How to make an informed decision while choosing a university
When it comes to making this crucial decision, it is all about asking the right questions
Out of the world’s one billion full-time workers, only 15% of people are content with their work, according to a global poll conducted by Gallup, an American analytics and advisory company. That means that an astounding 85% of people are unhappy in their jobs. What is the reason behind this sad statistic?
There are several possible explanations behind this gloomy number. The most crucial of them is education – not just the subjects one chooses to study, but WHERE one chooses to study them.
Picking the right university is a life-altering decision
There is a reason why getting into the right university is considered a pivotal point in a student’s life. Enrolling in the wrong institution or domain, that does not align with one’s natural inclination, can have immutable ramifications. Findings suggest that when it comes to choosing a college, it is important to think beyond how close the institution is from one’s home or how much it costs to attend.
One of the biggest mistakes that one makes while deciding on which academic institution to opt for is relying on a one-size-fits-all approach. Human talent is tremendously diverse, and people have varying aptitudes. What worked for a friend may not necessarily work for another. While one may be bombarded with advice, getting influenced by other’s experiences is not a good idea. Similarly, following the family tradition by opting for the college one’s parents went to, may not be the best decision. The solution, hence, lies in becoming informed. The greater the awareness, the better positioned one would be to choose the best institution for higher education.
The criteria to consider:
Faculty is the building block for enhancing the quality of higher education in an institution. One should read the faculty profiles listed on the website of the college where one wishes to apply. This will give an overview of the faculty’s professional activities, including research, and other scholarly outputs.
Curriculum or the course content for a class is fundamental to the success of any academic institution. Comparing the curricula of the colleges one is considering can give clarity about the quality of education in the respective institutions and whether the academic program will suit one’s needs. Colleges that review and revise their curriculum on a regular basis are in a better position to serve the changing needs of both the students and the industry.
There is strong evidence that high-quality infrastructure – classrooms, library, laboratories, equipment – facilitates better instruction and improves student outcomes. One should take a virtual tour of the university (or a physical visit, if possible).
International exposure helps enhance the personal growth of the students as they become competent in tackling various challenges by living in culturally diverse environments. This helps students acquire knowledge in worldly matters, which is extremely important in today’s dynamic world. One should check if global immersion programmes or semester/year exchange and research and internship opportunities are available at the college.
High-quality placements can bring a range of benefits and positive impacts, both in terms of academic performance and employability skills. One must glance through the placement statistics and student stories to know about the number of students placed and the companies that come to the campus for recruitment.
Theoretical knowledge is no longer enough in this highly competitive, ever-evolving, tech-driven world. Organisations and recruiters are now hiring professionals who have a solution-oriented practical mindset. To check if the institution follows an application-based approach, one should look at the partnerships and tie-ups a university has with industries and the scope of interactions and networking it offers between students and industry experts.
In recent times, the tech preparedness of academic institutions was tested when they were forced to transition to online platforms. This was a step towards a new educational paradigm. It, therefore, becomes essential to choose a college which has the agility and a demonstrated history of successfully adapting to a crisis, while continuing to deliver education using new modes of teaching and assessment. One should look at the measures taken by various institutions to adapt by choosing the right technologies and approaches for educating and engaging their students.
One should review and see if the technology used by academic institutions have a clear pedagogical foundation for teaching students. For instance, in the current scenario, how many universities deployed safe and advanced IT systems and were able to successfully conduct online examinations? The institutions that have the foresight for building the culture of digital transformation will thrive in the future.
While academic parameters are essential, it is also important to look at co-curricular activities offered by colleges, which can bring about holistic development in students and further their career prospects. These activities, such as sports and cultural clubs, are an extension of formal academic education and help students think beyond the books.
Colleges that facilitate life skills such as teamwork, conflict resolution, time and stress management, and cultural competency, train their students to adapt and become active members of the workforce and society when they move out of the institution. One should explore whether the curricula are tailored to life after graduation and include tools such as orientation sessions, mentorship and social integration programmes.
Is UPES the ‘right’ academic institution for higher education?
Although the global calamity upset the academic year plans of various higher education institutions, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun, ensured that learning never stopped for its students.
The university has been providing online classes via Blackboard Collaborate, a learning platform that they had invested in, many years ago. The 550+ faculty members have also been completely trained to deal with the situation, conducting more than 500 online sessions each day. Even the exams for final-year students were completely conducted online.
UPES offers specialized undergraduate and postgraduate courses with an industry-focused curriculum in the field of Engineering, Business, Law, Health Sciences, Modern Media, Design and Computer Sciences. Through a range of national and international collaborations with various institutions from France, the UK, South Korea, the US, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Taiwan, Netherlands, China and African nations, the university has successfully opened new academic and research avenues.
UPES’ efforts to bridge the academia-industry gap continued even during this time with online masterclasses being conducted by the industry experts. Further, their collaboration with Coursera has given students access to more than 3900 global courses.
Under its ‘Shakti’ initiative, UPES offers 25 per cent scholarship on tuition fees to all girl students, across all programmes, from the year 2020. Additionally, there are training sessions for the existing girl students, thereby preparing the woman workforce of the future.
UPES also offers excellent industry exposure. It has collaborated with pioneers in the industry and corporates such as IBM, Xebia, Tata Cisco, Tata Power, L&T and many more. Students get access to courses that are co-created and co-delivered with these industry partners.
In fact, UPES was the first university in the world to partner with IBM to co-brand 13 super-specialized programs delivered through joint establishment with the Centre of Information Technology. Presently, IBM-UPES is the largest partnership of this nature with over 2,000 enrolled students.
UPES’ placement statistics have been consistently robust. Last year, the university had placed 94% of graduates, who were eligible and those who had opted, for placements. The students received offers from leading national and international recruiters, including Accenture, Adani, Amazon, Anand & Anand, Ashok Leyland, Baker Hughes, Byjus, Decathlon, Dell R&D, Deloitte, Exxon Mobil, EY, FedEx, General Motors, Haliburton, Indian Navy, Infosys, L&T, LinkedIn, Maruti Suzuki, Nestle, ONGC, Protivity Global, Reliance, Schlumberger, Surana & Surana, Swiggy, Vedanta, etc.
UPES believes that it is essential to engage students in co-curricular activities outside of their studies to teach valuable life skills, which can be applied in all areas of life. Through various sporting events, school-specific student chapters like Society of Law and Literature, Moot Court Association, Cloud Security Alliance, and cultural clubs such as Literary Club Connoisseur, National Service Scheme and ‘Sanskriti,’ the university provides its students with the opportunity to form life-long friendships, make useful connections and build skills such as intercultural competence and management. For students, it is a welcome change of pace from their regular classes.
The learning environment and practical hands-on approach at UPES helps students take the challenge head-on with a positive attitude, the right skill set and practical know-how. Because of the industry-align curriculum, the job-readiness of UPES students has been one of the key differentiators.
A higher educational institution is an aggregate of academics, community, and an abundance of opportunities. It is a place to pursue one’s passions. One must weigh all the parameters and choose wisely.