The following is the transcript of the interview held on the 10th of April 2018 at the Directorate Office, NIT Warangal. The interviewee, Professor N.V Ramana Rao is the Director of the National Institute of Technology, Warangal and the interviewers, Mr. Abdul Haseeb, and Mr. Mohamed Azman are the leading members of the News & Magazine Committee.
The interview was originally published in the Pulse Magazine.
This is Abdul Haseeb and Mohamed Azman from the Newsletter and Magazine Committee, and we are here with Professor N.V Ramana Rao, the Director of NIT Warangal. He is a brilliant structural engineer and an academician. He has a tremendous amount of experience in the field of technical education.
Alright, let’s get started.
How are you today Sir?
I’m fine, thank you.
Q) It’s been six months since you’ve been the director of NIT Warangal, how has the experience been so far?
A) My experience has been very fruitful. In fact, I am enjoying this position because it gives me a great opportunity to work with intellectuals and also to further bring up the name of the institution, and see to it that it becomes the best technical institution in India.
Q) Can you describe a typical day in the office for you?
A) Usually, I come in at around 9:30 AM and receive the visitors. There’s no particular fixed time for the visitors, they are free to visit throughout the day. The first half an hour to one hour, I meet the visitors and then go through the files which are mostly matters related to academics, finance, and admissions. After that is done, I go for lunch and come back at 2 PM. And then I may have some meetings scheduled, depending upon the necessity followed by meetings with the construction, finance and other officers for updates. This is followed by a meeting with the teaching faculty from 3 to 4 PM. Around 5 PM, depending upon the pending work and situation, I call it a day. Otherwise, I go around the construction sites to monitor the progress or visit various departments.
Q) Quite a few construction projects are going on in the campus, could you tell us something about these infrastructural developments?
A) Two new buildings are coming up, one is the Biotechnology Department and the other, the Chemical Department. Apart from these, we are building a girls’ hostel and also renovate the Old Blocks so as to improve the accommodation for girls and other students. We are also planning to renovate the Old Auditorium and construct a new students’ building for academic and club activities.
Q) Talking about infrastructure upgradation, the Students’ Activity Centre (SAC) is an active hub for fest related activities, club meetings, dance, and music practices, etc. Many calls have been taken up for its renovation. Are there any plans in place for this?
A) Yes, we are planning on increasing the number of floors in the Students’ Activity Centre because of the fact that the number of clubs has increased and the students are more enthusiastic to conduct more events and meetings. I strongly believe that these clubs are a way of getting out energy from the students and it gives an opportunity for students to exploit their potential and skills. I believe every student has a spark of intelligence in them and that spark has to be ignited and this is where clubs play an important role. Furthermore, this also develops the all-round personality of a student. We want a student who is developed in all aspects not just academics, sports or club activities.
Q) Academically, NIT Warangal is far better than many of the newer IITs and most of the other NITs. The placement statistics have been excellent as well. However, it loses out on a few factors in terms of ranking. What are the steps to be taken to address the issue and what aspects are to be focused on?
A) The NIRF rankings are based on several parameters. It’s based on teaching, learn-ing, public perception and outreach. If you see the rankings, we have significantly improved as compared to last year and I’m sure with the help of our faculty we will crack the top 10 or 20, next year. This is because there is more competition and more people are competing which is good for us as we are also committed to excel. In fact, we realise that the public perception and outreach is where we are lacking. So we are trying to improve the public perception and also if you are aware, we have done a massive recruitment and will also have another round of recruitment, and when these faculty people are in place, we will be able to have a better research output, public perception, teaching and outreach. And because of this if you have seen in the newspaper, there has been a lot of good things said about our institute. Although there are some incidents where the institute’s name has been brought down, we have recovered now and are progressing. With the help of faculty and students, we will surely reach greater heights.
Q) Technologies in various fields are moving ahead at exponential rates. What are the steps taken to revise the curriculum and keep it up to date?
A) Actually, we revise the curriculum every two years with the help of committee members from various industries and feedback from students. So this is something which is a continuous process and we try to consolidate this every one or two years, so that a student coming out of NIT Warangal is aware of the latest knowledge and can get employed easily.
