When the famous cartoonist Chris Ware said, “The modern world seems to make fun of people in a lot of ways,” what he meant was that the world is always lagging in accepting and utilising new emerging technology, trends, and human aspiration. One simple reason for the world not being ready for this modern world is because it has moved forward at an accelerated pace that the education system could not cope with.
In the 21st century, there are a lot of things that require an ideal placement. While the industries are moving ahead at an unprecedented speed, it has become challenging for the education system to keep up with evolving industries.
The world that we live in is so immersed in technology that it has become a substitute for hard work. However, the human element cannot be taken out of this context, explaining the gap that has been created in the education system and industries.
Effective communication, a multi-disciplinary attitude, and an integrated industry approach are what the modern world demands. While ‘skill’ and ‘technology’ are the necessity of the world, the demands mentioned above map the entire world, defining the word ‘ATLAS’.
The Knowledge Review magazine, in their quest to find ‘India’s Most Admired University of the Year, 2022’ crossed our paths with ATLAS SkillTech University, which is meeting the modern education demands, closing the industry gap, facilitating students with a global industrial exposure while grooming students in 21st century technical and skill integrated environment to create a SkillTech generation.
In an exclusive interview with Dr Indu Shahani, the Founding President and Chancellor of the ATLAS SkillTech University, she shares her vision and her approach to creating a multidisciplinary urban university
Mapping the SkillTech Dots
The renowned academician and public figure, Dr Indu Shahani, founded ATLAS SkillTech University with an aim to introduce a futuristic, multi-disciplinary education model. It was envisioned to primarily focus on equipping young India with emerging skills and technology-enabled learning to succeed in Industry 4.0. The university has been established via the ATLAS SKILLTECH University, Mumbai Act, 2021 (Maharashtra Act No. XV of 2021). ATLAS is also listed under Section 2(f) of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act 1956 and a member of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU).
At the behest of the Government of Maharashtra, ATLAS SkillTech University has been established in 2021 basis the track record of two leading and reputed standalone institutions-
- ISDI – School of Design & Innovation (ISDI) – Established in 2013
- ISME – School of Management & Entrepreneurship (ISME) – Established in 2016
The institutions bring together combined leadership, knowledge, and history within the Indian higher education of over four decades of the senior management of ATLAS SkillTech University. Today, ATLAS, stands 2500+ students strong from across the country, with five new-age schools
- ATLAS ISDI School of Design & Innovation
- ATLAS ISME School of Management & Entrepreneurship
- ATLAS SFA School of Film & Animation
- ATLAS SMC School of Media & Communication
- ATLAS SDT School of Digital Technology
Mapping the Young Modern University in the Heart of the Financial Capital
Being a university that trains students in skills and immersive technology, the high-tech campus located in Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai, has been specifically designed to be conducive to collaboration in every nook and corner with the thoughtfully curated work zones.
The Learning Zone, consisting of classrooms, studios and seminar halls, is constructed to enable the students to have a complete learning experience.
The Experiential Zone, on the other hand, consists of Digital Labs, Innovation Incubators, Prototyping Labs, Exhibit Arenas, Robotics & AI Labs, 3D Printing Labs, and Maker Spaces, Fashiontech Labs, Fintech Labs, Edit Rooms, Green Screen Studios, Editing Suites, etc. The experimental zone encourages students to experiment and be familiar with modern technology to be industry-ready in the future.
The Recreational Zone of the university hosts open lounges, sports facilities, a cafeteria, a courtyard and an amphitheater, making it a home for exploration, communication and socialisation.
Taking about their impressive campus, Dr Indu Shahni says, “Our state-of-the-art infrastructure caters to every learning need of ATLAS students, and the purposefully built high-energy spaces foster immersive learning. Additionally, the unique location of ATLAS in the center of Mumbai, amongst 500 corporate organizations, enables the university to adopt an intensive industry-integrated approach towards teaching & learning and ensure real-world experiences.”
Globally Renowned Futuristic Educator Leader
Dr Indu Shahani is the Founding President and Chancellor of ATLAS SkillTech University. Dr Shahani was the Sheriff of Mumbai (2008, 2009), The Member of the University Grants Commission (2011-14) and The Principal of HR College of Commerce & Economics, Mumbai (2000-16).
She was the first Indian to be appointed Vice-Chair on the Board of Governors of the International Baccalaureate (IB). She has been invited to leading Corporate Boards and key listed companies providing an impetus for ‘Academia-Industry Collaboration’, the subject of her Ph.D. from The University of Mumbai.
