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Amity University, Gurgaon organised National Seminar on “Restructuring Higher Education in India – Issues and Strategic Framework”

With a view to assimilate the profound wisdom of the eminent Academia & Industry leaders to flag major issues and to identify the directions for future growth of Indian Higher Education, Amity University Gurgaon organized a National Seminar on “Restructuring Higher Education in India – Issues and Strategies ” on 30th August, 2014 at its Manesar Campus.The Seminar was addressed by Eminent Scientist Padmashri Prof KL Chopra, Former Director, IIT Kharagpur, Prof Prem Vrat, Former Director, IIT Roorkee, Prof


Ashoka Chandra
, Former Special Secretary, MHRD and Advisor (Technical), Government of India, Padmashri Prof(Dr) Seyed Hasnain, Former Member UGC and former Vice Chancellor, University of Hyderabad among others. The Founder President of RBEF and Chancellor Amity University, Hon’ble Dr Ashok K Chauhan and the Additional President RBEF and Chancellor Amity University Rajasthan, Hon’ble Mr. Aseem Chauhan also addressed the Seminar.

It was the considered view of the eminent speakers at the seminar that the higher Education in India is in search of a robust, flexible, autonomous higher education system that shall drive India’s Higher Education to leapfrog in assuring growth with globally accredited quality, high industry relevance, equity and inclusion while at the same time nurturing innovations and excellence in plenty in a country of billion people having a demographic dividend of its young minds and a society which understands the value and worth of empowerment that education provides.

The learned speakers at the seminar were of the firm view that the current regulatory structure of the Higher Education in India requires a major restructuring of its regulatory system as well as re-engineering of its processes so as to be effective in rejuvenating the universities in India to create the desired ecosystem for learner centric quality education that empowers students with the capabilities to work in a tech-savvy work environment impacted by the knowledge revolution and rapid technology advances. The higher education in India should create the enabling environment for Solution Research, Technology Incubation and should provide the much needed supportive environment for ideas to innovated products and commercialization of intellectual property.

In his opening remarks Prof PB Sharma, Vice – Chancellor, AUH, Gurgaon informed that despite the fact that higher education remain a major attraction for the inspired young minds of students and the parents in India, the Indian Universities continue to reel under the crisis of poor quality of education, low employability, loss of professional morality and a disconnect between knowledge, skills and values.

What more the noble profession of teaching is no longer a major attraction to the talented graduates for whom the nobility of service to the inspired minds assumes a lesser significance compared to their own rapid career growth with the MNCs and the corporate. Surely there is every reason to pause and ponder as to how to avert this malice looming large on higher education in India.


It was emphasized that the major issues that are to be addressed by the policy framework for Restructuring Higher Education are:
I. Autonomy, the freedom to excel with accountability to stake holders.
II. Quality- assured through a system of Quality Audit acceptable globally.
III. Relevance- to make Indian Universities as lifeline of the industries to provide the propulsive thrust for creation of new market and sustain global competitiveness.
IV. Creation of New Knowledge and Intellectual wealth to drive world quality research and innovations.
V. Making Education and Research a 24x7 phenomenon by effective integration of the digital ICT enabled national and global knowledge networks.
VI. Public Private Partnership in Higher Education empowering India with abundance of talent, fiscal resources and a corporate culture for promotion of Quality, Relevance and Global Competition.
VII. Internationalization of India’s Higher Education promoting collaborative linkages and facilitating advancement of India’s higher education in foreign countries as also facilitating foreign universities to set up campuses in India. Issues like twinning programs, credit transfers, and collaborative teaching and research in a 24x7 learning environment including education any time any where need to be addressed.


It was also opined that any exercise of Restructuring must not lose sight of the fact that education, higher education included, is a concurrent subject and as such both the Central and the state Government have to work with a framework that promotes “
Partnership for progress“, yet has inbuilt tenacity for state level innovations and initiatives that further enhance state commitment for its people.


