Narayana Murthy’s criticism is a thought-provoking observation

Intertwining the computer science related courses into core engineering, teaching AR/VR and technology to Arts-students, signing MoUs but not for the sake of MoUs and bringing industry-skills further upstream – these are just some of the new pages of a new higher-education course being taken in India.

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Intertwining the computer science related courses into core engineering, teaching AR/VR and technology to Arts-students, signing MoUs but not for the sake of MoUs and bringing industry-skills further upstream – these are just some of the new pages of a new higher-education course being taken in India. Pro Vice-Chancellor Dr. KNS Acharya, GITAM, Bengaluru Campus tells more as he addresses some key doubts in this classroom.


You have inked interesting MoUs recently—can you share ‘why’ and ‘the roadmap’ for the ones with Indian Navy, CSIR-IICT, NIO and also with foreign universities?

Our objective of signing these MoUs is for a win-win proposition and not MoU for the sake of MoU. The MoU with the Indian Navy aims to provide engineering students with opportunities for internships and projects in core engineering sectors, fostering an industry-oriented environment. Visakhapatnam—being one of the hubs of the Indian Navy—this initiative helps in national development and skill-building. As to CSIR-IICT, it is known for its expertise in synthetic organic chemistry, natural products chemistry, lipid science and technology, polymers and functional materials, agro-chemicals, analytical and structural chemistry, among other areas. It is one of the oldest national laboratories under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Our collaboration with this prestigious institute aims to organize invited lectures in core areas of mutual interest, submit project proposals for funding, and enable student visits for internships, training, and research exposure in accordance with the guidelines of host institutions.

On the foreign side, recently we have signed an MoU with Coventry University (UK) to foster research collaborations in the areas of mobility technologies, agro ecology, bio sensors and arts & humanities. The faculty and researchers have identified specific problems to work on with joint funding by respective universities thus enabling faculty – faculty collaboration, research student exchange, cultural exchange and more.


Can the practical skill-deficit issue be solved by bringing training and skilling to upstream areas—instead of waiting for students to join the workforce and depending on corporates to groom them? Are collaborations like ServiceNow, Ashtaksha Labs, Botanic Healthcare, Aurobindo Pharma and Pfizer happening in the same vein?

Addressing the practical skill deficit issue can indeed be approached by bringing training and skilling to upstream areas. GITAM has a very strong Industry advisory board comprising of Senior management members from 25+ companies like Bosch, KPIT, Marelli, L&T, Infosys, TCS, Gammon India, Honeywell, MathWorks, ISRO, HCL, Collins Aerospace, Samsung, Airbus, Applied materials, T-Systems etc. They are not only advising us to revamp our engineering curriculum, but also helping us build specific R&D and training labs so that students become highly employable.

Implementing practical training and skill development programs within the academic framework allows students to gain hands-on experience, develop industry-relevant competencies, and cultivate a deeper understanding of real-world applications of their knowledge.


What have been the highlights of the last two-three years at GITAM, especially when we think of research and collaborations?

Over the last three years GITAM has transformed itself from a Teaching Learning University to a Teaching Learning & “Research” university. The university has embarked upon setting up “Multidisciplinary Unit of Research on Translational Initiatives (MURTI) Research Labs. While Vizag campus MURTI labs focus on life sciences, drug discovery, & materials for biomedical devices, the Bengaluru MURTI Labs are focusing on mobility technologies, communication technologies, agriculture technologies, sensor technologies, basic sciences, materials & manufacturing. Research collaborations have been set up with prestigious organisations like Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone (AMTZ), Pfizer, Coventry University (UK), Infosys, Maini group, ICAR-NIVEDI, Indegene etc.

What about student intake and innovations happening by them? Any IP/Patents that have emerged?


As far as student intake is concerned, GITAM is now able to attract students from about 17 states across the country and about 400+ international students. Our intention is to make GITAM campuses as widely accepted by students across all states as possible. To promote the entrepreneurship mindset, we have invested in developing world class “Venture Development Centre (VDC)” and hired several professional venture coaches. Every student undergoes a course on Venture Development Foundations which is developed in collaboration with Northeastern University (USA). Over the last 3 years we have filed 77 Patents, published 56 patents and 9 patents granted as well.

What new areas of technology are on the front-burner for your curriculum and training programmes? Anything you can zoom in on AI, ML, VLSI, IoT, 5G, quantum, supercomputing, and semiconductors?

The revamping of our engineering curriculum has opened up many specializations – thanks mainly to our industry advisory board. The computer science stream though will continue to be offered as a specialization under AI, ML, cybersecurity etc, the fundamental shift that we are bringing in is about intertwining the computer science related courses/topics into core engineering. For example, civil engineering will now be offered as civil engineering with computer applications. Robotics & AI will be offered under mechanical specialization. Electronics will offer software defined vehicles as a specialization etc.


We strongly believe in the liberal education model. Hence even students from humanities and social sciences can choose courses from computer science to adopt technologies for their streams. In fact, we are running a joint course with Coventry University in adopting AR/VR technologies for the Indian art forms for students of both of our universities.

How crucial is R&D for academic institutions in India? Anything you can share here—like the Drug Discovery Centre?

R&D is incredibly crucial for academic institutions in India. It plays a pivotal role in fostering innovation, advancing knowledge, and keeping academic curriculums and programs up to date with the latest developments. Moreover, R&D activities enhance the overall academic environment, attracting top-tier faculty and students, and providing valuable practical exposure for learners. They also serve as a catalyst for collaborations between academia, industry, and government agencies, enabling knowledge transfer and the development of cutting-edge technologies.


How do you perceive Infosys Founder NR Narayana Murthy’s criticism of lack of strong research in Indian institutes and stress on rote learning?

As you may know I am an ex-Infoscion. I am aware of the importance that Infosys places on the quality of education in the country and the upskilling or cross-skilling of its own employees. Having seen it from close quarters for about 22+ years from the industry side, we must admit that there are issues. Narayana Murthy’s criticism regarding the lack of strong research in Indian institutes and the emphasis on rote learning is a significant and thought-provoking observation. His perspective highlights the need for a fundamental shift in the educational landscape in India.

Can you elaborate?


By emphasizing the importance of research, Narayana Murthy is advocating for a more innovation-driven academic environment and the cultivation of critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. This stands in clear opposition to the conventional rote learning approach, which typically prioritizes memorization over comprehension and practical application. Narayana Murthy’s remarks underscore the necessity to foster a culture of inquiry, experimentation, and interdisciplinary collaboration within Indian educational institutions. Promoting research not only contributes to the advancement of knowledge but also nurtures a spirit of curiosity and discovery among students and faculty.

Furthermore, by highlighting the drawbacks of rote learning, Narayana Murthy is shedding light on the need to reevaluate pedagogical methods and assessment practices to encourage deeper learning, analytical thinking, and the development of practical skills.

Narayana Murthy’s criticism serves as a valuable call to action for the transformation of Indian educational institutions, aiming to instigate a shift towards a more research-oriented, innovation-focused, and experiential learning paradigm.

Dr. KNS Acharya

Pro Vice-Chancellor, GITAM, Bengaluru Campus

By Pratima H