Madhura Mahajan: Institutes need more freedom

It is important to provide academicians with the autonomy to experiment with creative teaching methods and adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of their students, says Madhura Mahajan, assistant professor and head, Department of Printing Technology at PVG’s College of Engineering and Technology & GKPWIM, Pune in the Print Guru series

12 Jan 2024 | By PrintWeek Team

What is the USP of the print and packaging industry in India?
Adopting new Technology. Over a decade or more, the Indian print and packaging industry has been increasingly adopting technological advancements. This includes the adoption of digital printing, process control in manufacturing, and the use of numerous design and development software for more customized and efficient packaging solutions.

As an educator, what have been the three biggest problems you have faced?
The first challenge faced is the growing interest of students in design and using software. However, all design, pre-press, and package design software are costly and unaffordable. The second challenge is limited academic flexibility for the faculty. The third challenge is the lack of inter- and multi-disciplinary approaches in working on projects. 

How do you think these obstacles could be tackled creatively?
One, utilise free or low-cost open educational resources available online. Although open source is widely being used, it is important that various companies who develop these software can share licenses with colleges for studying and demonstration. Two, it is important to provide academicians with the autonomy to experiment with creative teaching methods and adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of their students. Three, peer-to-peer interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary groups must be encouraged.

Which is your favourite subject and why is it important?
My favourite subjects are colour science and colour management and design of experiments (DOE). Studying colour is interesting and involves physics and DOE requires knowledge of statistics.

Today, you are a teacher. Who was your guru, and why so? 
My father is my guru. All the little nuances of life and philosophies are what I learnt from him.

One innovation you implemented after listening to your student?
In fact, there are many. Students have many ideas. On one such project on studying the smart ink to be developed for meat spoilage, the entire group had a continuous supply of ideas.

Were you the minister of printing and packaging, how would you tackle the industry's problems creatively?
I would have tried to trace every packaging material used and devised a plan to recycle the material so that there wouldn't be litter on the streets. 

What ingredient do you seek among your young disciples?
I seek sincerity and passion.

Your present preoccupation in the field of research?
Working on sustainable materials and smart labels. 

The industry needs skilled professionals on the shopfloor, and different printing education institutes have been churning out printing professionals for decades now. Still, there seems to be a disconnect between industry and academia. Why? What do print teachers want from the industry? Read more in this series where PrintWeek asks 13 print gurus.