Six months into his new job as vice-chancellor of Anna University, Dr. P. Mannar Jawahar, an alumnus of Anna University, IIT-Delhi and Warsaw University of Technology, is infusing his vast experience in teaching, research and placement programmes into India’s premier engineering and technology university. As vice-chancellor of the Chennai campus (Anna University was quadfurcated into the Chennai, Trichy, Coimbatore and Tirunelveli campuses in January 2007), he supervises the operations and sets the development agenda of the university’s four constituent colleges in Chennai, which together host 11,800 top-ranking students, 500 faculty and 137 affiliated colleges. And high on his priorities list is initiation of a durable research nexus between the university and industry, and raising teaching standards in its 137 affiliated colleges.
“Numerous IT and automobile companies based in Tamil Nadu are engaged in independent research activity. We want to persuade them to set up incubation and research centres in our colleges, availing our infrastructure and faculty expertise and involving our students in industry-relevant research projects. Secondly, there’s a pressing need to upgrade the quality of teaching in our affiliated colleges, to which end we have advised college managements to employ highly qualified faculty and remunerate them well,” says Jawahar, who began his teaching career at Anna University in 1978, served as head of the departments of automobile engineering (three terms) and production technology (one term) at the Madras Institute of Technology. In 2004 he was appointed director of the Centre for University-Industry Collaboration (CUIC), before being promoted to the office of vice-chancellor of the university in mid 2008.
During his tenure as director of CUIC which manages the university’s industry placement and training programmes, he initiated the Tamil Nadu State Level Placement Programme (TNSLPP) in 2004, which extended the benefit of campus recruitment to all 240 self-financing (i.e. private sector) engineering colleges statewide. As a result, during the past three years, over 22,000 students of 222 engineering colleges in the state, and 9,000 students of university depart-ments were placed in reputable software multinationals and core engineering companies. Moreover, the number of engineering colleges affiliated to the four Anna University campuses has risen to 354 and Jawahar wants to extend the campus recruitment facility to all of them.
Yet, his most ambitious goal is to transform Anna University into the premier technical institution of India — on a par with the IITs. “With the co-operation of expert faculty, we are breaking new ground in socially-oriented research. For instance, researchers at our Crystal Growth Centre have developed a light-emitting diode, which cuts electricity costs by 50 percent, and can not only provide cheap and clean power but can also be used for water purification. Last year, 366 Anna University research students were awarded doctorates and this number is set to increase. Moreover, we plan to introduce postgraduate programmes in space technology, architecture and hospitality management, in the next academic year. With industry-academia collaboration intensifying, this goal is eminently attainable,” says Jawahar.
Way to go!
Hemalatha Raghupathi (Chennai)