Q) In the recent inter-NIT sports events, NIT Warangal performed fairly well. In order to compete even better with other NITs and institutes in terms of sports, can we expect upgradation of infrastructure, per se, the building of a swimming pool and renovation of the stadium?
A) We are planning to build a swimming pool very soon. It cannot be done immediately due to water scarcity. Apart from that, regular upgradation of infrastructures for sports is happening. We plan to and are putting up more synthetic playing courts. We have intra-NIT competitions and a sports festival Ayodhan which was very well received. Apart from that, we had the inter-NIT tournament conducted in our college this year for various sports, in which we excelled, particularly in tennis and badminton. These types of activities inculcate a sense to perform better.
Q) In this world of growing competition and peer pressure which is making students nervous and disturbed in many cases, what’s your advice for students on going about their studies and career options?
A) Students should not take a lot of pressure because a lot of them are brilliant. They should avoid wasting time on non-productive things and focus on being disciplined and on education. If they have a disciplined and focused life they need not have any stress. And there are other avenues to relieve stress. We conduct cultural festivals. other events and sports meetings. Within a tight academic schedule, we have incorporated such activities and events so that students can release their stress and go about living a healthy life. We have counsellors and then we have Student Council members, who counsel students suffering from depression and stress. We have a Dean of Student Welfare who regularly and constantly monitors student activities. No student should stress themselves. Difficulties are a part of life. Some students may not be able to perform well in exams because of studying in the last moment and hence we want to counsel and mentor them in these things, so that they do not fall into stress and do well academically.
Q) There is a growing interest in ideas for startups on campus. Other than increasing funding for Innovation Garage, what else can be done to further develop entrepreneurship amongst students?
A) Entrepreneurship is, in fact, a very important thing. I strongly feel that all students should not be job seekers but be job creators. We actually have an innovation hub which receives a good amount of funding to strongly encourage these activities as it is a must that students have a creative mind over there. They can learn fast, so we must definitely give them an opportunity to learn and excel in their field of interest. Teamwork and other such things go a long way in building a student’s career and future.
Q) Majority of the engineering colleges in India provide a one week holiday after the mid-semester examinations for students. Do you think this could be implemented here? It will help students take that much-needed break from the stressful exams. This might as well negate the possibilities of mass bunks.
A) The academic schedules are tight. We have to incorporate many holidays and maintain a five day week, so in view of that, it will be difficult to implement at the moment. But in the future, it might be a good idea. We are also thinking of certain reforms like conducting cultural programs for the entire week so that students feel relaxed. When we totally allow students to go away. when they come back it disturbs their regular academic cycle. So we already have a well planned academic schedule that will be better than giving breaks after every exam, because then, it will become too hectic for them. Already you have raised the issue of student stress. Having too many lectures within a short period of time will cause them to get stressed. Keeping that in mind the present academic session schedule has been prepared. There are breaks in it, every now and then as well.
Q) Last year, around this time there was an outburst of dengue in the region. This left many seeking for medical help. What’s the admin doing in terms of improving the healthcare facilities for the students? And, how about a ten-bed hospital in the campus?
A) It is a very serious concern, a dengue outbreak. It happens when our surroundings are not clean. That is where we have a collective responsibility to keep our surroundings clean. We have also started fogging In all hostels so that mosquitos are reduced. Disposal of waste should also be made more systematic so cleanliness and hygiene are maintained. Through proper cleanliness and hygiene. there will be no place for mosquitoes in our campus.
Q) SpringSpree’18 and Technozion’17 earned accolades all around, post conclusion. Furthering these fests to be among the best in India will be the objective. What would your advice be in this direction?
A) Definitely, these kinds of activities highlight the potential of the students. When they organize these events they learn things that are beyond classroom learning. Classroom learning is only limited to the syllabus. In these events, you get to talk to experts and experience the world beyond the walls of college life. So definitely, I would encourage this. But at the same time, we should also see that students are thinking out of the box in these kinds of events. The student community should learn more and make the learning process and living enjoyable on the campus.
Q) What are your views on the first TEDx of the institute?
