ADDRESS AT THE GOLDEN JUBILEE CELEBRATION OF UNIVERSITY GRANT COMMISSION
28-12-2003 : Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi
University Education and National Missions
I am indeed delighted to participate in the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the University Grants Commission which has contributed to the cause of higher education in the post independent India for the last five decades through several innovative schemes. I congratulate the Ministry of Human Resource Development, University Grants Commission and all those who are associated with this growth. The Universities have a major responsibility in nation building through enriching Science, Engineering and Technology and by providing value based education to students to make them moral leaders. On this occasion, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on "University Education and National Missions".
Second Vision for the Nation
We have all heard about the first vision of the Nation which commenced in the year 1857. During that period there were few universities in the country. Many of our freedom fighters were educated abroad. Lawyers, educators, poets, academicians, industrialists all of them participated in the freedom movement. It was a long drawn struggle and we got the freedom and India became independent in the year 1947. There has been substantial growth in higher education after independence and today nearly 10 million students are studying in our colleges thereby in our universities. We have designed our own higher education system and educated over eighty million students during this period who are engaged in a variety of national and international assignments. After five decades of growth our country has to face new challenges. It has a second vision to become a developed India by the year 2020. We have a population of over one billion people of which 260 million are still living below the poverty line. They need education, they need habitat, they need health care, and creation of employment potential. To meet their needs we need the second vision for the nation. Our GDP is growing at an average rate of 5% p.a. whereas the economists suggest that to remove the poverty of 260 million people we have to grow at the rate of 10% p.a. consistently for over a decade.
Partner to Developed India - Missions
How do we counter this situation? What role our educational system will play in the second vision of national development? Is an incremental change sufficient or do we need a quantum shift in emphasis for developing people who can participate in transforming India into a developed nation by 2020? Let us study the proposed integrated missions such as 5000 PURA's (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) out of 25000 PURA's, interlinking of rivers, power mission, agriculture, agro-food processing, tourism, healthcare, infrastructure development, information and communication technology (ICT), mass transportation system and critical technologies. Youth with knowledge, skill and passion are required for undertaking and completing these tasks in time.
In the next two decades, nation will witness the occurrence of many events. The vision 2020 will be put into action-oriented missions. Interlinking of rivers may get priority in the list and PURA will get into implementation by all the states. Now the university system apart from its research focus has to become partners in national development. This will call for changes in the syllabi. The training will include several aspects that will nurture entrepreneurial skills in the students. It will also have our value systems at its core. We now know that high quality developments like PURA and the networking of rivers are missions that will also call for high quality research. In order to meet these complex requirements it has to be recognised that the university should also be a place of research. 10% of the university facilities should be allocated exclusively for research. Creation of national institute of science will also help in identifying areas where research and developments are co-located and flow from one another.
Present Status of Higher Education System
Number of schemes have been launched by UGC for the development of the Universities and Colleges, provide access of education to all the section of the society equitably, especially for the under privileged and differently abled persons. I understand that UGC has also launched career oriented courses at the academic staff colleges. To meet the challenges in education and in global society, UGC has evolved a scheme of granting potential for excellence status to selected universities. It is good UGC is creating four National Institute of Science at Chennai, Pune, Allahabad and Bhubaneshwar for promoting excellence in Science Education in collaboration with CSIR, DBT, ISRO, DAE, DST, DRDO and Department of Oceanography. Generating the sustained interest in the scientific discipline, will need continuity in provision of employment.
Employment Generation through entrepreneurship
There has been substantial growth in our higher educational system and we are generating over 3 million graduates every year. However our employment generation system is not in a position to absorb the graduates passing out from the universities leading to increase in educated unemployed, year after year. This situation will lead to instability in the social structure. We need higher education backed by employment opportunities. A multi pronged strategy is needed to make education more attractive and simultaneously create employment potential - how do we do that?
Firstly, the educational system should highlight the importance of entrepreneurship and prepare the students right from the college education to get oriented towards setting up of the enterprises which will provide them creativity, freedom and ability to generate wealth. Apart from entrepreneurship, the youth should have the spirit that "we can do it". Secondly, the banking system should provide venture capital right from every village level to the prospective entrepreneurs for undertaking new enterprises. Banks have to be proactive to support the innovative products for enabling wealth generation by young entrepreneurs by setting aside the "conventional tangible asset syndrome". Definitely this involves certain amount of calculated risks which can be eliminated by making an analysis of successful venture capital enterprises. Thirdly, there is a need to identify marketable products and enhancement of purchasing power among the people. This can come through the implementation of mega programmes such as PURA, Interlinking of Rivers, Infrastructural missions, Power missions and Tourism. Also genuine border trade can improve if we have a friendly border in all sectors.
The universities should become a facilitator for creating this entrepreneurship scheme through the support of the banking system and the marketing system. This is one way of reducing the employment gap leading to upliftment of the 260 million people living below the poverty line.