It was also echoed that the exercise of Restructuring Higher Education must pass the litmus test of:
  • Its Effectiveness to drive Growth with Quality and Relevance
  • Its Capacity and Capability to Accelerate Knowledge Creation and Innovations in a country of billion innovative minds
  • Its Flexibility - Flexible to accommodate innovations in the systems of education and research.
  • Being Global in its approach without sacrificing interest of India and its people
  • Capable of meeting and greeting the challenges of rapidly changing knowledge and skill sets caused by the Knowledge revolution and mind boggling advances on scientific and technological fronts.
  • Agility- Agile to serve the cause of Higher Education in the testing times ahead where educating an informed , tech-savvy knowledge society shall cause new compulsions to redesign the way education is imparted and research is carried out to empower the people with the “Wings of Knowledge and Power of Innovations” to remain committed to life long enlightenment and global competitiveness.

Some of the issues that were identified for discussion at the Seminar are:
1. Role of regulatory bodies in promoting growth with Quality and Relevance:
2. National Mission for attracting the talented minds towards teaching profession:
3. Lack of industry interface and involvement in processes at the educational institutions:
4. Industry Relevant and Society Centric Solution Research:
5. Internationalization of Higher Education and Global connect of Indian Universities:
6 Lack of inclusion of aspects related to contribution to society:
7 Lack of focus on soft skills and Human Values:



The following is the gist of the deliberations at the seminar:


1. Shri Aseem Chauhan, Addl President RBEF and Chancellor Amity University Rajasthan in his address to the seminar emphasized that the Universities require qualified faculty that is committed and self motivated. Further the universities should address the local needs while at the same time empowering its students with globally accredited education and skill sets.

He informed that the Amity University is firmly committed to nurture the highest levels of quality in education and to provide an environment in which both the teachers as well as the students can cultivate innovativeness and engage in cutting edge research of high value to industries and society. At Amity special emphasis is laid on cultivation of values at so that those graduating from Amity University turn out to be outstanding professionals with human values said Chancellor Shri Aseem Chauhan.



2.
Dr. Ashok K Chauhan, the Founder President of RBEF and Hon’ble Chancellor of Amity University in his Address to the Seminar categorically mentioned that his dream is to make Amity University as the best in the world and as such we have attracted eminent persons from the reputed academic institutions, R&D organisations, industries and civil and defence services for our universities which are equipped with world class physical and knowledge infrastructure. We lay great emphasis on world quality R&D and our faculty have undertaken 300 sponsored research projects, filed 541 patents and have implemented curriculum innovations to promote flexible credit system to promote an interdisciplinary and trans-departmental learning environment. We have set up a Technology and Innovation Incubator at Amity University Noida that has given rise to a large number of knowledge enterprises and has facilitated technology transfer to industries.

           
Dr Chauhan further emphasised that he considers the exercise of restructuring India’s higher education as an agenda of high national importance and as such while commending the Amity University Gurgaon and its Vice Chancellor Prof. PB Sharma for taking a lead in this regard, he assured that the Amity University shall take up this national agenda as a very important project of Amity and desired that the deliberations on this important topic be organised at various Amity University campuses in India. Dr Chauhan also suggested that a high powered advisory board be set up to steer this important project so that its outcome can be presented to Government of India for restructuring higher education in India.


3.
Prof (Dr) Seyed Hasnain, Former Member UGC and former Vice Chancellor Hyderabad University in his address at the inaugural function of the Seminar said that promoting quality research in Indian Universities is one of the most important issue if we have to succeed in making our Universities as the prime movers of growth and development of globally competitive Indian Industries. Dr Hasnain however remarked that currently 90% government funding for R & D project is made available to the IITs and other few selected institutions and while only the remaining 10% goes to other Universities. Such an uneven funding for R & D is required to be changed if we have to promote Quality Research in our Universities.


The system of block grant should be introduced to promote internal resource generation and competitive bidding for the R & D projects. Dr Hasnain also opines that the geography of research is moving away from the best to the east. Already China, Japan and South Korea, Singapore have emerged as major house for Research and knowledge creation, India can also emerge as a major contributor towards Quality Research providing the restructure of our funding pattern and create the enabling environment for World Quality R & D environment in our University. He also was of the opinion that the block grant should be linked to performance and output.


