Changing Landscape of Cotton and Textile Engineering Education

Seshadri Ramkumar, Texas Tech University, USA

Cotton and textile engineering education’s landscape has been changing to better reflect the change and growth of the field. Recently, a chat with Professor Gajanan Bhat, Chairperson of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors, at Athens-based University of Georgia (UGA) in his office clearly presented a picture on how the education in the field of fiber science and textile engineering has evolved and is changing.

Interestingly, it is pleasing to report that University of Georgia is celebrating 100 years this year of offering courses in textiles and clothing. With the ending of World War-I in 1918, University of Georgia created the Division of Home Economics that offered textiles course.

Bhat stated, today UGA offers graduate degrees in polymer and fiber science and international merchandising. Undergraduate level education focuses of fashion merchandising and design in many institutes in the United States and Europe.

Advanced level research and education focuses on smart materials, polymer and fiber science and management, showcasing that the focus has shifted from the traditional offering of textile engineering courses. The shifting of textile manufacturing in developed economies has forced this change, stated Bhat, who has been in the textile academia for 29 years.

While textile engineering has been one of the founding departments of Texas Tech University in 1925, fiber related advanced level degrees are offered through the Department of Environmental Toxicology and Plant and Soil Sciences. Students with textiles and fiber science backgrounds could get graduate degrees in the Department of Environmental Toxicology focusing on materials science projects that concentrate on countermeasures to toxic chemicals, materials to enhance human health and protect the environment, such as cotton based materials to absorb toxic oils. Research areas in the UGA’s Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Interiors focus on nanocellulose, niche areas in manufacturing such as digital printing, bio-based plastics from algae, stated Professor Bhat.   

As with the case of the University of Georgia and Texas Tech University, the landscape of textile engineering education has shifted in its 100 years of offering the course so as to reflect the need and the nature of the field. But still the field offers tremendous opportunities as there are emerging opportunities in integrating electronics with textiles, cost effective biodegradable materials, taking cotton into next phase by infusing functional capabilities at the farm level, to name a few.