India’s President Mukherjee’s Challenges Country’s Higher Ed System

If only India can discover the will and leadership to improve, it can be a world leader in education, said President Pranab Mukherjee last week.

"Education is no longer just the privilege of the elite, but a universal right," Mukherjee said in his address at the Conference of Vice Chancellors of Central Universities (CUs) at Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

Since assuming office, this is the second such Conference of Central University Vice Chancellors convened by the President and is attended by Vice Chancellors of 40 central universities. Including 17 Central Universities, the President said he has visited 58 institutes of higher education during the past 18 months.

"There is huge potential of these institutions which lies untapped. The brilliance of our scholars and the exuberance of young students are waiting to be channelized into positive action. Deliberations in the conference should be aimed at unleashing this potential," he said.

An acute shortage of faculty continues to affect most central universities, he added. Showing just 25% of the vacant posts have been filled, the vacancy figure that stood at 6,422 last year is now down to only 4,784.

The central universities were called upon by Mukherjee to be the launchpads of innovative ideas and to institutionalize structures that can identify ingenuous ideas and mentor them into viable products.

The President called upon remaining universities to become a part of an e-family quickly, pointing out that the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NME-ICT) and National Knowledge Network (NKN) has already connected over 1163 institutions including 34 CUs. Additionally, universities were encouraged to use ICT networks for delivering quality education. According to the Business Standard, he intends to address these institutions at least twice every year to take e-engagement further: once in the beginning of the calendar year, and second in August at the commencement of the new academic session.

The President also asked CUs to take the ranking process seriously and appoint an authority to present their achievements to the ranking agencies in proper perspective, expressing concern over the lack of Indian universities in ranking of top Universities of the world.

He added that the situation with regard to indiscipline by students and staff is grave in some places. So that universities can create an environment where students can study and research without stress or fear, the maintenance of discipline on campuses should be a high priority for authorities.

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