Dr. Madhu Chitkara
Born February 16th, 1956 at New Delhi
Vice-Chancellor, Chitkara University
A teacher by heart with quest of excellence in mind and education as a mission of life -describes my life so far. My journey started as a teacher of Mathematics. Currently holding position of Vice Chancellor of Chitkara University, Punjab, Pro Chancellor of Chitkara University, Himachal Pradesh and Chairperson of Chitkara International School and Co-founder of Chitkara Education Trust. Winner of Women Entrepreneurship in South East Asia Award by Washington School of Business through its Hot Mommas Project. Education is my aim and strongly committed to contribute in building India – a knowledge society.
The Vagaries & Victories of Being a Visionary
State your Openness to New Information
Information has been a key to breakthrough several times for Chitkara Leadership. We strongly agree that a progressive mind can never stop hunting needful information and opportunities to hug & execute with all openness in their mind & heart. However, the biggest challenge is to filter the right information from wrong or spurious one.
In 2002, when the whole region and country was undergoing a paradigm shift in technical education, we took an informed decision to open an Engineering Institution in 2002 at Chandigarh-Patiala National Highway. The focus was on industry-oriented hand on curricula and a focused approach to produce industry ready graduates.
Back tracking we explored and found that the basis of producing good graduates out of HEIs is to be able to feed into it able, innovative and ready-to-learn students. We opened up Chitkara International School at Chandigarh in 2004, which required students not to adopt rote-learn and pass-exams approaches, but be their own self and be creative. Today CIS has on the country’s top school chart list.
Following the vision of contributing to knowledge economy further, we opened a Private University in state of Himachal Pradesh in Atal Shiksha Kunj (Education Hub created by state government) in 2008 as a first private player. While Chitkara University, Punjab is a multidisciplinary campus, we took a conscious decision to make Chitkara University, Himachal Pradesh an engineering campus. This gave CUHP a niche in the area for engineering education.
Instances of Your Wild Weird Wallowed Imaginations
which translated into a Dominant Reality
I thought of creating a university / organization which should be flat. Unlike traditional universities, which are by nature very hierarchical in nature, I always dreamt of making one with flat structure, where everybody including Deans, administrators, teachers and students are empowered with the right set. Today I am proud to say the largest level of hierarchy from a helper to Vice Chancellor, is 3, which means that decision-making is much faster and the sense of responsibility is much higher.
When our very first batch of students were getting admitted to the Chitkara of Engineering and Technology (CIET), I and Dr Ashok Chitkara took a unanimous decision that never in our life, starting from day one, would charge any capitation fee on any of the seats. The imagination was wild and sustainability of the whole system was questionable. But we stood firm, and though we have grown from 1000 students to 8000 students, till today we do not charge any capitation fee on any of the seats. Thus, we have turned the sustainability, once in question, into reality.
We wanted to contribute to the society in our own unique way. At the time the concept of CSR was not extended to universities, we adopted five villages in nearby areas and sensitized our students and faculty to care for their needs. While nobody told us, we imagined and took courage to design our curriculum to be inclusive. We built project as part of curricular studies to create positive impact on their lives. It is very heartening to see that now Chitkara University family is a part of the village community in a seemingly invisible way and impacting their lives in a qualitative way.
Your Sensitivity Index which helped you to acquire much extra information
Knowing something cannot be stated as Information. Information is what we sought. We have been very sensitive to our stakeholders; Students, Faculty/Staff, Industry and Parents through out
- Our being sensitive to all stakeholders helped us
• Creating more than 31 relevant industry linked programs in the fields of (Engineering, Management, Architecture, Art & Design, Nursing, Healthcare, Teacher Training, Mass Communication and Pharmacy) at graduate, postgraduate and Doctorate level. Each program is supported by Industry.
• Building Incubation Center for our students having entrepreneurial mind with more than 29 companies in place & running successfully.
• Establishing CURIN (Chitkara University Research & Innovation Network) a network of people who explore and innovate, who think differently.
• Building strong network with 85 Universities and Institutions all across the globe covering USA, UK, France, Germany, China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, and many more to make our students globally acceptable and capable.
• Creating strong Industry linkages to bring best of employment opportunities for our young graduates in the companies of repute such as Infosys, Amazon, Mahindra, Fortis, Safexpress, SAP, Deloittee, Morgan Stanley, Ernst & Young & many more to count on.
Examples of Your Predictions & Striving for Accomplishing the same
In our quest to be more and do more, we have now evolved to be ranked sixth in the north zone and 17th overall, according to Dataquest ranking. Chitkara University has been applauded for having one of the finest B-Schools (Ranked best B-School by Business World, Higher Education and Business Today) and now it has been ranked for having the best T-School.