A) Even though it occurred well before I came here, it is to my understanding that it was an excellent event. A very good initiative taken up by the students and pulled off brilliantly.
Q) This year’s placement statistics have been excellent. What further initiatives and ideas could they take up to further bolster the institute’s placement record?
A) Definitely. As you are aware the institute and NIRF rankings are going up. We have a lot of new companies that are willing to pay large amounts of salaries for our students. We are also trying to secure some MoUs with the industry leaders. We are in the process. After seeing your potential many new companies are planning to visit the campus early. This year, almost all of our students got placed. Around 10% to 15%students wish to go for higher studies. Definitely, the coming years will be very bright for NIT Warangal students.
Q) In addition to the established 22 clubs, there are some that are not yet recognized by the administration, like the Sports Association or the Business Club that are formed by students of common interests. For being more active and constructive, higher funding is asked and required for. Is there a possibility to increase fundings or other forms of support for all the clubs and associations? And do you think any new clubs should be initiated?
A) The more the clubs, the better. But every club should have activities that are useful for the community; just increasing the number of clubs may not work out. Doing some substantial work will definitely help. Definitely, I want to increase the funding. I suggest the students to have an interaction with the industry, so that the industry can also facilitate some problems for the students to sit and brainstorm over. Definitely more clubs should be there and as far as funding is concerned, it is a need-based funding system. So definitely, we are ready to fund.
Q) The ERASMUS MUNDUS scheme that recently concluded, was one of a kind to provide exposure to faculty and students for institutions beyond NIT Warangal. Are there plans for any similar tie-ups?
A) Yes, we have the Dean of International Affairs who constantly tries to collaborate with various international institutions. Recently we had this grad scholarship, Erasmus Mundus as you said. We are focusing and trying for collaborations with various European, Chinese and other universities. The exposure of students to international institutions is definitely going to help improve their skills, vision and thinking capabilities.
Q) Mess food is something which has been brought up as a problem by the students repeatedly. Recently, the administration took action by closing down IFC-C and terminating the contracts of the caterers. How do you think the mess food problem can be solved once and for all. Will making the option of choosing a mess non-mandatory for the hostel boarders make any difference according to you?
There is no food like home food, that’s a fact. But when you come to college, to the hostel life, the repetitive cooking here, even though of good quality and taste can get boring. Definitely, with the student’s feedback and with interactions with them, we can improve the mess food at the same time, make sure the cost(mess fee) is not rising to exorbitant amounts. We have Food Street and canteen for the students for additional food. Definitely, mess food needs improvement and we’re looking into it.
Q) You had mentioned about new Ladies hostels’ being built. Until that’s complete, are there any plans in place to offer more amenities and improved facilities for the ladies in the existing hostels?
A) There are many things that we want to do for the ladies hostel, especially since the number of women residing there has increased. We are renovating Old blocks and also planning on constructing a new ladies hostel with more capacity, so that girl students can be accommodated in single rooms, so that they have more room and more space to study comfortably.
Q) What’s the new HEFA scheme all about?
A) This is a very good initiative taken by the government where the funding is proportional to the internal revenue of the college. It is sort of like a loan with interest, which is partly paid by the government but the principal part of the loan is paid by the college. It is our responsibility to spend the money judiciously and at the same time make sure that we have enough funding.
Q) If you were not an educationist, what career path would you have chosen?
A) If I was not an educationist I would have been a field engineer. But I always harbored a love for teaching. During my student life as well, I used to teach my classmates and that’s how I came into touch with teaching and according to me, it’s one of the best professions. This is a noble profession you feel a lot of happiness and satisfaction when your students are doing well. I get to inspire people and help along in nurturing their ideas, to see that they do really well.
Q) Any message or suggestions which you would like to pass on to students of NIT Warangal?
A) Students of NIT Warangal have a great future in this country and I strongly believe their energy should be used productively in terms of developing their academics or other skills and passions. This is essential for our students. Furthermore, they should not waste their precious time in things which are illegal and unhealthy. Students should utilize the resources and time, they have on hand productively.
That is all from us, thank you. We appreciate the time pulled out from your busy schedule.