Prof Hasnain also emphasised the need for creating skilled workforce and suggested that a network of excellence be created for harnessing high achievers in the field of R & D. Dr Hasnain also pointed out that the initiative of the Government of India to nurture the Universities of Excellence is commendable and must be pursued with all sincerity. He also suggested that Government may coin the Navratna University concept to nurture excellence and build India’s eminence in world quality education and research.


4.
Prof Ashoka Chandra, Former Special Secretary MHRD and Advisor (Technical), in his Inaugural Address commended the Founder President RBEF & Chancellor Amity University for his passion for Quality and Excellence. He also admired Dr Chauhan for attracting eminent persons to join Amity University as a part of his team and for taking Amity to such great heights of achievements. Prof Chandra, made a special mention about Prof PB Sharma, the Vice Chancellor of Amity University Haryana who built Delhi College of Engineering & Delhi Technological University to such high levels of repute and recognitions during his long illustrious professional career and congratulated Dr Chauhan for attracting Prof Sharma to join Amity University as the Vice Chancellor of Amity University Gurgaon.


Prof Chandra, presenting his thoughts on Restructuring Higher Education in India reminded that there is a strong rationale for the criticality of Higher Education for economic growth for a nation. In fact, technological capabilities of the workforce of the nation have become a dominant factor of economic growth. Higher Education being the potential source of human capital and technology is thus critical to India’s economic growth.


Dr Chandra also opined that the centralised system of decision making which puts these large tasks in the hands of the few individuals/ agencies only means that the inherent complexity would be sought to be minimised and uniform patterns imposed on the system, purely for the sake of their convenience, if nothing else. This approach is inimical to experimentation and innovation. For experimentation, innovation and efficiency, institutions need reasonable autonomy that should be coupled with self- regulation. Some regulation is therefore necessary but that regulation should not descend to micro - prescription of every single detail.


Emphasising the need for accreditation, Dr Chandra said that accreditation should be pursued as a strategy for broader regulation while giving sufficient operational flexibility. Dr Chandra also advocated for bridging the two cultures, namely the culture of Humanities and the culture of Science & Technology. The breakdown of communication between these two cultures of modern society is proving a major hindrance to solving the World’s problems. Higher education institutions and universities will have to address the simultaneous challenge of technological and cultural citizenship. This requires a significant restructuring of higher education in India.


5.
Padmashri Prof KL Chopra, distinguished scientist and Former Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur while delivering his invited Keynote Address at the Seminar said that the Growth of global economies and life styles of civilized societies are being increasingly determined by knowledge and innovation created and nurtured by knowledge institutions. Therefore, close interaction with entrepreneurs, communities and industry needs to be mandated as an integral part of higher education institutions.


Prof KL Chopra made a detailed presentation on the topic “What else Higher Education in India?”. He said that higher education in India has very little Academic Autonomy in most universities (central , state and private, etc.) except for teaching how and what you want, and to examine whichever way, there was little or no administrative and financial autonomy and Zero Accountability in learning or knowledge generation processes. Inflexible & outdated governance and management systems with total absence of competitive spirit among academic institutions and Lack of Accreditation by credible autonomous non-government bodies has crippled India’s higher education.


Dr KL Chopra also observed that except for a few central and state institutions, others (over 80%) are poorly funded and lack basic R&D facilities. The problem was basically an acute shortage of qualified and research oriented faculty , little or no mobility of faculty or students among Indian institutions. The well endowed institutions take pride in numerous collaboration agreements with foreign academic institutions but have no time or inclination to collaborate with any of their neighbours in India.


Most ( 80% or more)Private Institutions are for-profit by maximizing student intake with minimum facilities. Amity University is however an exception where focus is on quality of education, research & innovation. He commended the Founder President Dr Chauhan for establishing a benchmark of success in respect of a private University providing world class facilities for Quality Education & Research and for giving added importance to technology incubation and innovations.


