The University Grants Commission (UGC) started the innovative Professor-of-Practice (PoP) initiative in May 2023 in a bid to revolutionize the landscape of higher education in India. This visionary scheme, which gained remarkable traction in recent months, serves as a vital conduit between the realm of academia and the industry. By fostering collaboration and facilitating the exchange of ideas between these two domains, the PoP initiative is reshaping educational paradigms and equipping students with the tools they need to thrive in today’s competitive job market.
The cornerstone of the Professor-of-Practice initiative lies in its unique ability to bridge the chasm between theoretical knowledge and practical applications. In simple words, it can be said that this initiative will act as a bridge for the academic and industrial experience. This endeavor has attracted more than 8700 industry experts till now and secured the partnership of more than 230 esteemed higher education institutes, cementing its status as a pioneering force for change. This symbiotic relationship between industry professionals and academia not only enriches the educational experience for students but also ensures they are well-prepared to tackle the challenges posed by real-world scenarios.
The burgeoning popularity of the PoP program is evident in the surge of registrations and the 19 advertisements for PoP positions that have been disseminated across diverse disciplines. This trend underscores the enthusiasm among both industry veterans and academic institutions to participate in this revolutionary initiative. The initiative spans an array of fields, from engineering and healthcare to management and digital marketing, reflecting its commitment to a holistic education that nurtures practical acumen alongside theoretical expertise.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the PoP initiative is its potential to drive a seismic shift in the relationship between academia and industry. By actively engaging industry experts in the academic sphere, the initiative ensures that students are exposed to the latest trends, challenges, and breakthroughs that define their chosen fields. This dynamic interaction keeps educational content relevant and cultivates graduates who possess the skills and insights coveted by employers in today’s fast-paced job market.
The PoP initiative’s alignment with the Indian government’s “Make in India” campaign and focus on skill development has positioned it as a catalyst for innovation and economic growth. This union between academia and industry is poised to unleash a torrent of innovation, entrepreneurship, and research collaboration that will fuel India’s progress on the global stage.
While the momentum behind the PoP initiative is undeniable, it does not come without its fair share of challenges. Transparency and fairness in the selection process for PoP positions stand as critical imperatives, ensuring that the program continues to attract diverse and qualified professionals. Additionally, the establishment of clear guidelines delineating the roles and expectations of PoPs within educational institutions is paramount to maximizing the initiative’s potential.
Dr. Saumya Badgayan, Professor of Practice of Organisational Transformation at Hyderabad’s Woxsen University, says: “In contrast to full-time faculty, I bring 25 years of corporate experience along with my Ph.D. While regular faculty imparts theoretical knowledge, the Professor of Practice program infuses practical insights. For example, consider the BCG matrix, which I relate to the Johari window, and the urgent-important matrix. This approach bridges the gap between theory and real-world application.”
“The impact of this initiative on higher education is significant. It aligns theory with practice, preparing students for the corporate world realistically. Professors of Practice can guide students on career expectations and curriculum relevance, preventing rose-tinted visions. This practicality enhances students’ understanding of their field and the industry’s needs.”
Prof. Paroma Roy Choudhary, the Professor of Practice of School of Management and Entrepreneurship at Shiv Nadar University says, “I’ve been teaching as a Professor of Practice since 2020, and this approach has proven to be highly impactful. I draw from my own experiences in the corporate world and other sectors, using real-life examples, anecdotes, and guidelines to make lessons engaging and relatable. I’ve incorporated various methods like slide videos, LinkedIn articles, and role-playing based on my own experiences.
“For instance, in my module on cross-cultural communication, I share examples from my interactions with global teams in Japan, the US, the UK, Europe, and the Middle East. These hands-on practical insights resonate with students and prepare them for real-life situations.”
Choudhary goes on to add: “I receive consistently positive feedback from my students, even after they graduate. They reach out on LinkedIn to share how my lessons have helped them navigate their careers, and that’s the most rewarding part.
My classes cater to a diverse range of students, from those returning to work, like women needing a degree, to government servants looking for a career change. I even had a vigilance department official who wanted to switch to a more high-profile role and excelled in my class. There was also an army officer’s wife who found my communication lessons invaluable for her dream of starting schools.
The Professor of Practice initiative is critical for higher education, especially for students with diverse career paths. It bridges the gap between theory and practice, preparing them for the challenges they’ll face in the real world. It’s a game-changer, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Dr. Yajulu Medury, Vice-Chancellor of Mahindra University, says: “Distinguishing PoP’s teaching approach from conventional methods, it’s crucial to note that PoPs bring to the table a wealth of practical experience from their respective industries. Their teaching is profoundly application-centric, offering a refreshing departure from research-focused methodologies.”
“What sets PoPs apart is their unique perspective. They provide students with real-time insights into current industry trends, equipping them with skills directly in demand by the job market. Their interdisciplinary outlook and industry connections open doors to invaluable networking opportunities.
Additionally, PoPs engage students in industry-related projects, effectively bridging the chasm between theory and practice. They play a mentorship role, guiding students on the path to successful careers, where research and practical application complement each other seamlessly,” Medury explains.
“Looking ahead, the PoP initiative holds immense promise for higher education. However, its success depends on its effective implementation. When executed adeptly, it has the potential to elevate the quality and relevance of higher education, ensuring students are well-prepared for the dynamic demands of today’s workforce.”
Nonetheless, the UGC’s foray into the realm of PoP is a laudable stride toward reshaping the higher education landscape. With its meteoric rise in popularity and growing acceptance within both academic and industrial circles, this initiative is poised to bridge the gap between theory and practice. By nurturing students who are academically proficient and industry-ready, the PoP initiative is poised to mould a future where education and innovation walk hand in hand.
Talking about the eligibility criteria so, the criteria for aspiring Professors of Practice outlined by the UGC further underscore the program’s commitment to excellence. These criteria serve as a blueprint for identifying individuals who can make a transformative impact on higher education. Experts with at least 15 years of experience in various fields, including engineering, science, technology, entrepreneurship, social sciences, and more, are eligible for the PoP position. Remarkable contributions to their professions and a proven track record of service are the hallmarks of individuals who can elevate the academic landscape through this initiative.
In a refreshing departure from conventional academic requirements, the PoP initiative places emphasis on practical experience over formal qualifications. This recognizes the invaluable insights gained through hands-on expertise, empowering professionals to impart real-world knowledge to the next generation. Exemption from traditional publication expectations underscores the initiative’s focus on practical impact over theoretical output.
As the PoP initiative continues to evolve, its impact on the trajectory of higher education in India is poised to be profound. This ground-breaking approach holds the potential to create a generation of graduates armed with the skills, insights, and acumen to excel in their chosen fields. With each registration, partnership, and interaction, the initiative inches closer to its goal of seamlessly integrating academia and industry for the betterment of India’s future workforce.