From humble beginnings under the aegis of the Sri Lakshmi Ammal Educational Trust in 1984 with just 300-odd engineering students to being one of the world’s top-ranked academic institutes catering to 18,000 students today, the Bharath Institute of Higher Education and Research (BIHER) has come a long way.
Last year, the SCImago Institutions Ranking 2021 ranked BIHER as the number one private university in India, and not only credited BIHER as the top Indian university for research but also as the only private university from India in the list of top 300 global universities in research.
With programs in Engineering, Medicine, Environmental Science, Computer Science, Physics and Astronomy, BIHER’s phenomenal rise is credited to the quality of academic research output, innovation output, and societal impact over the last four decades.
In a chat with Education Post’s Rohit Wadhwaney, BIHER President Dr. Sundeep Aanand talks about his vision.
“The best brains of the nation may be found on the last benches of the classroom. That’s what we’re trying to achieve at our campuses – we are scanning the last benches for geniuses,” says Dr. Aanand, quoting former Indian President Bharath Ratna Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam.
To explain the meaning of the quote, Dr. Aanand announced on June 9 that the Bharath Group will fund and assist 100 deserving underprivileged students to pursue research grants abroad. “No student studying in any of our institutions should ever feel that he/she cannot do research overseas for lack of funds. We will help disadvantaged students who have great ideas,” Dr. Aanand said.
The Bharath Institute of Higher Education and Research (BIHER) has diversified domains. How do you ensure that the faculty for such a variety of departments are at par with the best?
It is not without reason that BIHER is regarded as one of the leading private multi-stream universities in India. When the institution first opened its doors in 1984 in Tamil Nadu, it was among the first self-financed engineering colleges in the state, with just about a handful of degree programs catering to about 300-odd students.
Today, almost four decades later, BIHER’s dedicated service to the student community has seen the institution grow into a multi-stream deemed university, with four campuses in Chennai and Puducherry, catering to over 18,000 students from across India and abroad.
Nearly 40 percent of the 2100-strong teaching staff hold doctorate degrees. Besides, BIHER is a research-focussed university – it has over 30,000 research publications to its name, 510 patents, and 140 ongoing research projects with a combined funding of more than Rs. 50 crores.
Also, BIHER has more than 525 Memorandums of Understanding with leading educational institutions around the world for dual degrees, collaborative research, student exchange programs and higher education opportunities.
Our emphasis on life skills training backed by an international standard curriculum attracts more than 200 corporate recruiters to our campuses every year, with an annual placement record of a whopping 95 percent.
The most pursued fields of study continue to be engineering and medicine. Tell us about these courses and the benefits they offer to students.
The Sri Lakshmi Ammal Educational Trust, under which the Bharath Institute of Science and Technology (BIHER’s previous name) was established in 1984, created the School of Medicine in 2003 with an aim to provide quality medical education.
The School of Medicine, spread across three campuses, offers undergraduate and graduate programs in 19 different specialities. It has state-of-the-art infrastructure, comprising of pleasant, comfortable, well-furnished buildings, labs, classrooms for students, separate quarters for employees and nurses, and, not to mention, world-class technical equipment.
The School of Engineering is aimed at nurturing effective and successful engineers. Graduates from the School of Engineering are already working in positions of responsibility both in India as well as abroad.
Thanks to our highly skilled faculty, the School of Engineering, with its specifically developed course, is already at par with its domestic and international competitors. It has collaborated with renowned construction firms in the disciplines of structural design, soil investigations, foundation design, earthquakeresistant engineering, high-performance concrete development, structural rehabilitation, and environmental pollution control among others.
The New Education policy lays down the provision for multidisciplinary education by amalgamating different streams of study. How have you implemented the same in BIHER?
Our new education strategy ensures that students, regardless of where they live, receive high-quality education with special focus on historically marginalised, underprivileged, and underrepresented groups. Initiatives are in place to ensure that, despite inherent difficulties, all students from such groups have access to a variety of opportunities to enter and excel in academics.
A multidisciplinary approach focuses on redefining problems outside of traditional bounds, utilising multiple methodologies from various academic fields to arrive at answers based on a fresh understanding of difficult situations.
