Saturday 27 May 2017 News Updated at 08:05 AM IST
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The need for academic-industry partnerships - Deccan Herald
The need for academic-industry partnerships
Thomas Lancaster
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The academic-industry partnerships help instill a work ethic in students and inspire them towards success.

The traditional vision of a university is of a place of higher learning, where students have information dictated to them in large lecture halls and develop a theoretical understanding of their subject. The modern university is rather different. It is no longer enough for students to graduate knowing only academic theory. For students to be suitably placed for success in the competitive employment market, they also need to demonstrate practical ability and show that they have had hands-on experience.

In such cases, universities and industry working together and forming successful academic-industry partnerships is helpful. Students benefit from the links with the industry partner. The input from industry helps teaching by keeping the class syllabus up-to-date and providing the class with access to recent case studies.

Win-win scenario

The academic-industry partnership introduces students to professionals working in their subject in the real world who they would not otherwise have encountered. These meetings help instill a work ethic in students and inspire them towards success. Industry links are also crucial for students when they are looking for work experience opportunities and graduate positions.

From my description so far, it might seem that the academic-industry relationship is rather one sided in favour of the university and students. This is not really the case. The industry partner also benefits from access to the university environment. They get to work with students throughout their course. This means that they get to identify the greatest minds and the students who will benefit their workforce. They get first pick of the best graduates. Through a shared curriculum, many students also produce useful work for the industry partner at the same time as completing the requirements of their academic award.
A successful academic-industry partnership can extend beyond work with students.

University staff are traditionally active in academic research and generating new knowledge. Industry partners can call upon university staff and ask for additional help, particularly in areas where they lack academic expertise or staff capacity. Such collaboration can be fruitful for both parties and lead to the development of new ideas and products. I have known staff who spend a month or longer in the workplace of an industry partner, enhancing their academic knowledge with real world examples and benefiting from a change of scenery.

It will be a big leap for many universities and industries to work closely together. An academic-industry partnership requires a lot of trust, as well as a willingness for both sides to invest the time and energy needed to make things work. Industry has to get used to the quality assurance processes in use at universities and their need to follow sector standards. Academic institutions have to be empowered to change their course content and teaching style.

They need to afford partners the opportunity to have real input into course design and assessment. A partnership allows academia and industry to make connections that would otherwise be outside their reach. There are opportunities for the new partnership to bid for external funding, securing jobs and generating future income.

Most importantly, students gain from such new ideas and innovation. They get to emerge from university with skills and experience that would otherwise be beyond them. Hence, it is important for academia and industry to reach out to one another and explore how fruitful an academic-industry partnership can be.

(The author is associate dean, Computing and Digital Technologies, Staffordshire University, UK)


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