Especially, noteworthy is the fact that we are the highest ranked university among all universities, i.e. we are once again No.1 in Punjab, HP, J&K and Uttarakhand. With this, Chitkara University has broken into the top 10 university in North India by placing sixth on the rank list. Dataquest has ranked universities according to their quality of education and infrastructure for more than five years now and Chitkara University has gained 17th place since the last year when it got reflected in the Dataquest ranking.
Chitkara College of Pharmacy is ranked 17th amongst more than 500 Pharmacy Institutions in India by AICTE-MHRD -NIRF-ranking released by MHRD on April 4, 2016.
Chitkara International School sits confidently at one of the top positions in the national level survey – The Indian School rankings 2016. The survey was conducted by Education World in association with C-fore, Delhi. Under the survey, 28 cities and education hubs across India were surveyed to rate the country’s top 1000 schools. The schools were judged on the parameters on individual attention given to students, Leadership/Management Quality, Co-curricular Education ‘internationalism and Life Skills Education & Conflict Management.
Chitkara International School bagged two more awards in 2016; one for being one of the top 5 schools in the region under the category of best co-education schools and second for being one of the top 5 schools overall in the city under the category of best schools in the Education World India School Ranking 2016
The Persistence of Pursuing
I started my career with humble beginnings. I wanted to become an engineer but capacity constraints in Indian engineering colleges prevented me from fulfilling my ambitions. I was frustrated and joined an undergraduate programme with mathematics as majors. I got my bachelor’s degree in 1975 and then took up studies leading to Bachelor of Education (B.Ed). As per the prevailing customs in India at that time I got married to settle down in life as a school teacher. My husband, the then classmate in B.Ed, had also become a school teacher. Simultaneously, we continued our studies leading first to M.Ed and later M.Sc (Mathematics). I went on to acquire a PhD degree associated with Education and got a job as a lecturer in a college. My husband also joined the faculty in a university after acquiring his Ph.D. To exploit our talents, I and my husband started Chitkara Institute of Competitions (CIC) to prepare students for various competitive examinations. Our stature as good educators was noticed by the students and the reputation of CIC grew. I realized that while my husband possessed tremendous intellectual capital to teach, I also had the entrepreneurial skills to match. I had a desire to do something noticeable in the formal segment of higher education. Indian laws require that only a registered Trust or a Society can establish a formal educational institution. Thus, in 1998, I and Dr Chitkara established Chitkara Educational Trust. Thereafter, in 2002, I took a calculated risk and both, I and Dr Chitkara, resigned from tour respective jobs to establish Chitkara Institute of Engineering and Technology (CIET), affiliated to Punjab Technical University. It was a big risk because both our children had still not completed their education. While my husband concentrated on strengthening the CIC, I got busy with CIET. Establishing our own engineering institution proved to be our ‘aha’ moment. In the meanwhile, our son returned from the USA after obtaining his MBA and joined us to help in marketing and brand building. As an ethical practice, we ensured that all admissions to CIET were based strictly on merit. Further, we paid due attention to the needs of girls and underprivileged sections of society.
In 2003, we started with Chitkara College of Education for Women which became immensely popular.Our success emboldenedus to diversify further and in 2004, we launched Chitkara School of Planning and Architecture. The same year Chitkara International School commenced its operations. Chitkara School of Pharmacy and Chitkara School of Hospitality (CSH) came up in 2005. Very soon, Chitkara morphed from a family name to a brand name.
Year 2008 was a major milestone in the saga of Chitkara. CIET was ranked amongst the top 50 engineering institutions in the country and CSH was accorded the status of Institute of Hospitality Management by National Council of Hospitality Management and Catering Technology. But we were not satisfied because all our educational institutions were affiliated to different universities and we had no control over the curriculum design, academic innovations, pedagogy and that prevented us from adopting a learning-centric approach. Yet another ‘aha’ moment came in 2008 when we were able to establish Chitkara University in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. With the University, we got the autonomy to adopt means to provide quality education. Soon we established Chitkara School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Chitkara Business School and Chitkara School of Health Sciences.
However, we wanted to do more. A number of our educational institutions in the state of Punjab were still affiliated to different universities. In 2010, we were able to set up Chitkara University, Punjab. It was no mean achievement to rise from a school teacher to create two universities and a Grade 12 school in Chandigarh.
