Speaking on the occasion, the president said India can be a world leader in education, if only we discover the will and leadership to take us to that pinnacle. Education is no longer just the privilege of the elite, but a universal right.
The president said during the past 18 months, he has visited 58 institutes of higher education, including 17 Central Universities. There is huge potential of these institutions which lies untapped. The brilliance of our scholars and the exuberance of young students is waiting to be channelized into positive action. Deliberations in the Conference should be aimed at unleashing this potential.
The president said most Central Universities continue to suffer from an acute shortage of faculty. The vacancy figure which stood at 6,422 last year is now down to only 4,784, which shows just 25 per cent of the vacant posts have been filled up.
The President asked the central varsities to take ranking seriously
The president called upon Central Universities to be the launch pads of innovative ideas and institutionalise structures that can identify ingenuous ideas and mentor them into viable products. He expressed appreciation that in the past one year, Innovation Clubs have been set up in 22 Central universities and urged remaining CUs to take pro-active steps to set up such Clubs. The President also expressed happiness that in pursuance to last year's Conference recommendations, 23 CUs have set up an 'Inspired Teachers Network'.
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, the President called upon remaining Universities to become a part of this e-family quickly. He called upon the Universities to effectively use the ICT networks for imparting quality education.
The president said through the video-conferencing facility, he gave a New Year Message to over 450 institutions. To take this e-engagement further, he intends to address these institutions at least twice every year, once in the beginning of the calendar year, and second in August at the commencement of the new academic session.
The president advised MHRD, UGC and the CUs to sit together and take action to improve the governance system and structures. He also requested them to engage their alumni in the governance of Universities. He further called upon the MHRD and CUs to prepare a data-base of alumni who can be involved in the governance of CUs.
The president said research is the keystone for widening India's production potential and universities must be the hotbeds of research activity. He asked the Conference to discuss measures to strengthen the eco system for research in Universities. Expressing concern over the lack of Indian universities in ranking of top universities of the world, the president asked the CUs to take the ranking process seriously and appoint a nodal authority to present their achievements to the ranking agencies in proper perspective.
The President said the situation with regard to indiscipline by students and staff is grave in some places. Maintenance of discipline in campuses should be the highest priority of authorities so that an environment where students can study and research without stress or fear can be created.
Among the dignitaries present on the occasion were Dr Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India; Dr M M Pallam Raju, Union Minister for Human Resource Development; Dr Shashi Tharoor and Jitin Prasada, Ministers of State for Human Resource Development; Prof Ved Prakash, Chairman, University Grants Commission and Vice Chancellors of 40 Central Universities.