India's first vocational university, a joint venture between the State of Gujarat and human resources (HR) services company TeamLease, began operations this year. The first batch that started in August had 4,000 students.
TeamLease Skills University (TLSU), to begin with, is offering specialisation in three segments-mechatronics, information technology hardware and, finance and business operations. The university will, in future, expand its offering to sectors like retail and hospitality. The university has 20 faculty members.
"Since this is the first attempt towards a vocational university in India, we wanted to go slow in terms of the feedback we receive. Our aim is to touch 10,000 students in the next three years," said Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and senior vice-president, TeamLease. The total capital expenditure outlay for the university is Rs 50 crore for the next three years.
TLSU offers four streams of modularities - corporate education, cloud-based training, NETAP (apprenticeship programme) and campus.
It is based on the 'Community College' model popular in the US. The course is divided into six semesters, completion of which will make a student eligible for a Bachelor's degree. A student completing four semesters would get an Associate degree. Students of the first batch completing first year would get a Diploma certificate.
"We accept that the students joining the university are not the brightest. We want to give them the flexibility of studying and working. So, students, after completion of their first year, will get a completion certificate and can join the workforce. If the student plans to return to complete his studies then he need not start from scratch again. She will automatically go to the next year," added Chakraborty.
TeamLease is a leading player in the temporary staffing segment and has on rolls a little less than 100,000 employees. For Chakraborty and other founders at TeamLease, setting up a vocational university was crucial to meet the increasing demand for skill in India.
"India has perhaps the highest dropout rate. Every six students out of 10 dropout by the time they reach 12th standard. Indian higher system has limited its focus on the formal sector which constitutes eight per cent of the labour force. The rest 92 per cent in informal sector is outside the ambit of the universities," she added.
The course fee for the first semester is Rs 22,000. When asked if the university is also planning to tie-up with financial institutes to make loan facility easier, she added, "We are in talks with some financial institutes but are yet to get any confirmation. However, over a period of time, we do plan to integrate the apprenticeship programme, so that the funding aspect can be worked out."
TLSU will offer skill-based academic programmes to students with higher secondary or equivalent qualification. TLSU will support Gujarat in its vocational education and training initiatives. The programmes will provide vertical link to graduates of Vocational Higher Secondary Schools as well as ITI candidates, which can synergise enrolment in these institutions.
When asked if this concept will be taken to other states, Chakraborty said it's work in progress. "We are in conversation with some players. But right now, the university at Gujarat will be our focus. It will be the basis of what all we should do and avoid in the next set-up," she added.
TeamLease Education Foundation (TLEF) had submitted a proposal for establishing TLSU in Gujarat for which a letter of intent was issued in February 2012. Subsequently, State Assembly passed the Gujarat Private University Act (amendment) on 1st April, 2013, approving the establishment of TLSU.