The Cauldron of Conviction
Having come from a teaching background, I had no knowledge of the complex and archaic web of rules and regulations woven by education regulatory agencies at the central and state government levels. I was a single member team to deal with officials of land revenue department, building bye-laws, environment and pollution control and numerous labour laws, while we were building our first engineering institution in 2001. Indian construction industry is also poorly unregulated especially for the quality of manpower employed in the sector. Higher education institutions require safe, functional and sophisticated structures that meet the aspirations of various stakeholders. Moreover, the agencies involved in construction of buildings are notorious for time and cost over-runs. I had to meet the timelines laid down by the regulators. Thus, timely, economic and good quality constructions were the major challenges, I faced at that time.
I wanted thatour educational institutions should be known for quality education. Thus, hiring of good faculty, drawing up the curricula for different courses and equipping the laboratories were major challenges. Being a mathematician, I was not familiar with the nuances of other disciplines and it was a herculean task to get that done. I had to ensure that the equipment for laboratories was of good quality and was procured at competitive rates.
Since I was a new entrant in the field of education-entrepreneurship and had to compete for students and faculty with some of the well established names in the sector, all I could promise to our potential students was that we will not compromise on quality of education. We did massive efforts to train our faculty on latest and innovative pedagogical practices, curriculum design, and other mentorship aspects.
Arranging financial support was another challenge that I faced throughout our growth phase. I had to approach banks and other financial institutions that were reluctant to invest in the ventures of a new and inexperienced entrepreneur.
In 1998, India was still a very conservative society where women entrepreneurs had not yet made their mark. I had to struggle to prove my credentials and convince the bureaucracy and the financial institutions that we would be able to achieve our goals. Moreover, I had to deal with semi-literate workforce of the construction industry.
Our children had yet not completed their education when I took up my first challenge in 1998. Setting up and managing new institutions was a full time job but with full family support, I mustered all my skills to arrive at work-life balance.
What’s your personal vision for the Institution you are heading currently?
Building a sustainable knowledge society through innovation, entrepreneurship and academic excellence.
– Carrying out the academic process for achieving excellence through active teacher-student-industry participation
– Promoting research, innovation and entrepreneurship in collaboration with industries and laboratories
– Inculcuating high moral, ethical and professional standards amongst our students
– Contributing to build a skillful society
How would you like to see India’s Educational System
Unfurling and playing a lead role in defining & determining the
national discourse ?
India’s education system has still to take many steps forward. Schooling in India requires to be at its best, at first; it will lead to the best output in Higher Education Institutions. Regulator needs to act as a facilitator and help the all kind of institutions to grow.
We are in the occupation of building lives & developing social fabric. Terming it merely as a Challenge will not be sufficient in the realms of education ecosystem. The responsibilities are massive. As a Vice Chancellor, I am always attached to all aspects ofour University’s operations on regular basis such as development of latest curriculum and courses, faculty empowerment, meeting industry requirements, grooming students on life skills, managing resources, regulatory requirements, raising requisite infrastructure & meeting university’s social responsibility. As a Vice Chancellor, I am always on hunt for bright brains as Faculty for my University so that my students get best of academics. Second most important concern is relevance of courses and curriculum that we are offering. Third, I personally work on Faculty that remains the core resource for an institution. Fourth and the most important focus area is creating suitable academic environment to develop research, employability and entrepreneurial spirit among all learners attached to the University.
As said in the beginning, we are in occupation of building lives so it requires minute-to-minute attention & commitment to the cause. All of us have to take lead roles in determining the national agenda of developing India as a Knowledge Society.
Your candid evaluation of the direction & demeanor of the
current disposition and your objective critiques & suggestions
for improvement across the spectrum.
Youth of India needs to be more committed & focused. Young Indians need to know the value of being self-sufficient. They need to be effortful. Youth of India is our future. I think it is time to Brain-Gain not Brain-Drain. The established brains outside India need to give back to the nation on priority. Young Indians need mentoring, coaching and handholding. Make in India, Start Up India, Digital India, Skilling India are not only campaigns, but national agendas. We have to support youth of India with the best possible skills and weave qualitative & skillful social fabric for the world.
India has a history of establishing and introducing education & its framework right from Takshasila as recorded center of higher learning in India from atleast 5th century BCE and Nalanda was the oldest university system of education in the world in the modern sense of University. I must say proudly that India has been pioneer in establishing education system.
Today, the world of education is different. It is competitive and comparable. When we compare Indian education and western education, certain noticeable points are:
– Technology is at its best in use by western world.
– Indian education system has brighter minds.
– There is a difference of resources available to education ecosystem.
– Curriculum is competitive but there is a difference in pedagogy.
– Research and Entrepreneurial spirit yet to take shape in Indian education system.
– Many Indian students are not self-funded.
– Our Masters programs have more freshers wherein western world after Bachelors more students work in Industry before choosing their Masters programs.
– India has to have strong & uniform education policy framework.
Let us lead the change.