Hamid Ansari calls for more funds for State Universities to improve higher education

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Kolkata, Dec 20 (ANI): Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari on Monday said that higher education cannot improve in India unless State Universities, which are the backbone and represent the bulk of enrolment, are able to obtain greater funds, create new infrastructure and enrich their existing academic programmes.

Delivering foundation day lecture at University of Calcutta, Vice President Ansari said anecdotal evidence suggests that the budget of one Central University is almost the same or more than the budget of all State Universities in some States, and added that there are five questions pertaining to higher education that need to be addressed urgently.

"We must ponder whether the existing means of instituting new universities is desirable and sustainable. Currently, Universities can be established only through Central or State legislation or through recognition as Deemed Universities on a selective basis. Legislation has been accorded to many private Universities by some State Governments, and both Central and State governments have accorded statutory status to some institutions," said Vice President Ansari.

" Just like the central government has assumed the responsibility for elementary education through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, it should also vastly enhance its support to state universities as a shared national enterprise," he added.

Vice President Ansari said a significant focus of reform should be the college system, numbering around 26000 colleges, where most of the enrolment in higher education occurs.

"Sadly, under graduate education does not get the attention it deserves in universities amidst paucity of funds for qualitative development and quantitative expansion of colleges. The government is planning to establish colleges in 374 educationally backward districts in the country, representing over 60 per cent of all districts, with shared funding between the state and central governments," he added.

The Vice President further said there is a need to liberate education from the strict and fragmented disciplinary confines of our formal higher education structures.

"This has become a significant impediment in the creation of new knowledge, especially in view of our stated objective of creating a knowledge society. We need to remind ourselves that the Indian Nobel Prize winners in the early part of the last century were a part of our higher education set-up. We had then allowed free interplay between science and engineering, languages and the humanities, performing and fine arts," said Vice President Ansari.

"It was at the fringes of such inter-disciplinary interaction that new knowledge was produced and existing knowledge flourished. I am aware of academic administrators who bemoan that those pursuing Mathematics could not simultaneously study Sanskrit grammar in India despite sound academic and research logic of doing so, due to systemic rigidities of our university system," he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Vice President Ansari further pointed out that higher education in our country must be an arena of choice, not of elimination.

"Increasingly, one notices that entrance and admission criteria and procedures are designed to screen out and eliminate, due to the adverse ratio of demand and availability, especially in disciplines with job potential or where the college or university reputation is likely to be a determining factor in employment," said Vice President Ansari.

"We must create avenues for skills training and vocational education so that entering universities does not become a default choice for the sake of employment, particularly for those who might not have interest in the subject or desire for higher education," he added.

Concluding his speech, the Vice President said: "In the near future, we would witness civil society, policy community, academia, the government and the legislatures debating issues ranging from regulatory and governance structures, academic and administrative reforms, capacity building and teacher training, and entry of individual and institutional foreign education providers. This is a positive development and must be pursued to its logical conclusion." (ANI)

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