Prof KL Chopra emphasized that India needs world class Universities in good numbers to take care of the ever increasing demand of world quality education, research and innovations.
He said that the hallmarks of the World class University are :
• Academic Autonomy including all Academic Processes related to admissions, teaching –learning, evaluation and assessment of students and faculty; R&D, collaboration and partnership with outside agencies/industry
• Administrative Autonomy with flexible, pragmatic rules and regulations & Responsible and Responsive Governance
• Financial Autonomy( Tuition Fees, Salaries, Endowments, Donations, Investments ,etc)
• Not-for-Profit ;Profits are ploughed back into the institution
• Equal Opportunity for all students with financial support through endowments and/or low interest govt bank loans
• Mandatory Accreditation through peer reviews
• Semesterised, continuous evaluation and credit system allowing student mobility to other departments and institutions
• Strong R&D groups involving UG and PG students and faculty without barriers across disciplines
• Highly competitive R&D w.r.t. national and international competitors
• Strong emphasis on translational ,transformational and convergent research
• Outcome based Industrial consultancy sought after
• Faculty and students allowed to set up own industries
• Research labs are open 24X7. Facilities are accessible to other serious researchers
• Flexi- times for all involved in academic activities
• 4Ls ( Lectures, Laboratory, Library, Life ) are all made available 24X7 online through ICT and Computing Clouds Anytime-Anywhere.

           

Deliberating on the affiliated institutions in India being a unique feature of India’s higher education, Prof Chopra mentioned that most of the affiliating universities work on the principle of master-slave relationship with the affiliated institutions making little efforts to upgrade slave to “self- master”. The affiliation system also suffers from the ills of pre-set, unwieldy and inflexible curriculum and provides little or no academic freedom, administrative economy and also lacks accountability to its stakeholders said Prof Chopra.


Raising the issue of redesigning of higher education Prof Chopra pleaded for paradigmatic shift from government control of higher education to autonomous and accountable public-private management.

What is Required is not just tinkering but tectonic changes in regulatory processes, governance and management practices, academic autonomy , accountability, global teaching -learning processes and the vital ecosystem for quality research and innovations. Let diversity (public, private and public-private )of quality institutions compete with each other and bloom. Prof Chopra also strongly favored Restructuring Higher Education Regulatory Systems to provide for :
  • Autonomous All India Council of Higher Education
  • Apex Body with sub-councils for various domain
  • Disciplines(Sciences,Humanities,Technical,Medical, Agriculture, Pharmacy, Architecture & Planning etc)
  • Autonomous All India Grant Commission, strictly for grants approved by AICHE
  • Autonomous Indian Research Council for funding competitive R&D
  • Autonomous National Accreditation Bodies for different Disciplines
  • Empowered and Autonomous GOI Bank for soft Loans for students
  • Autonomous National Council for Grievances and Ethics
  • Autonomous National Skill Council for Training, Innovations and Entrepreneurship
  • Autonomous National Testing Services


The restructured higher education system should also facilitate in Teaching Learning processes so as to provide for
  • Flexible, modular ,continously evaluated and credit based courses
  • Passive teaching must give way to active and interactive learning process
  • Integrated multi-degree courses
  • Multi-entry & Multi-exit possibilities
  • Pick and choose Cafeteria Style Courses wherever possible
  • Liberalized multidisciplinary & Interdisciplinary courses
  • Participation of students and employers in Curricula Design
  • Assessment of Courses & Teachers by students and other stake holders
  • Participation of students in extracurricular and management activities
  • Skill acquisitions and attitudinal changes of students for employability and redeployment


Prof Chopra also opined that the competition is the mother of innovation just as the necessity is the mother of invention. He also opined that the centre of gravity of innovation is shifting eastward and as such India’s higher education system should in cash knowledge era of opportunities for India. The Higher Education institutions require strong and empowered leadership for nurturing innovations. As such the academic institutions must usher in a new era of liberal, flexible and pragmatic learning ecosystem, governance rules and regulations focused on autonomy, accountability and competitive spirit said Prof Chopra.


6.
Prof. (Dr.) Prem Vrat, Former Director IIT Roorkee and currently Pro-Chancellor of ITM University, Gurgaon made a detailed presentation on Quality Issues on Higher Education in his invited keynote address at the Seminar. Prof Prem Vrat elaborated on the concept of Quality and highlighted the issues relating to conformance of Quality. Prof Prem Vrat made a strong case for aiming at 100 % employability as a specification of Quality of professional education.

