA Institute Research Challenge held in Manila, Philippines after competing with over 40 B-schools in India and 21 teams in the APAC region.

Earlier, the Symbiosis team had won the national round of the 8th Annual CFA Institute Research Challenge in India, popularly known as “Investment Olympics”, together with the likes of SP Jain, IIFT,  IIM Trichy, and IIM Shillong.

However, despite such achievements of being in momentum, the central question before SIU is whether it can shift gears to become a Centre of Excellence at par with the IIMs, IITs, NITs, and leading affiliated engineering colleges of the country.

In India, the cream of meritorious students tend to study in premium public sector institutions, or those private sector institutions which are subsidised by the Government through UGC.

Pune headquartered Symbiosis International University is one of the oldest and largest self-financing higher education setups in the country.

Tracing its roots back to 1971, this is perhaps the oldest group of self-financing institutes that turned into a deemed university. Most other self-financing private universities or deemed universities can’t be more than 43 years old.

SIU is mind-boggling in its size too - with 9 campuses, 7 faculties, 43 institutes, and 107 programmes.

However, despite the early mover advantage, and despite the breadth as well as reach, Symbiosis has resisted the urge to grow student strength in geometric progression, which was the strategy employed by relatively newer self-financing universities.

SIU is the brainchild of academician Dr. SB Mujumdar and is run under the able leadership of Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar.

Whether SIU can eventually be a Centre of Excellence is open for debate. There are many strengths going for it to be one, including the credentials of its founders and promoters, and its prudence in limiting student strength.

However, SIU needs to drastically up the quality of its incoming students by providing significant scholarships to the meritorious, and it also needs to limit its historical bias towards overseas students, for that to happen. From its inception, SIU by design has been catering more to the needs of international students.

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