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8 Feb, 2013

Indian Vice-Chancellors Agree on Broad Agenda To Help Universities Go Global


Presidents Secretariat, 07-February, 2013 – A one day conference of Vice Chancellors (VCs) of Central Universities concluded on February 5, 2013 at Rashtrapati Bhavan with the VCs proposing a detailed set of recommendations on the four agenda items of the conference. Some of the recommendations were as follows:

Agenda item 1 – Steps required for improving the quality of education and faculty in Central Universities to bring it on par with the top universities of the world

Freedom to recruit short term faculty and young faculty from India and abroad at various levels as well as institution of post-doctoral positions.

Relaxation, in terms of experience, in the case of outstanding scholars for recruitment purposes.

Set up an independent Council for Central Universities

(VCs in their individual presentations also highlighted the need to speedily fill up faculty vacancies in Central Universities and the posts of Visitors nominees)

Agenda item 2 – Steps needed to extend the reach of education through extension work in contiguous areas

Each University to connect itself with the community – identify a cluster of affiliates –create a consortium of stakeholders.

Universities will nurture and develop “Lok Vidya”, traditional knowledge and skills.

Universities to reach out to discover and prepare a Directory of innovators, project and facilitate grass root innovators, help them with production, protection of property rights.

Establish Innovation Centres/ research parks in Central Universities where possible.

Tap the local cultural reservoirand institutionalise the University’s support to local arts, establish specific programmes with help of private sector.

Agenda item 3 – Use of National Knowledge Network effectively in the Central Universities

Creating greater awareness about the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) programmes of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the National Knowledge Network (NKN).

Establish education technology cells in each Central University to devise programmes for the maximum use of the education technology tools and to focus on content development.

Utilize video conferencing facilities; set up e-class rooms; hold workshops on the use of ICT; use e-content in regular curriculum transactions; and host class room teaching videos on the university website for access by other institutions.

Agenda item 4 – Suggestions to improve the Visitor-University interface within the existing statutory framework of each Central University

Creation of an ‘Inspired Teachers’ Network’ and an ‘Innovators Club’ within each Central University.

Periodic interaction between the Visitor and the inspired teachers and innovators.

Instituting Visitor’s Awards for exceptional performance in research.

Exceptional students from each Central University to have an opportunity to interact with the Visitor at Rashtrapati Bhavan on a periodic basis.

Technology enabled interface/interaction between the Visitor and the Central Universities through regular tele and video conferencing.

In his concluding remarks, the President of India, Mr Pranab Mukherjee expressed his satisfaction with the outcome and pointed out that it was the first time a whole day conference was being held where 40 VCs of Central Universities exchanged their views with himself as well as the Prime Minister, Union Ministers of Human Resource Development and Chairman of University Grants Commission. He thanked the VCs for the recommendations made and said they will be examined in detail by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for speedy implementation. He accepted the recommendation that VCs conference would be an annual exercise. He also suggested the setting up of a committee of VCs to follow up on the recommendations.

The President said Vice Chancellors should identify inspired teachers to interact with each other as well as students. Innovation Clubs should be set up in each university and exhibitions of innovations be organized.

The President said during his future visits to universities he would interact with inspired teachers and innovators. He called upon the universities to establish at least one centre of excellence each and to enhance collaboration with specialists from India and abroad. He also called upon the VCs to make greater use of the information technology tools made available by Ministry of Human Resource Development and promised that he himself would be available to interact with students and teachers through video conferencing.

The President called upon the VCs and MHRD to try and fill up vacancies to faculty positions within six months to the best extent possible and assured that vacancies of Visitor’s nominees would also be filled up in three to six months.

Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s remarks at the conference of Vice Chancellors of Central Universities:

I understand that the last such conference was held in the year 2003. In almost a decade that has passed since then, the educational landscape of our country has been transformed beyond recognition. This transformation has touched all levels and types of education – Primary, Secondary, Higher and Vocational, and also Skill Development. Today, there are new challenges but also new opportunities. Our collective task ahead entails putting in place an educational system that would help build India into a modern, prosperous and progressive economy and society in the 21st century.

I believe our government has given education its due. We have expanded access to education as never before. We have increased investment in education as never before. The share of education in the total outlay went up from 6.7 percent in the 10th Plan to 19.4 percent in the 11th Plan. We have endeavored to take care of the concerns for equity, enhancing scholarships and setting up institutions in different parts of the country. It is for this emphasis on education that I have often referred to the 11th Plan as an Education Plan.

Our efforts have been especially marked in Higher Education, which has seen unprecedented expansion since the year 2004. Our government established 51 institutions during the 11th Plan period, the highest for any Plan period. These include Central Universities, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs).

The number of Central Universities has more than doubled in the period after 2004-05, increasing from 17 to 44. Each State now has at least 1 Central University, except Goa where the State Government did not want one. Special financial assistance was provided to the existing Central institutions to enable them to provide 27 percent reservation for the Other Backward Classes without affecting the number of general seats.

In the period after 2004-05, the number of IITs has increased from 7 to 16 and the number of IIMs from 6 to 13. Five new IISERs have been established. The number of Indian Institutes of Information Technology has also doubled to 4.

We have promoted the use of technology in Higher Education. The National Mission of Education through ICT aims at ensuring high speed broadband connectivity to universities and colleges, developing e content in various disciplines and providing access devices at low cost. About 400 universities and more than 19000 colleges have already been provided connectivity under the Mission.

