In an exclusive series of interviews with Entrepreneur First magazine, we have the privilege of engaging with Mr. Umesh S. Raju, the esteemed Pro-Chancellor of REVA University. A visionary leader and trailblazer in the field of education, Mr. Raju’s insights and expertise have played a pivotal role in shaping the remarkable journey of REVA University.
Join us as we delve into the dynamic world of education with Mr. Raju, exploring the university’s inception, its commitment to academic excellence, innovative initiatives, and the strides taken toward building a positive and inclusive learning environment. Discover how REVA University continues to spearhead education with a focus on research, cutting-edge technology, and a strong emphasis on students’ holistic development.
Embark on this insightful journey, and gain a deeper understanding of the university’s vision and values under the visionary leadership of Mr. Umesh S. Raju.
Q. Can you please tell us in brief about your university?
Our Founder Chancellor, Dr. P. Shyama Raju established the University in 2013 while he had already established a group of colleges prior to the University under the Trust: Rukmini Educational Charitable Trust in Bengaluru. Over a period of more than a decade, the group has grown to be one of the most sought-after education institutions in the country. REVA University is a State Private University established in Karnataka State under the Government of Karnataka Act No. 13 in the year 2012 in Bengaluru, the IT capital of India. The University commenced its academic activities in the academic year 2013-14. The University is spread over 45 acres of land and has a sprawling green campus. With state-of-the-art infrastructure, the University has created a vibrant academic environment conducive to higher learning and research. The University is recognized by the University Grants Commission (UGC) and is approved by the AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education), BCI, COA, and other regulatory bodies. We have entered the Top 100 Universities in NIRF Innovation ranking 2023 with it featuring in 51-100 bands. The University has a DIAMOND Band ranking from QS I Gauge. Currently, as per QS Asian University Rankings, it is ranked 47th among all the private Universities of India and 6th among all private universities of Karnataka.
Q. Tell us about your role and responsibility in the University?
While Dr P. Shyama Raju is the Chancellor of REVA University, I was appointed as Pro-Chancellor of REVA University in September 2022. I currently oversee the entire digitisation of the University to bring efficacy into the Operational Experience at the University apart from ensuring student engagement and experience on the campus to ensure top-class and in sync with the world standards technology. I also bring along efficacy in operations by taking care of the entire operations of REVA University.
Q. What courses and programs does your university offer, and how do they stand out from other educational institutions in the area?
The University currently offers 39 full-time Under Graduate Programmes, 28 full-time Post Graduate programs, 2 postgraduate part-time programs, 18 PhD programs, and 4 certificate and diploma programs. The University offers programs under the faculty of Engineering, Architecture, Science and Technology, Commerce, Management Studies, Law, Arts & Humanities, and Performing Arts & Indic Studies. REVA offers some of the trending fields of study as undergraduate courses in Sports Science (B. Sc.), Agricultural Engineering (B. Tech), and Aerospace Engineering (B. Tech) which are full-time application-based programs with a unique blend of theory and practical components. As is evident, the University is not only multidisciplinary but is also Transdisciplinary in its approach. After having established itself as a Teaching University, today REVA stands tall as a Social Impact University and has left its footprints in the world of education through its major contribution to society.
Q. What is the student-to-faculty ratio at your university, and how does it enhance the learning experience?
At REVA, we have a 15:1 student-to-faculty ratio, where highly qualified and experienced faculty members provide in-depth and detailed attention to students. This enables mentoring and customized and individual monitoring of students. The faculty are more of friends and guides to students and hence teaching-learning becomes a unique experience for students. Informal and formal teaching and learning make the learning process an experience to be remembered lifelong and add value to the learning experience of the student. The programs offered by REVA University are well planned and defined after a detailed study of the industrial need, social relevance, and global job markets. Highly qualified and experienced faculty and scholars from reputed universities /institutions, and experts from industries and business sectors have contributed to preparing schemes of instruction and curricula for these programs.
Q. How do you support the professional development and growth of your faculty members?
At REVA, we place a strong emphasis on research and innovation. It is important for REVA and its faculty members to contribute to research and ultimately their professional growth. We regularly organize seminars, workshops, research conclaves, and other distinctive forums for participation in academic cross-cultural and idea exchange. Such forums can help research and ideas advance to new frontiers in innovation. It also brings together such a diverse group of academicians, researchers, scholars, and students on one platform thereby making progress and moving in the right direction. A distinctive feature of the University is that we invest time in the spiritual and mental wellbeing of our faculty as well for we strongly believe that a healthy mind and approach towards education is a must in this world.
Q. What initiatives does your university have in place to promote diversity and inclusion on campus?
Students from all walks of life and from all parts of the country and worldwide are enrolled at the University. This builds diversity amongst the students and the halls of residence make it a great experience for students to network and connect with each other. Staff diversity is ensured by recruiting faculty from across the country and we also have international faculty of repute who handle capstone modules of classes for students. Diversity is also ensured by the healthy ratio of all genders on campus. Leadership at REVA has a strong representation of women faculty in senior roles. The campus is a heaven for girl students who feel safe and secure at the campus. Counseling and periodic interventions in terms of sessions conducted for all students ensure that there is no gender bias. The committees that are set at the campus which include grievance redressal and anti-sexual harassment cells are active and are more of support systems for students.
