Biotech education: Challenge to bridge academia-industry gap

While various initiatives undertaken by the government has helped to meet the current and future requirements of trained manpower in biotechnology, the country falls short of harnessing its human knowledge potential to be placed on the global map

skill-gap

The biotechnology sector in India has seen immense growth over the past few decades, and infrastructure, human resources and policy structure have been the key drivers for achieving global competitiveness. Biotechnology is a multi-disciplinary field which cuts across disciplines such as life sciences, mathematics, statistics, physics, chemistry, and bioinformatics and so on. Realising the potential applications of biotechnology in providing solutions to problem-facing agriculture, health, environment, energy, the Government of India created the multi-agency board National Biotechnology Board in 1982 which was upgraded to full - fledged Department of Biotechnology in 1986 to provide a focal point for policy formulation, coordination of activities. India is credited to be one of the first few countries in the world to initiate post graduate teaching programmes in biotechnology.

Due to IT-BT hype, a large number of universities in public and private sector as well as affiliated colleges initiated biotechnology teaching programmes. Some of the universities are running 8-9 courses in biotechnology. This has led to a large number of students with biotech degrees coming out every year. According to BioSpectrum estimates, over one lakh students are registered for various biotech courses at any given point of time. This has created a wide gap in demand vs supply and calls for a regulatory agency on the lines of All India Council for Technical Education for accreditation of universities for running particular courses. Often, quality of students produced by universities does not match the expectations of industry and most of the students coming out are labelled as unemployable.

Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, Director and COO of C-CAMP said, "Biotech education inIndia is not in sync with current form of biotechnology. Biotech is not a subject but a field which is all about new applications. Applications keep on changing unlike subjects like b i o c h e m i s t r y which is one book and one knowledge. Since trends in biotechnology keep on changing, so biotech education should always be in sync with the industry. There are places where this is followed but at some places where current trends in curriculum are missing."

All the initiatives taken by the government still fall short of harnessing the country's knowledge potential to be placed on the global map. The major strength of the country is in the availability of young human capital. According to UN population data, 19.1 per cent of India's population is between the ages of 15 and 24 years. This huge mass of talent if provided with the right mix of knowledge, the foundation developed would be strong enough to propel India into a strategic position globally.

Where is the gap?
Research beneficial to mankind demands excellent teacher-student-industry pipeline that can keep pace with the rapidly advancing field. Unfortunately, academic health of life sciences in most of the universities in India is not up to the mark.

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