Higher education faces challenge of quality: President

Kurukshetra (Haryana), April 9 (IANS) Institutes of higher learning continue to be challenged by quality, President Pranab Mukherjee said here Tuesday.

Speaking at the 10th annual convocation of the National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra, the president said that quality, affordability and accessibility should become the mainstay of the higher education system.

He said the universities, engineering colleges and research and development centres should be the hotbeds of innovation.

The president said an international survey indicated that there was not a single Indian university amongst the top 200 universities in the world.

“This calls for drastic action to reform the way education is imparted in our universities and academic institutes. A culture of excellence should be embedded in the thought process of our higher education providers,” he said.

Mukherjee said that future growth would have to be secured by innovation and constant technology upgradation and noted that India’s innovation balance sheet was not very encouraging.

“In 2011, 42,000 patent applications were filed in our country compared to over five lakh applications filed each in China and the US. As per a recent Forbes survey, only three Indian companies have been listed amongst the world’s most innovative companies. This number will increase if the process of innovation is made a permanent feature in our institutions of learning,” he said.

The president suggested constructing more incubation parks, building linkages with grass-root innovators, enhancing the number of research fellowships, and driving inter-disciplinary research as some of immediate measures that need to be taken.

Noting that shortage of faculty was assuming serious proportions across all types of higher education institutions, he said existing vacancies must be filled quickly.

Mukherjee said there was also need to scale up research in cutting-edge technologies.

“This demographic dividend is ours for the taking, but for that, the youth must be qualified and trained to participate in national progress,” he said.

Referring to the nine per cent per growth rate envisaged in the 12th Five Year Plan, Mukherjee said such scales of economic expansion need several enabling factors such as education.

He said India has 659 degree awarding institutions and 33,023 colleges and the number of Indian Institutes of Technology has increased from seven in 2006-07 to 15 in 2011-12.

The enrolment to higher education institutions in the country has increased, from 1.39 crore in 2006-07 to 2.18 crore in 2011-12.

He said growth rate of enrolment in engineering, which was close to 25 per cent annually during the 11th Plan, was the highest for any field of study.

Mukherjee said the government intends to establish more central universities in the 12th Plan with priority also to be given to governance reforms.

He said institute at Kurukshetra had completed 50 years of rendering engineering education.

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