Chennai: President Pranab Mukherjee on December 28 pitched for improving the standards of higher education by Indian universities and also asked the private players also to contribute their best as there were 'unlimited' demands and 'limited' resources in the sector. "The standards of higher education in India today need improvement. In ancient India, we had universities like Nalanda and Takshashila which had established themselves as international centers of educational excellence where students from all over the world came and studied", Mukerjee said.
In contrast, many Indian students today choose to go abroad for higher studies, Mukherjee said in his Convocation Address at the SRM University here. Observing that India needs universities to provide quality education that met international benchmarks, he said, "We must change the reality of our universities for not figuring in the list of top universities of the world. Indian universities should aim at becoming top educational institutions in the world with global standards of research, teaching and learning."
Noting that there were 'unlimited' demands and 'limited' resources in the field of higher education he said, "it is important that the private sector also contributes its best to the provision of higher education in India". "The private sector has played a key role in higher education in other countries across the world. Many top universities including Harvard, Yale and Stanford are the result of efforts of the private sector. There is no reason why Indian private sector cannot achieve similar results", he said.
To build the trust of the people, private universities must constantly prove themselves, said President.
Stating that Indian education system was "burdened" with demands of both "quantity" and "quality", he said, "the numbers of students who seek admissions in universities today far exceed the capacity of government educational institutions".
"We need many more universities to be able to address the demands of higher education. And along with quantity, we also need to focus on quality", he said. Defence Research Development Organisation Director General VK Sarasvat and noted physician Pawan Raj Goyal were awarded Doctorates in their field of expertise by Mukherjee on the occasion.
Stating that the shortage of good faculty was a matter of serious concern, Mukherjee said "while the requisite number of good quality teachers cannot be made available overnight, we must tackle the problem by bringing in innovative teaching methodologies".
"Our teacher must be exposed to larger number of refresher courses and seminars so as to be up-to-date with latest concepts in their discipline", he said. Noting that parents and students were "often skeptical" of private universities in India and prefer "old" and "established" public universities, he said, "to build the trust of the people, private universities must constantly prove themselves because they do not have the benefit of age".
"They (private universities) must be able to promise a good future to the students and make sure they fulfill all of their promises", he said.
"Universities must satisfy the citizens that they are taking up the cause of education not for private profit but in public service", he added.
Noting that higher education needs a systematic re-look in India, he said, "as we stand on the threshold of the 12th Five Year plan, challenges continue to exist with respect to quality and provision of relevant education".
"Curricular reforms leading to regular revision and upgrading of curricula, introduction of semester system, choice based credit system and examination reforms are yet to take place in many higher educational institutions across the country", the President said.
Observing that private sector accounts for about four-fifths of enrolment in professional higher education, he said, "the standards of education, however, vary from institute to institute. It is essential that a transparent framework for better service be established in private education".
"The regulatory mechanism should facilitate accreditation of all educational institutions with clarity on incentives and consequences in order to improve quality and to promote excellence in higher education", he said.