Commenting on the Regulator’s Role in Higher Education Prof Prem Vrat stated that the inspection driven mind set of the regulators is injurious to quality. He stated that the Regulators must be perceived by those regulated – as more efficient, more transparen, committed to excellence, fair, positive and a nurturing mind-set with an accomplished and visionary leadership at the helm of the regulatory bodies. Efficiency of regulator can’t be inferior to those being regulated. We need to have a nurturing rather than controlling attitude. Over-regulation is more injurious than under-regulation because market forces exert self-regulation framework. The Ideal form is self-regulation and autonomy with full accountability.


Prof Prem Vrat further opined that Private equity in education can be an asset not a liability as perceived by regulatory framework. Regulator’s own accountability should be in place. If the entire technology education is fully regulated and yet things have gone wrong, it means the regulators have failed.


Prof Prem Vrat also emphasized on restructuring the role of regulators for privately funded universities and institutions. He expressed the view that public funded institutions should be more thoroughly regulated and their accountability must be ensured so that they use the taxpayers money more wisely and come out with outcomes as envisaged from high quality institutions. Whereas, in case of privately funded universities and institutions the regulatory bodies must have an advisory role because market forces will regulate them. We need to facilitate private equity through proactive support, best practices, accreditation standard, recognitions and faculty development initiatives including getting the best academic brains on board to act as think - tanks to help build the strategic framework for quality, relevance, excellence said Prof Prem Vrat.


Prof Prem Vrat also remarked that in India education is not seen as a seamless academic supply chain wherein the input to succeeding stage is output from the preceding stage. We cannot nurture quality is isolation. With poor quality output of 10+2; good quality input in large numbers not possible in higher education. Earlier filtering approach was o.k. for small intake; not now in mass education programs. Hence look at education in totality as an academic supply chain with built – in quality assurance systems at every stage.


Committing on the policy paradoxes of higher education in India, Prof Prem Vrat that despite fact that the faculty shortage is 30-40 % even in the IIT’s and yet nobody questions their quality and we are opening new IIT’s. What is more surprising that despite such a glaring shortage of faculty in IIT’s The talented retired Professors from the IITs are not allowed to continue in the IIT’s and thus the IIT’s contribute to the talent based to the pool of talent based. Fortunately private institutes have come forwarded to use them. Here again the regulators do not count faculty >65 years of age for their head count purposes when it is comes to counted the faculty strength in a private University!


Compared to this in the Universities in US there is no age of retirement for their talented Professors. The US Universities receive large funding for research form the Govt. as well as through the system of comparative bedding of R & D projects. Society’s attitude towards donating for cause of education is high. Our corporate donate to MIT , Harvard and Stanford in US but not so much for home grown institutions.


Prof Prem Vrat also mentioned that the exponential growth of higher education witnessed in the past two decade is not sustainable and reflects hype-cycle driven rather than a planed goal seeking behaviour. He pleaded for corrective action before such misplaced priorities could cripple India’s higher education system forever.


7.
Lt. Gen. VK Sharma, Vice- Chancellor, Amity University, Madhya Pradesh in his detailed presentation emphasized on the contemporary aims of higher education as:
  • Full all round personality development.
  • Development of Character for good of humanity.
  • Improvement of vocational efficiency (Time Management ).
  • Emphasis on practical and implementable knowledge for betterment of Society.
  • Develop a sense of responsibility, confidence and selflessness.
  • Cultivate and nurture talent through inter-disciplinary learning, co-curriculum activities and hobbies.

     
Gen Sharma also flagged the following current challenges being faced by higher    education in India :
  • Unemployable University/ College products.
  • Declining Academic standards due to : -
  • Unwieldy Affiliation System.
  • Non – availability of qualified & experienced faculty.
  • Inflexible Academic Structure.
  • Inadequacy of Infra – Structure, labs, funding.
  • Lack of good governance and academic administration .
  • Over Regulation due to : -
  • Number of Regulatory Bodies often with conflicting requirements
  • Control over fee structure.
  • Highly complex and unclear regulatory framework.
  • Political Interference in Key Appointments.
  • Lack of Enforcement of Accreditations.
  • Lack of Research and Innovations.
  • Limited Access – Varies across Socio-Economic Groups.
  • Target of GER for 12th Fifth Year Plan.
  • Integration of Technology in Teaching-Learning and Outreach.

