Roadmap for Higher Education

Ram Nath Kovind

Government’s agenda for higher education include filling up of vacancies, nurturing funding options; progress on research and innovation and building academic-industry linkages

By DANFES

On January 6, 2018, Rashtrapati Bhavan hosted a one-day meet of Vice-Chancellors of 17 new Central Universities set up under the Central Universities Act, 2009 that depicts much about the government’s agenda for education in its regime.

The agenda of the meet included steps taken for enhancing quality of academics and faculty development; issues pertaining to building and infrastructure; filling up of vacancies in the faculty and in administration; timely adherence to the individual university’s academic calendar; encouraging technology-induced models of pedagogy; computerization in admissions and other administrative matters; funding options for higher education; maintenance of annual accounts and audit of accounts; progress on research and innovation and building academic-industry linkages; establishment of academic collaborations between universities; and a long-term vision for the new Central Universities.

Addressing the concluding session, the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, said that our new Central Universities may have some teething troubles but are actually at an advantage. They can completely avoid legacy issues. They can create systems and mechanisms that are in tune with future needs and futuristic technologies. In short, they can be genuine 21st century universities. Having been set up together, these universities are part of the same fraternity – like the IIMs or the IITs too are part of their fraternities. As such, the new Central Universities must rise together and must engage in cross-learning.

Stressing upon the utility of technology in education sector, especially in higher studies President Kovind said, “Technology can have a multiplier effect. It can make the working of the university efficient and transparent. Today, we have heard of excellent initiatives by individual universities – such as using Skype and online communication for placement services, linking Aadhar to degrees to prevent fraud, and digitization of records. These should be replicated and put up on a best practices portal.” He said that technology can also enable high-quality laboratories. By setting up online facilities it can overcome the shortage of books and teaching resources and provide access to e-learning and e-libraries.

“In a country such as ours, with such diversity, vocational courses and Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOC) should also be a focus of Central Universities. Here again technology can be of great help. And with the spread of telecom and Internet connectivity in our country,” he added.

The President said that vacancies in the Central Universities should be filled quickly and urgently. Vacancies in teaching staff are unfair on students who have enrolled, and a disservice to their education. Where necessary, engagement of retired professors for specific periods could be done. Vacancies that are anticipated – due to retirements or expanded needs – should be planned for months in advance. And it is for all authorities to ensure that recruitment is absolutely above board and not influenced by other considerations.

stating vision to compete against other universities of global repute President Kovind said, “Let me state quite clearly that all of you as Vice-Chancellors have been entrusted with the task of leading these institutions – and laying the foundations of what must grow to be great universities – because you have a greater degree of competence.  The very name of Central University should indicate a higher calling – and an all-India character and reputation.”

The President said that these universities have to contribute to the well-being of the community and the state that hosts them. Coordination with the state government should be a continuous process, and not limited to initial questions of land transfer. It would also be helpful to leverage and share resources and build partnerships with existing universities and institutions located nearby.

The President emphasized that there is increasing competition in our country and our world for the best minds – for the best professors and for the best students. He stated that there are many doors open for good teachers and professors. Universities have to compete for talent. That is why assessing the quality of a university through, for example, the NAAC evaluation system is so important. It helps a potential student decide which university to opt for. President Kovind urged every Central University to endeavor to get a good NAAC rating for itself and its affiliated colleges.

“Please do remember that there is increasing competition in our country and our world for the best minds – for the best professors and for the best students. There are many doors open for good teachers and professors. Universities have to compete for talent,” said Kovind.

Giving directives to the Ministry of HRD for having a clear road map for higher studies, President said, “Today, we have discussed problems but we have also made some progress in identifying the way forward.  I am sure the Ministry of HRD, lead by the Minister, Shri Prakash Javadekar, will not only resolve these problems in a time-bound manner but also set out a medium to long-term vision for our new Central Universities. We need to equip these universities to become national assets and world-class institutions. If we cannot achieve this in a reasonable time frame, we will be failing coming generations.” The President expressed hope that the Ministry of HRD will resolve the problems discussed in a time-bound manner, and also set out a medium to long-term vision for these new Central Universities.

Among those who participated in the one-day meet were Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar; Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Dr Satya Pal Singh; Chairman, University Grants Commission, Professor D Singh, representatives of Ministry of HRD and Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, apart from the Vice Chancellors of the 17 new Central Universities.