We have also taken steps and brought about reforms with the aim of enhancing quality in Higher Education.

These efforts have shown results. The actual enrolment in Higher Education grew from 16.6 crore to 25.9 crore during the 11th Plan period. The Gross Enrolment Ratio for Higher Education went up from 12.3 percent in 2006-07 to 17.9 percent in 2011-12. However, this is still much below the world average of 26 percent.

What about the road ahead? The 12th Plan rightly identifies the task for the next 5 years as building on the momentum generated in the last ten years and continuing the focus on expansion, equity and excellence.

Further expansion of the Higher Education system is necessary to cater to the growing demand for Higher Education. But in recognition of the fact that expansion without quality improvement serves little purpose, we will now give over-riding emphasis on quality. We must recognize that too many of our Higher Educational institutions are simply not up to the mark. Too many of them have simply not kept abreast with the rapid changes that have taken place in the world around us in recent years, still producing graduates in subjects that the job market no longer requires.

It is a sobering thought for us that not one Indian university figures in the top 200 Universities of the world today.

Improving quality and fostering excellence in our institutions of Higher Education is a critical challenge that we must collectively address. Our Higher Education system is often criticized for being unnecessarily rigid both for the faculty and the students. I think it is well worth exploring how we can introduce flexibility in our institutions to enable them to attract good faculty, raise teaching standards, encourage cutting edge research and nurture talent. I am happy that one of the points of discussion in the agenda of this Conference is about the quality of education and faculty development in the Central Universities. I sincerely hope that the ensuing discussions will come up with some good recommendations in this regard.

As we move ahead we will keep in view the concerns for equity. We will work to remove imbalances across States, across regions and across sections of our society. We will streamline our equity related schemes in the area of Higher Education, target them better and provide them with increased budgetary support.

We envisage a very important role for Central Universities in setting standards for Higher Education across the country. We expect them to become role models and contribute to strengthening other institutions of higher learning in their vicinity. Some Central Universities located in far-flung areas can also contribute to reducing the academic imbalances in our country. We expect the Central Universities to be Quality-Leading institutions, a role that the 12th Plan envisages for all Central institutions.

You have a very well thought through agenda before you. Apart from issues of quality and faculty development in Central Universities it also includes steps needed to extend the reach of education through extension work in contiguous areas. I consider this as a very important part of the role that the government expects you to play. I urge you to come up with new ways in which you can benefit people in the area around your University, by disseminating knowledge, encouraging innovation, promoting environmental conservation, developing skills and so on.

The Vice Chancellors of Central Universities gathered here represent a vast pool of talent. You are among the leading intellectuals in the country in the field of Higher Education. I am sure that in the discussions that follow you will use your ability and expertise to come up with new and innovative ways of raising standards of education and research in our Central Universities. I once again thank Rashtrapati ji for this initiative. I wish you all very productive discussions and every success in your endeavors in the cause of Higher Education.”

The President of India, Mr Pranab Mukherjee addressed the Conference of Vice Chancellors on 5 Feb 2013.

Such a Conference is being held after a gap of nearly 10 years. Speaking on the occasion the President said that a university is a seat of learning “which recognizes no frontiers except those of human mind itself”. It is the custodian of culture and a channel of communication with the world outside, he said. He further stated that Universities should not only provide knowledge and skills but also inculcate values of humanity and virtue.

The President said that besides being a powerful tool for the realisation of the nation’s technological and economic advancement, higher education has to fulfil the aspirations of the youth, who are restless and are looking for directions. The dearth of key talent for important academic and research positions in important institutions of higher education is a major challenge, he added. He also emphasised that another daunting challenge is the regulatory architecture and quality of governance. Therefore, the focus now has to be on policy formulation that promotes autonomy and good governance, he said. The President stressed that the flight of intellectual capital has to be discouraged by addressing service conditions of faculty and offering them incentives to serve the institutions within the country for longer periods.

Addressing the Conference, the President stated that the participation of private sector should be encouraged by formulating appropriate policies without compromising on the social objectives and the quality benchmarks. The Central Universities must act as a catalyst in taking forward this policy and make India a knowledge economy, he said. He also stated that the Universities have to act more proactively to improve the quality of faculty and they should build a directory of grass root level innovators.

The President said we are witnessing declining standards in the quality of higher education in our country. The National Knowledge Commission in its Report to the Nation, in 2006, referred to it as a “quiet crisis that runs deep”. We have to reverse this trend and for that collective wisdom is needed. He stated that access to knowledge is fundamental to our bid to empower our people. Though India has the second largest higher education system, the gross enrolment in the country in 2010 was only around 19% which is much below the world average of 29%. The enrolment of the disadvantaged sections is a matter of great concern, he said. For example, for scheduled tribe population the gross enrolment ratio in higher education is only half of the national average, he added.

The President emphasized that the simple fact is that much more needs to be done. We have to focus on quality of education imparted and the availability of opportunity to aspirants, to pursue higher education near the place of their residence, he said.

Among the dignitaries present on the occasion were Dr. Sam Pitroda, Chairman, National Innovation Council, Dr. Shashi Tharoor and Mr Jitin Prasada, Ministers of State for HRD, Professor Ved Prakash, Chairman, UGC and also Vice Chancellors of 40 Central Universities.