     
Gen. Sharma pleaded for further strengthening Public-Private Partnership in higher education in India and said that integration of private Universities with main stream of higher education is required. Committing on the present regulatory system of higher education in India. Gen Sharma emphasized the need for a single point of contact as against multiple regulatory authorities for regulation of the university system.


8.
Prof(Dr) B Chandra of the department of the mathematics of IIT Delhi presented her view on restructuring higher education in India, she said that the trajectory of expansion of higher education in India requires a qualitative shift. It must address issues relating to quality and inclusiveness. The universities in India while focusing on quality of education and research have to discover long term sustainable solution for their survival and growth. Structural changes that provide a stronger response capability are needed. Committing on the loss of professional morality and research integrity. Prof Chandra said that most institutions in India ten to mimic human morality. Amongst the exceptions is the Indian Institute of Science, the centenary celebrations of which were recently kicked-off by the prime minister. As noteworthy as the achievements of this venerable institution is the fact that it has sustained (and, in fact, taken further) its success over a period of ten decades, unlike some of our older and once-great universities.

         
As there is little systemic pressure to improve quality, many of the professional institutions continue to operate with poor quality standards contributing to poor employability spiral of human resources. Prof Chandra wondered as to while commercialization and privatization of higher education has preceded a pace how it is that the corporatization of higher education has been banned, stifling investments in formal university education.

       
An overly centralised and highly regulated system has not only damped innovative initiative, but also did not allow quality or excellence to flourish. It has also given rise to rampant corruption, especially in technical & medical education.


9.
Prof KDP Nigam, Professor Emeritus of chemical technology from IIT Delhi of made his presentation on global prospective and local needs in respect of higher education in India. He shared his experience of IIT Delhi where in a new technology for “Coiled Flow Inverters Heat Exchanger” developed of vital value to the industries in India could not be commercialized while the same technology was picked up by countries like Germany and France on the basis of Prof Nigam’s research publications.


       
Prof Nigam pleaded for strengthening for technology incubation and technology transfer in institution of higher education and industries in India.


10 .
Dr. Sriram Hegde of applied Mechanics departments of IIT Delhi made a presentation on virtual space-infinite opportunities and pleaded for a greater use ICT enabled learning environment alongside with classroom teaching. Animation in E- Learning makes it easier to understand intricate aspects of topics and shows the action step by step as done by a human instructor. Annotations of the diagrams as they are drawn, scaling, emphasizing with color etc becomes possible thus creating conceptual and enhancing interest in E- Learning. Dr. Hegde was of the opinion that the increasing use of ICT technology use in education should be facilitated while restructuring higher education in India.
           
     
The academic luminaries such as Prof Ashoka Chandra, Padmashri Prof KL Chopra, Prof Prem Vrat and Padmashri Prof Hasnain were felicitated by the Founder President, RBEF and Chancellor Amity University Dr. Ashok K Chauhan and Addl. President and Chancellor Amity University Rajasthan Shri Aseem Chauhan for their eminence and accomplishment in the field of higher education and research.

     
The Seminar was also attended by Prof(Dr) S. Saran, Chancellor Amity University of MP, Dr. W Selvamurthy, President Amity Science Technology and Innovation Foundation (ASTIF), Gen PD Bhargava, Group Dy Vice-Chancellor, Gen BS Suhag, Dy Vice Chancellor AUG, Prof(Dr) Padmakali Banergee, Pro Vice chancellor AUG, Gen VK Narang, Director Amity Insititute of Engg and Technology, AUG, Prof (Dr) AK Raghava, Director IRD of AUG, Gen GS Bal, Dean Students Welfare, Dr Madhukar Director Admissions, AUG, Nano-scientist Dr RP Singh, Prof (Dr) Ravi Prakash, Director and Dean Amity School of Engineering and Technology and senior Professors and Directors from Amity University of Utter Pradesh, Noida and a large number of faculty members and officers of Amity University Gurgaon.

Senior executives from the industries from the industry hubs at Manesar and Gurgaon also participated in deliberations of the seminar.

An exhibition of Innovative projects carried by the AUH students was also organized at the above National Seminar to exhibit the Innovative and creative talent of the young inspired minds which was highly appreciated by the visiting dignitaries.

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