Dr Shahani is also an Independent Director on the Board of Colgate Palmolive (India) Limited, United Spirits Limited – Diageo, HSBC Asset Management, Bajaj Electricals Limited, Clariant, Eureka Forbes Limited and Lighthouse Learning Limited.
“With her four decades of leadership in academia and institution building, Dr Shahani has been instrumental in the growth of ATLAS. Under her visionary leadership, ATLAS is set to bring a revolution in India’s education sector by partnering with some of the best academic institutions across the world and bringing together world-class educators and industry stalwarts. Moreover, Dr Shahani continues to inspire, guide and nurture students to innovate and become professionals with a heart,” says the University management about Dr Shahani.
On a Visionary Futuristic Mission
ATLAS SkillTech University’s vision is to create future leaders, equipped with tomorrow’s skills.
Emphasising the core values of the university that caters to the university’s vision, Dr Shahani explains, “Given the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world we live in, ATLAS SkillTech University has been created with a vision to create leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators of the future with the skills of tomorrow. ATLAS aims to create a holistic education ecosystem with a global, multi-disciplinary, technology & innovation-driven and industry integrated approach.”
Further highlighting the philosophy of the university, Dr Shahani says, “Our philosophy is to empower today’s youth with 21st-century skills to transform them into socially responsible global leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. Therefore, everything we do is designed to equip students with knowledge, skills and experiences that transcend the conventional and enable them to excel in every area of life, industry and society.”
Imparting Quality Education to Create a Socially Credible Community
Guided by the National Education Policy – ATLAS is committed to creating world-class outcomes in curriculum, academic excellence, and experiential learning in some of the most critical and future-ready verticals.
Explaining the learning arc of students of ATLAS, Dr Shahani says, “Our students tackle real-world issues, making a difference in people’s lives in the local community, across India and around the world. Through various initiatives of live projects, capstones, clubs, internships and immersion programs focused on driving community engagement, we ensure that our students drive tangible impact for humanity.”
“Also, in our attempt to globalise the Higher Education in India, we have gone beyond the traditional international collaborations for student and faculty mobility- We have formed curricular collaborations with international institutions of repute like Parsons and VFS Canada for creating internationalisation at home bringing world-class education within the borders of our nation,” Dr Shahani further adds.
Additionally, the flexible academic approach allows students to learn and explore distinct subjects or curricula from various disciplines across all the schools of ATLAS. This, along with the integration of technology, is the university’s attempt to bring a truly interdisciplinary and digital education experience for students and make them more relevant in their approach to problem-solving in the post-pandemic world.
Emphasising the learning experience of the students and the process that goes behind it, Dr Shahani explains, “Our proximity to the industry by virtue of being in the center of Mumbai has allowed us to establish a strong industry connection. This provides students with unrivalled hands-on experience and creates a valuable network for their future.”
Dr Shahani further adds, “ATLAS is striving to change the world for the better by working with industry, governments and various academic institutions across the world to enable the youth of India to become global leaders of the future.”
Multidisciplinary Approach for Holistic Development
Multidisciplinary learning, industry interface, global connections, state-of-the-art facilities and diversified extracurricular activities at ATLAS ensure the overall development of students. “Our focus on industry-immersive experiences through our 200+ corporate partners enabled our founding cohort of ATLAS fellows to get several opportunities to gain real-world experiences, awareness of workplace culture and enhance critical workplace skills. We ensure that observerships, internships, and capstone projects are integrated into the student’s academic journey to allow them an opportunity to apply their classroom learning to real-life situations. Also, being positioned amidst 500 corporates of Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai allows us to host several industry stalwarts: From the Managing Director of Mckinsey & Co to the renowned start-up entrepreneurs like Ronnie Screwvala, ATLAS has had a broad range of leaders on campus!” explains Dr Shahani.
Moreover, students at the university are also encouraged to take part in experiential learning through student-led initiatives, including clubs, societies and community engagement, to build their leadership skills and create impact. Additionally, through customised electives and incubation opportunities, ATLAS focuses on enabling entrepreneurial leaders who are empowered to innovate and become the job-creators of the future. Start-up days, Shark Tank and Hackathons are some of the various initiatives to develop entrepreneurs.