By combining multiple streams of study, the national education policy provides for multi-disciplinary education. BIHER offers the dissemination of ideas that are broadly applicable in real-world contexts, particularly inter-disciplinary doctoral research that adheres to the standards of the United Grants Commission (UGC).
The new education strategy aims to teach students how to think critically to solve problems, as well as to be creative, innovate, adapt, and absorb new information in innovative and changing domains
BIHER coordinates multi-disciplinary studios and gatherings for the understudies of various resources for refreshed elite exploration. Interdisciplinary examinations help in tackling an issue that is so expansive or complex that it can’t be tended to through a solitary discipline or field.
What are your views about the global perspective for students, especially students who have suffered due to the war in Ukraine?
The Ukraine Embassy in India has made clear that the recent war with Russia can have a huge impact on the educational system of our country, mostly in the fields of medicine, pharma, information technology and engineering.
Keeping this in mind, BIHER provides economic subsidies to the affected international students to restart studies, which they might have discontinued, in our Chennai campuses.
The research opportunities and facilities that are provided in the institute are among the best in the world. How do you ensure that the research is impactful and helpful in availing patents?
Established organizational structures of BIHER aid in the planning, execution, and monitoring of research activities, as well as the formulation of rules, regulations, and policy frameworks for the use of our facilities and resources.
A thriving ecosystem in BIHER intends to give a boost to long-term research and innovation, foster collaboration between governments, universities, research institutes, and businesses with an aim to give students inter and intra-institutional exposure.
BIHER has created a long-term research ecosystem with high throughput technologies and advanced infrastructure that result in increased productive results. We collaborate with national and international sectors to encourage collaborative research and expose students to inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary fields in order to make research outputs useful.
BIHER’s administrative structure allows it to develop strategic alliances with significant industrial players, research groups, institutions, associations, NGOs, and government authorities.
Mutual assistance from funding agencies, companies and the government has strengthened resource sharing.
BIHER projects, including design and developmental interventions as well as methodologies incorporating a theory of action, intervention components, and preliminary evidence to enhance educational results, are patented.
After filing a patent application, the design and development research is assessed for wider-scaling, implementation and commercialization. Research on implementation, adaptation, and adoption is an important part of our endeavours.
Apart from research, it is necessary to collaborate with industry players to make students professionally prepared. How does the institute implement such collaboration?
We encourage collaborative businesses and start-ups, and the sharing of ideas between industries and students.
The institute provides various national and international programs like seminars, conferences, internships and training. In addition, we encourage the concept of techno-entrepreneurship and sustainability of viable bio and healthcare enterprises. We support both large-scale and small-scale industrial projects, and even provide students with incubators to develop the same.
On Campus, we have created an ecosystem which offers every student to have a chance to be innovative, creative and tactical to achieve mastery in their respective fields of study.
Tell us about your plans for further boosting the centre of excellence and research publications?
At BIHER, centres of excellence are defined as organizational environments that strive for and achieve high standards of conduct in a field of research, innovation, or learning.
Centre of Excellence schemes combine academic and socioeconomic goals. However, a common distinction was made between plans primarily aimed at generating scientific excellence for someone whose purpose is to stimulate technological innovation in some sector and those with broader social objectives, such as adaptation measures or major development guidelines in a field of research, innovation, or learning.
The unifying goal for BIHER’s Centre of Excellence is to support systematic and applied research and expert knowledge with potential industrial applications. This usually involves funding internationally competitive research and development in strategic and applied scientific knowledge (which includes medicine) with the goal of motivating innovation.
BIHER brings the resources and capabilities together for technical development and industrial application. This includes concentrating interdisciplinary team expertise in specific research domains to advance the development of products, mechanisms, and services, typically by focusing on problems requiring more effort than smaller projects can provide.
We bring the researchers and users closer together to improve the chances of industry scientific research and to make the university more suitable for industry needs in general. One of the goals is to provide Ph.D. training in areas of industry interest.
A publication strategy can also assist in resolving some common conflicts in the direction of academic inquiries, such as how to reconcile personal research interests, local research strategies and funding. A well-thought-out publication strategy will aid in the production of an optimal portfolio of research outputs, maximize academic impact, and support career development.