CUSAT plans flexibility in BTech, new courses, focus on research: VC

CUSAT Kochi has introduced two tracks in BTech courses. Plus, it plans to launch new MSc, BSc-LLB and executive MBA programmes.

CUSAT will launch new MSc and integrated programmes in the coming academic year, says vice-chancellor PG Sankaran (Image: CUSAT)CUSAT will launch new MSc and integrated programmes in the coming academic year, says vice-chancellor PG Sankaran (Image: CUSAT)

Atul Krishna | April 14, 2024 | 03:03 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) is one of the most prominent technical institutes in Kerala. An Elsevier study showed it was one of the two universities, along with University of Kerala, with the most growth in research publications. PG Sankaran, vice-chancellor of CUSAT, was an MSc student at the university in the 1980s before joining the institution as a professor. He spoke to Careers360 about the formation of CUSAT, its unique courses, industry collaborations, research, placements and more. Edited excerpts

Q. You've been associated with CUSAT Kochi for a long time. How has the university grown over the years?

The university was established in 1971 as the University of Cochin. It started by taking over some departments from the University of Kerala, such as the School of Marine Science, the physics department and the School of Management Studies – one of the oldest management institutes in South India.

The department of ship technology was started in 1975 in tandem with the development of the Cochin Shipyard. Later region-specific departments, such as polymer science and rubber technology, were formed due to the importance of rubber cultivation in Kerala.

We started the departments of electronics and computer science in the late 1970s and the School of Environmental Studies in 1982. In 1986, the statutes were reformulated to focus more on science and technology and the name was changed to Cochin University of Science and Technology.

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We started the BTech programme in the 1990s. The BTech in information technology (IT) and BTech in safety engineering were some of the first such programmes in India. We started the five-year MSc in photonics and MTech in optics in early 2000s – also a first in India. We started research centres such as the Inter University Centre for IPR Studies and the Inter University Centre for Nanomaterials and Devices (IUCND) in 2008.

We have since started many centres on emerging areas of science and technology. Altogether, we are on the right path. We have transformed our institution in tune with the national and international standards.

Q. What are the most popular CUSAT courses?

Most of our programmes are very popular. We conduct pan-India admission tests and have received more than 50,000 applications. We are conducting the test on May 10, 11 and 23.

Our BTech and integrated programmes are very popular. Our marine courses are unique because they were established prior to Independence, in 1938, as an oceanographic laboratory by the then Travancore state. Later, it became part of the University of Kerala and then, CUSAT.

Our alumni are basically leaders of almost all marine research institutions.

Q. Are you planning to add any new courses?

We are starting a new MSc programme in marine genomics. This is a unique programme. Although there are many programmes in genomics, marine genomics is new. We are also introducing a BSc-LLB programme. It is looking at the advancements in technology that can definitely transform our legal education. We are also starting an executive MBA programme. We have already advertised all these courses.

This year, we are going to start a joint dual-degree MS programme in electronics in collaboration with the University of St Petersburg, Russia.

Q. What are the future objectives of CUSAT?

We are giving more flexibility to students. In the engineering programmes, we have introduced two tracks.

Students who are ready for jobs can choose the internship track. They need not study any paper in the last semester and can directly go into industry. In the other track, students can complete their core courses and laboratories as usual.

The second aspect is to improve the quality of research. We have recruited more than 180 faculties in the last five-six years. Now the average age of the faculty has reduced to 35-40. This faculty will lead our university for the next 20-25 years. We are supporting the faculty through different systems such as giving seed money for research.

We have also established awards. Five faculty members every year are awarded based on research and teaching performance. We also give awards to five research scholars. We provide travel expenses for participating in international conferences and this year, have allocated Rs 40 lakh in this regard.

Further, we have two schemes which allow international faculty to visit our institute and all the expenses are supported.

Our current H-Index in research is 118; we want to improve this to 175-200 in the next five years. Our research publications are at 1,000; we aim for 2,000. We award 200 research degrees a year; we plan to increase this to 300-350 in the next five years.

Q. What are the focus areas of your research?

We focus on basic research in physics, chemistry, mathematics, statistics, and biology; we also focus on technology research, such as electronics, computer science and computer application, for which we have a strong department; and then we have ship technology and engineering programmes that cater to more than 2,500 students.

Another focus area is marine science. No other university in India has this type of resources or tools. Biological sciences, including marine science, is also one of the focus areas.

Another area is material sciences and sensor technology. The third area is artificial intelligence and new advancements in computer sciences.

Q. Is CUSAT getting enough funds?

There are limitations in the funds from both state and central governments. That is a reality. But we are trying to mobilise revenues from other sources.

One option is through collaborations with the industry. We have started two centres this way. One, on synthetic biology, was started with the support of the natural spice industry in Kerala. They agreed to allocate Rs 20 crore for the next five years to establish a lab. The second centre is supported by Geojit Financial Services, who have given Rs 5 crore for the next five years. That centre aims to develop tools and methodology for environmental social governance (ESG) studies.

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We have also started a collaboration with the Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Limited (FACT). They have instituted a Chair here and are providing Rs 10 lakh every year for research on safety engineering.

The second way is to tap into the corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds and the third is to popularise online programmes. Another way is to share our facilities with industries. Our labs can be used for testing and research. We started this process in the last two years.

Our departments are also getting good money from the projects of different government agencies, including the Department of Science and Technology and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. The ministry of earth sciences sanctioned Rs 8 crore for our Advanced Centre for Atmospheric Radar Research (ACAR) this January.

Q. How have the CUSAT placements been?

Our science departments do not see many placements because they opt for higher studies, mostly abroad. In engineering we have good placements. Last year, about 900 students were placed through our system. Then some 100 or 200 students got placements by their own means – the data for which might not reflect in our system.

The maximum package is around Rs 50 lakh per year. The average package is around Rs 8-10 lakh per year.

Note: This story will be published in the forthcoming issue of the Careers360 magazine.

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