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Rashtrapati Bhavan : 04.02.2015

President of India Pranab Mukherjee opened a Conference of Vice Chancellors of Central Universities (CUs) at Rashtrapati Bhavan today (February 4, 2015). This is the third such Conference of Central University Vice Chancellors convened by the President since assumption of office. The Vice Chancellors of 40 Central Universities to which the President is the Visitor are attending this Conference.

Speaking on the occasion, the President said it is important to recognize emerging global trends which are likely to bring sweeping changes in higher education worldwide. Rising costs of higher education and the changing profile of education seekers, aided by technological innovation are leading to the creation of alternative models of knowledge dispensation. Central universities have the responsibility to lead the transformative processes of India’s higher education system.

The President said students passing out from the Indian higher education system will have to compete with the best in the world. There is a need to imbue young minds with competitive spirit and a sense of pride in their alma mater. In addition to international rankings, the universities should attempt ratings on a National Ranking Framework which needs to be expeditiously developed.

The President said the vacancy position in Central Universities remains alarmingly high - in terms of percentage, vacancies have increased from 37.3 percent as on March 31, 2013 to only 38.4 percent as on December 1, 2014. Non-availability of Visitor’s nominees in the Selection Committee of faculty has been addressed. Each Central University will now have a panel of five names of nominees who can be called as per extant instructions. Efforts aimed at engagement of central universities with industry and alumni need far greater focus and direction than at present. Only four universities have so far established centres of excellence while another five are working towards these.

The President said during his visit to Norway and Finland, he called upon academicians and experts to come and teach in India. Under the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN), the HRD Ministry has asked Central Universities for a list of eminent scholars and researchers for inviting them as guest speakers or scholars. An e-platform needs to be developed to facilitate scholars from within and outside the country to log in their details. It shall, in due course, lead to creation of a robust database of global experts for the Indian higher education system. The recently launched ‘Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching’ will set performance standards and create world-class facilities for innovative teaching.

The President said Visitor’s Awards for ‘Best University’, ‘Innovation’ and ‘Research’ will become a driving force in promoting research and innovation in our universities in future. There is an urgent need to put ICT Networks to effective use. Through the video-conferencing facility of NKN, he interacted with faculty and students of Universities three times. When he delivered his New Year Message 120 institutions of higher learning were connected through the National Knowledge Network and another 900 locations through web-cast. He urged the Ministry and all leaders in research and education institutions to use NKN’s reach to transform the quality of higher education system.

The President said because of the diversities in evaluation systems, students have suffered in the acceptance of their credentials across the university system and in accessing employment opportunities. The initiative of Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) will ensure seamless mobility of students across higher education institutions in the country as well as abroad. The credits earned by students can be transferred and would be of great value to them in the event of their seeking migration from one institution to the other. 23 central universities have already implemented CBCS. He urged remaining universities to consider implementing this system from next academic year.

The President said the university is a role-model for society at large. Its persuasive power extends beyond the classroom and teaching. Its influence must be tapped for greater good. The Central Government has launched several initiatives having enormous socio-economic significance. The Swachh Bharat Mission aims at a Clean India by the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in 2019. The Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) envisages the integrated development of selected villages through community participation. He called upon Central Universities to start working with at least five villages each under SAGY to transform them into model villages.

The President said due to limitations of public funding, costs of creation of physical infrastructure and academic facilities get transferred to students in terms of higher fees. Whereas universities earlier used to educate fresh scholars, they now have the added responsibility of training and re-training workers throughout their careers. An Oxford University Study predicts automation of 47 percent occupations in the next few decades. As innovation eliminates certain job types, changes others and creates new ones, the workforce will have to engage in life-long learning to up-grade and refine their skills and capabilities. The twin compulsions of increasing expenditure and dynamic demand can be addressed through extensive use of e-enabled learning. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which first began in 2008, allow students to hear lectures and read course material on-line, and earn a degree at a fraction of the cost of a brick and mortar education. Both SWAYAM (Study Web of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) and MOOCs could pave the way for speed, scale and efficiency for teaching in the higher education system. The Ministry of HRD and institutes of higher learning should develop eco-systems for deriving maximum benefits from applying technology to learning. On-line instruction supplemented by periodic classroom interaction or blended MOOCs, could provide a solution for retaining the essential elements of traditional pedagogy.

The President said particular emphasis has to be provided by our higher learning institutions on the inculcation of core values in our students. Our civilization has championed patriotism, pluralism, tolerance, honesty and discipline. Our democracy has thrived on these values. The next generation must learn to recognize our diversity, inclusiveness and assimilative capacities as inherent sources of strength.

The President said a society takes the form of a creative enterprise when educated masses, with their interlinked rivers of thoughts and ideas, give rise to a sea of innovations. Teachers must encourage the taught to satiate their curiosity, question established knowledge, accept a proposition only after investigation, and pursue ingenuity. A scientific temper, which takes one’s imagination beyond the realm of grades and classroom, is essential in our students. In particular, the habit of reading and learning through books must be inculcated to sharpen their energetic and inquisitive minds. Books also break societal and cultural barriers.

Among the dignitaries present on the occasion were Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani, Union Minister for Human Resource Development.

This release issued at 1105 hrs.