Prime Minister’s address at Conference of Vice-Chancellors of Central Universities

Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s
Following is the text of Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s address at the Conference of Vice-Chancellors of Central Universities in New Delhi today: 

“This conference of Vice Chancellors of Central Universities follows the one that was organized about a year back. I thank Rashtrapati ji for his interest and initiative in improving the performance of Central Universities. 

As I said in the last conference, the UPA Government has focussed on education as never before. We have expanded educational facilities in the country on an unprecedented scale. We have taken steps to improve access to education for the disadvantaged sections of our society and to improve quality. 

Our efforts have spanned all levels of education- primary, secondary and higher. We have also taken major initiatives in vocational education and skill development. 

The efforts made in the last 10 years have laid the foundation for building a strong education system, capable of fulfilling our aspirations of becoming a modern, liberal and prosperous country. The need now is to concentrate on removing the deficiencies that still exist, particularly the deficit in quality. I believe that conferences like the present one can help us greatly in this task. 

As I understand, this conference has on its agenda the specific issue of improving the quality of education in Central Universities and also the more general issue of the use of technology for improving access, equity and quality in Higher Education. I also understand that this agenda has been drawn up in consultation with the Vice Chancellors and the Ministry of Human Resource Development. This preparatory work should definitely help in making the conference more productive. 

In addition, the format of the conference provides for constitution of three Working Groups which will present their reports after deliberations. This should make the proceedings of the conference more focussed and the recommendations more actionable. 

Central Universities form an important constituent of our Higher Education institutional system. Since independence, 46 Central Universities have been set up in the country, with 26 having been established by our Government in the last ten years. The Government looks upon Central Universities as agencies of change. Many of them have been set up in remote and backward areas with a view to improving access to Higher Education in the less developed parts of the country.

 These universities particularly aim at promoting interdisciplinary education and research. They are also expected to build an environment of learning in the area around them through the establishment of business incubation centres, science and technology parks and industrial consultancy centres. It is therefore important that Central Universities emerge as centres of excellence. 

I am happy that this conference will specifically deliberate upon promotion of Industry-Academia linkages to improve the quality of education in Central Universities. This is obviously an area in which our Higher Education system lags behind. Global experience shows that such linkages strengthen both universities as well as Industry. While universities get access to valuable resources for research, Industry benefits from the outcomes of the research which it has funded. I think we need to find innovative ways of encouraging Industry- Academia partnerships in our country. I would expect Central Universities to take a lead in this area, which would be a sure way of improving the quality of their research output. 

This conference will also discuss the issue of interfacing with ranking agencies as a means to improving the quality of education. This is also an important area on which our institutions of Higher Education need to focus more. Our institutions of Higher Education should be fully conversant with the ways in which quality related outcomes are quantified and quality performance of an institute measured. Today very few institutions are recognized globally as centres of excellence. Improved interfacing with ranking agencies can contribute towards changing this state of affairs. 

On the more general issue of using technology for improving access, equity and quality, we all know that there is tremendous potential to harness Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for expanding access and improving quality of education. Information and Communications Technology can also be of great use in building capacity in educational institution. Recognising this, our Government launched the National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology in (NMEICT) in 2009. 

The Mission provides an unprecedented opportunity to Central Universities and other Higher Education institutions to develop and deploy e-Content leading to enhanced access and quality outcomes. So far about 400 universities and 20,000 colleges have been provided high-speed broad-band connectivity under the mission. I hope that in your deliberations you will explore ways of making greater and better use of the mission. 

I would also like to mention the Rashtriya Uchhatar Shiksha Abhiyan which our Government has launched and which should go a long way in expanding access to Higher Education opportunities. The programme gives enhanced attention to State universities for improving their quality of education and research.

 It aims to create 278 new universities and 388 new colleges and to convert 266 colleges to Model Degree Colleges by the end of the 13th Plan, apart from providing infrastructure grants to 286 State universities and 8500 State colleges. It will cumulatively create 20,000 new faculty positions and support them in the 12th and 13th Plan periods. 

There are several other issues also which need to be addressed for strengthening not only Central Universities but also our Higher Education System in general. Our institutions of High Education need to focus much more on research. We need to find ways and means of addressing shortage of faculty which affects a substantial part of the Higher Education system. 

We also need to ensure that the institutions of Higher Education in the country have the requisite autonomy without compromising the requirement of accountability. I am sure the deliberations here will touch upon some of such issues. 

Let me end by wishing you very productive deliberations. I have no doubt that under the able guidance of Rashtrapati ji we will be able to find new and innovative ways and means of strengthening the Higher Education System in all its dimensions.”