At REVA University, we ensure to promote diversity and inclusivity on the campus with a variety of programs. We adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as part of our commitment to society. As part of SDGs, REVA University is working to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment through a series of initiatives like Nyaya Darshana, Samaavesha, and Pancavaktram to name a few. REVA University ensures that it contributes to the larger goal of betterment and a humane vision of higher education. By doing so, it aligns with creating a society that is committed to sustainable development and ultimately the betterment of people’s lives.
Q. How has your university adapted its teaching methods and infrastructure to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic?
In 2020, when the landscape of education changed, and Blended Learning became new the normal, REVA University was ahead of time and transitioned to online classes in less than 3 days. While we are enabled to conduct 100% online classes and digital examinations, the University is constantly striving to adopt modern methods like Microsoft and Salesforce that will enrich the learning experience for students at REVA University. The trend continues to date and we do offer the Hybrid model of teaching-learning as and when required. All our operations are digitized and we believe in a paper-free campus as far as possible. The IT infrastructure and the investment towards the required academic IT infrastructure has been our goal. Hence SLCM and other portals that support students are in place at the campus and students are encouraged to use the entire IT infrastructure and support.
Q. In what ways do you incorporate new educational technologies and immersive learning experiences to benefit your students?
Emerging trends in education are what the REVA team is sensitive to. Hence pedagogy variations and advancements are prime to us. Experiential learning, collaborative and cooperative learning, and flipped classrooms have been well-adapted by the faculty. Technology-based learning aces all pedagogy and hence virtual reality simulations and Augmented reality encounters are part of the student experience.
At REVA University, we have effectively integrated and used digital learning tools in classrooms, boosting student engagement, assisting faculty members to improve their lesson plans, and utilizing online learning as a potent education tool. We also incorporated virtual classrooms, video, augmented reality (AR), robots, and other technological tools thereby making learning environments accessible and conducive to the development of essential 21st-century skills.
Q. What are the emerging trends in higher education today, and how is your university staying ahead of the curve?
At REVA, we are on the right path as we are following a multi-fold approach with continuous monitoring to implement the NEP smoothly. I hope that we, as a team effectively implement the NEP 2020 and thereby develop a social connection with leadership qualities, ethical and moral values, research culture, and innovative skills through higher education of global standards. Mental health awareness is the key today in higher education and as a University we have invested our resources in ensuring that mental health is promoted amongst the youth today. Embracing Artificial Intelligence is prime too and focusing on the skill gaps to ensure students are placed in the industry or groomed as entrepreneurs is importance. Technology plays a huge role in this and this is where integration of IT has been taken care of.
Q. What were the most significant obstacles your university had to overcome to achieve its current standing?
I would not call them obstacles, but say challenges have been there spearheading the University towards what it is today and what we aspire to be in the future. Quality delivery at all rungs of the University has always been a challenge and a lot of time and energy gets into building the deliverables of the Quality Cell. Research and Innovation and the constant struggle to grow and emerge to be a research-based university in the future is a challenge. Teacher quality and ensuring that this aspect is constantly under scrutiny is yet another challenge. Teachers need to be technology-driven to face the future and this is a constant perseverance I would say.
Q. As a leader of your university, what important decisions have you made to improve the overall academic environment?
Onboarding students with the least human intervention has been challenging for processes and manual work can be boring for a first-time student at the University. Hence enhancing the student onboarding experience has been a great initiative taken by the University. Data and ensuring MIS is in place is critical for quality delivery at University and this has been streamlined over the years. Engaging learners at all levels through SLCM has been another achievement.
Q. How do you foster a positive and supportive culture for students and staff within the university?
We have a student wellness program being offered to students under Manodhaara and also an Athlete Wellness program being offered to students under the REVA Athlete Wellness program. This ensures that we channel all our efforts toward building a positive student culture. Faculty mentoring is another important aspect that enables us to groom our students. Students are members of clubs and committees and this ensures there are varied activities for them to network and hone their talents.
Q. What strategies have you adopted to attract and retain top-notch faculty and students?
Adhering and aligning to all compliance-related matters has been a major pull for faculty and students. Transparency in governance, various faculty welfare schemes, and a secure ambiance and happy work culture have enabled us to build a different work culture at the campus.
Q. What are some of your future endeavors in terms of expanding academic programs or campus facilities?
If you have noticed our growth over this short period of time, we have been among the pioneers to offer an array of programs and this acts as a catalyst for multidisciplinary learning at the campus. Based on our stakeholder’s feedback we shall continue to ensure that we are future-ready.
Q. What is the best advice you can give to students considering enrolling at your university?
At REVA University, students are part of a vibrant community that values academic excellence and diversity. As a Social Impact and Innovative University they have the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research and creative opportunities with our top-notch faculty and staff. It will undoubtedly give them a deeper understanding and a more enlightened viewpoint.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your university’s vision and values?
Besides top-notch academics and faculty members, REVA also has tie-ups with industry leaders and companies. We have a Technology Business Incubator – REVA NEST- aimed to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem by empowering and nurturing student start-ups and incubating innovative technology-based start-ups. We also have a Career Development Centre that assists students in choosing the right career path through interest mapping and training for experts and imbibing skills so that they are well-equipped during the transition from campus to corporate. With world-class infrastructure and thoughtfully planned learning spaces, we provide our students with a supportive and nurturing environment that cherishes innovation, independent thought, creativity and diversity at REVA University.