The new VC of SRMIST, Chennai, Dr Sandeep Sancheti, has several ideas for education

Dr Sandeep Sancheti believes that, "We have the best talent and we have the vigour, but what we don't have is the exposure."
Dr Sancheti has been with several educational institutions
Dr Sancheti has been with several educational institutions

Dr Sandeep Sancheti is a teacher by choice and his choices have made him what he is today — the Vice-Chancellor of SRMIST, Chennai, formerly known as SRM University. The former Director of National Institute of Technology Delhi, Dr Sancheti started his career as an assistant professor at MBM Engineering College, Jodhpur, "and within a month, I fell in love with the students," and eventually the profession, he says. "And these are the breed of teachers we need. We need them to come willingly into the profession," says the professor, whose career spans 34 years. And the range of positions he has held and the experience he has gained has left him with a bevy of ideas, some of which he decided to share with us during a brief conversation. 

Dr Sancheti is currently the Vice-President of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) and will soon helm the organisation as the President. And though he agrees that Indian education ‘missed the bus’ when it comes to innovation — from steam engines to bullets — he sees no point in blindly following standards of universities abroad, and their university ranking systems even lesser. The focus, he insists, should be on our own challenges instead. Like making the whole approach more student-centric. Students should be allowed to design their own degree, tailor their combination as per their liking and not have to worry about the branch. He calls this ‘branchless engineering’. 

To increase the scope of research, another area Dr Sancheti wants to work on, he advocates a dedicated faculty for research, internal funding for research and more

He then shifts the conversation towards infrastructure, "and when I say infrastructure I don't just mean buildings, which are moving towards imbibing energy efficient and green features, I also mean technology," he says and illustrates his statement through an example of how we have a large number of electronic engineers, but no supercomputers. And though SRM already has iconic projects like the satellite they built, they have plans to build a rocket next. 

Dr Sancheti goes on to talk extensively and passionately about several ideas he has not only for SRM, but other institutes as well. He talks credit transfer and mentions AICTE's move to cut down the credit score to 160 and says that, "this doesn't mean the teaching load goes down, it just means that the interactivity level goes up." He also wants to bring in open book examinations with analytical questions, "because outside, it's about applying knowledge, not reproducing it," group evaluation and more. 

Dr Sancheti has been the recipient of the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship by the ACU, the SERC Fellowship by DST, Government of India, the UKISTRF award by the British Council and more

"The field of academics is full of opportunities and experiments can be done," he says enthusiastically. And it's not just the students he cares about, he is concerned about the faculty too. He wants them to upgrade themselves annually, not only in terms of subject knowledge, but even improve their pedagogy. Industrial internships can also help them recharge their batteries. 

We can imagine what an influence Dr Sancheti will be just by the way he keeps us engrossed in conversation. "I can go on and on about this," he laughs, as he concludes the conversation with a promise to share more another time.  

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