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Higher educational institutions are the torchbearers of progress: President Mukherjee

New Delhi: Addressing the concluding session, the President said the Visitor’s Conference provides a platform where central institutions in diverse fields like agriculture, pharmaceuticals and humanities join institutions of technology, engineering, science and IT in deliberations. With coming together of such mighty minds, it is a living example of plurality. He was confident this interaction would lead to the cross-fertilization of ideas and innovative solutions to the various problems that our higher education system faces. This forum is not an umbrella that would shelter them from challenges but the trunk of a tree that nurtures the growth of its many branches.

The President said higher educational institutions are the torchbearers of progress. Building institutions is not merely a brick and mortar activity. It represents a vision of the future which we all want for our nation and the generations to come. Irrespective of race, gender, faith or socio-economic background, institutions of higher learning are a place where merit triumphs over individual identities, in pursuit of excellence.

The President said shortage of faculty has plagued our institutions for a long time. From a compilation of figures provided in the Conference, he noticed that the vacancy level has reduced only marginally, from 39 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2016. But for Central Universities, we have been able to fill 70 percent vacancies which is good performance. He said there is need for innovative mechanisms to address the problem of vacancies on a long-term basis.

The President said quality research must get our utmost attention. The Prime Minister’s Fellowship Scheme for Doctoral Research, which is a collaborative effort of Department of Science and Technology and CII and supports full-time PhD scholars, is a good initiative. We should also prioritize research in our institutions on the basis of its relevance. The pan IIT-IISc initiative of IMPRINT India has great potential in addressing the immediate requirements of society through quality research at these institutes. He called upon academic leaders of institutes of liberal arts and humanities to also undertake similar initiatives.

The President said innovation is the currency of the future. The one-week Festival of Innovations that Rashtrapati Bhavan started in the year 2015 has now become the biggest congregation of innovative minds starting from grassroots innovators to IT professionals. The roundtables on inclusive innovation and financing of innovation provide a forum for grassroots innovators, entrepreneurs and financiers.

The President said participation by all institutions in the National Institutional Rankings Framework (NIRF) will help create a spirit of healthy competition, eventually reflecting in our approach to international rankings. A successful implementation of ‘Project Vishwajeet’ could see 7 to 10 Indian institutions in the top 100 in near future. With over 1,800 MoUs with domestic and foreign institutions, and over 530 MoUs with industry, our central institutions are on the right path. Our central institutions of higher learning are getting truly internationalized. But the key to success lies in the implementation of the MoUs.

The President said he fully understands the need for adequate financial resources. While the government will have to find a major part of the funds required, we should also look at other funding mechanisms like alumni and corporate sector support. It can come in the form of endowments, sponsored research, and creation of joint and shared research facilities.

The President said perhaps when the next Visitor’s Conference is held, there will be someone else presiding over the event. But he was sure the crusade for excellence that we started will continue with greater vigour. Our country needs inspiring minds to make a difference. He said the desired change will not happen on its own. Change is the result of sustained effort of the committed, who hitch their wagons to something bigger than themselves and fight for it every single day. To prepare and to win, they need to have, not just passion, but a strategy; not just awareness, but action. We have come this far in improving our central institutions of higher learning. He has no doubt we will go farther.

Earlier in the day Action Taken Reports were submitted by different groups of Heads of institutions. Recommendations were also submitted by groups on the agenda items of the Conference namely: (a) Creating world-class higher educational institutions; (b) Creating global alliance of institutes for research, innovation and technology development; (c) Making India a favoured destination for higher learning; (d) Technology-induced models of pedagogy; and (e) Funding options for higher education.

Among the dignitaries present at the concluding session of the Visitor’s Conference were Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey, Minister of State for Human Resource Development and senior officers of Rashtrapati Bhavan and Government of India.

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