Carrying Forward the Tradition of Creating Global Leaders
The Indian education system has effectively produced all major global leaders, CEOs and CXOs of the world’s leading conglomerates. It has also produced immense talent that has created an impact on the development of India and other countries across the world. However, the era of technological advancements has given birth to a new workplace culture where skills, effectiveness, teamwork, employability, abilities to mix and work in cross-cultural workplaces and thinking and acting global are essential. The real challenge in front of today’s education system is preparing the youth for industry 4.0 by fostering innovation, transdisciplinary learning and 21st-century knowledge and skills.
Reimagining the new education policy for the Indian education system and ATLAS’s approach to cater to it, Dr Shahani says, “With the declining employability Index of Indian graduates, it’s time for India to focus on employability, skill development, entrepreneurship and innovation. The Indian education system needs evolution which will require the reimagination of Indian universities as envisioned in the National Education Policy 2020 as well, and also required greater collaboration among government, industry and academia.”
Imparting Quality Education
ATLAS SkillTech University delivers multi-disciplinary education through different undergraduate and postgraduate programs across five new-age streams: Design & Innovation, Management & Entrepreneurship, Digital Technology, Film & Animation and Media & Communication.
“Our campus is located in the heart of the vibrant city, just off Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC)- a high-energy, diverse hub neighbouring apex companies across sectors. The strategic location enables unrivalled industry-integrated learning for ATLAS students. The university is also focused on new-age technology, which is reflected in our high-tech campus, where each classroom, lab and open space is a tech-enabled smart space. It is also integrated into our curriculum to ensure that our students embrace technology to overcome global challenges and transform the future of our world,” Dr Shahani explains the other contributory factors that support the university’s vision.
Giving an idea about the student experience at the university, Dr Shahani further adds, “Also, ATLAS fellows are provided with a truly interdisciplinary experience. They have the freedom to choose from a plethora of electives from all five schools. This enables them to have a chance to explore a unique experience where design, management, film, media, and technology students find themselves under one roof to work together to find creative solutions to challenges faced by the world. Also, an added emphasis on electives for building 21st Century skills allows them to become future-ready visionary thinkers and leaders.”
Leveraging Education for Societal Change
ATLAS encourages students to get actively involved in community projects from the ideation stage to impact documentation and take on leadership positions to address social issues such as entrenched inequalities, protect human rights and create an inclusive world. “We also strengthen the capacity of our students to become independent entrepreneurs and develop innovative solutions to complex social problems through the Social Responsibility Internship Programs, research, and experiential learning. We envision enabling a community of student socially responsible global leaders who actively work beyond spheres of corporate engagements and become active change-makers on the ground,” adds Dr Shahani.
Moving Ahead with Industry Relevance
Highlighting how the university will move ahead by catering to its vision and mission, Dr Shahani highlights, “ATLAS SkillTech University will continue to introduce more new-age disciplines and broaden the scope of specialisation and interdisciplinarity. Also, to continue to bring world-class and industry-relevant new-age skill-based education, we will strengthen collaborations with top-ranked international universities and industry leaders. In the coming few years, we would want to see ATLAS SkillTech University becoming an epicenter of learning for students in India and abroad and a place to nurture global leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs for the future.”
A Visionary Educator’s Advice to the Future Educators
Advising the aspirants entering the noble profession as educators, Dr Shahani says, “Educational institutions are facing increasing demands to prepare students for rapid economic, environmental and social changes, for jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented, and solving social problems that have not yet been anticipated. To those who aspire to venture into this sector, the advice would be that we should always build an education that equips learners with the skills and competencies to address the unknown and the sense of purpose to shape their own lives and contribute to others.”
ATLAS Fellows making way to the renowned corporates
ATLAS fellows have secured top placements and internships across various industries in leading organisations such as Apple, Aditya Birla Group, Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Colgate, Deloitte, EY, Gucci, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, HCL Technologies, HDFC Bank, Infosys, KPMG, Mahindra, Nykaa, Phillips, PWC, Reliance Industries, Samsung, Sabyasachi, Siemens, TATA Consultancy Services, Tommy Hilfiger, Viacom and Vogue.
World’s leading universities accept ATLAS Fellows for Masters Progression
ATLAS Fellows wanting to pursue further studies have been accepted for coveted Masters programs at the world’s leading universities such as Columbia University, Imperial College London, New York University, London Business School, London School of Economics, John Hopkins University, Parsons School of Design, University of the Arts London, SCAD and Rice University among many others.