An empowered University
The SAC-C (Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet) has given the recommendation: The demand of the country both in terms of the quality and quantity is so enormous that the government funding alone will not be adequate to take care of the needs of the higher S&T education. It is also recognized that the requirements of the trained manpower arise not only from within the country but also from abroad as a result of the globalization of manpower markets.
Recently I was talking to a Physics Professor from Princeton, I asked him, what is the difference between an Indian University and Princeton University? And he replied in a single word that "Freedom is the difference". Of course this freedom comes out of national administrative vision. Nation has to graduate towards this. Science has no borders and integrates many fields. May be, this is what probably was followed in our Gurukuls and Nalanda University, which were never dependent on the support of the government or the kingdom. I started visualizing an ideal university in our country which can have an autonomous totally free educational environment, which can meet the challenges of 21st century. An empowered Board of governors and an academic council is appointed for establishing and guiding the university. The board of governors should elect the Chancellor and Visitor from within or outside the board giving credence only to the academic excellence. It is made fully autonomous with a mandate to develop human resource of excellence for deployment towards societal transformation.
Each student is assigned a computer connected to the Internet through wired or wireless connections. In order to make use of the integrated educational services any time, any where- be it in the class room or the hostel, he stays always connected. He is in direct touch with all the happenings on the subject and also in continuous communications with his/her teachers. Assignments are given, completed and submitted through e-learning system. His teachers do not provide him or her solution to any problem. They only trigger his or her imagination to think wider and find a solution for him or herself. They encourage him to take risks and think differently. Students are taught the art of learning rather than learning itself. In this 21st century, we are seeing the death of time and distance. It is immaterial where the information is located at any time, any one, any place. And we will be able to travel with the information, in fact all the information that you need in your life can be packed in the disk of your computer that may store few terra bytes. You will be overloaded with the information, winner will be the one who knows how to mine the data and convert it into knowledge. Can we have such an empowered university?
It is time that we should start looking at the possibility of creating a Virtual University in India through networking of all the universities and other educational institutions for imparting universal tele-education. Virtual university will have the following tasks:
a) Act as a central hub of all universities which are networked.
b) Identify experts of national/international eminence in specialized areas.
c) Coordinate, organize, schedule and broadcast the lecture of specialists at a mutually convenient time to all participants.
d) Record the live transmission of the lecture with interaction details in a data bank for easy access by participants for review learning.
e) Digitize all the university libraries and make it available for seamless access by all the universities.
f) Provide for all the 3-Ls of learning- Lectures, Laboratory and the Library- all over the Internet-
g) The universities need to become learner centric.
This experiment across the country will provide a common platform for teaching Schools, Colleges and Universities and even vocational courses. This will give equal emphasis on theory and experiments in spite of the fact that it will be done in the cyberspace. Such is the power of the technology and our understanding of it. This facility would also help in expansion of telecommunication and IT services. All this would lead to synergising the strengths of different universities in promoting quality education to our students in a cost effective manner. I suggest the Five Universities which have been recognized as having "potential for excellence" should be asked to create virtual universities on the five areas of excellence which will enable sharing of excellence by all the Universities.
Concluding remarks :11 initiatives
UGC has formulated number of initiatives for promoting excellence in higher education as per Xth Plan Target. I would recommend certain initiatives, which can make the educational sector vibrant and meet the challenges of providing vital human resource for national development.
1. a. In the first phase 5000 PURAs (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) are planned out of the 25,000 possible PURAs in the country. Youth with knowledge, skill and passion are required to be in the centre stage for participating of such PURAS. An integrated programme should be developed at graduate and postgraduate levels for developing technologists and managers for creating and sustaining PURAs. The first course may commence from academic year 2004-05.
b. University needs to become the knowledge partner in the programmes such as India's vision 2020, interlinking of rivers, desalination of water through nuclear and solar energy etc.,
2. A transparent system of University performance Evaluation scheme is required to be evolved. Evaluation criteria may include areas such as quality and quantity of research, contribution to societal transformation, utilization and performance of the students who have passed out in the previous five years, quality and standing of the teaching staff, promotion of E-governance , transparent examination system and the student centric responsive administration.
3. Performance evaluation results could also be used to plan merger of some universities for promoting synergy and excellence and reducing managerial overheads.
4. A simple, easy to implement "educational loan scheme" should be evolved by UGC in collaboration with the banks for enabling meritorious students to pursue higher education without disruption.
5. UGC should create a dynamic curriculum review mechanism relating to current socio-technical needs of the country.
6. There are a number of young prodigies in different areas. A system for recognizing these prodigies and promoting their growth consistent with their abilities different from the conventional system needs to be designed and implemented.
7. UGC should create simplified uniform inter-university mobility norms for students acceptable to all universities.
8. UGC should plan to build a common digital library for the all universities and provide them seamless access to the literary resources.
9. Build Educational Grid which connects Universities for resource sharing, content generation on their core competence, e-learning, tele-education and universal certification.
10. Enlist great teachers of the nation who love teaching from various sectors
11. Lead to the approval of empowered university with private initiatives, national/international.
Wish you all the best.