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How can our Universities create World-Class Professionals?

 

Excellence in education and research has emerged as the keys to development and social progression. As we are propelling ourselves to the ‘Knowledge Society’ and the ‘Knowledge based Economy’, it is imperative that we revisit our focus and emphasis on education in order to assess the ground realities in our country vis-a vis the larger global context. The old adage ‘Knowledge is power’ has never been felt as powerfully as it is being felt today. Universities being the centres where knowledge is generated and disseminated from are at the centre point of attention worldwide. The assessment of the Universities in recent years by various agencies, notably by the Shanghai Jiao Tong Universit y (SJTU) and the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), according ranking to the top Universities of the world has caused tremendous excitement blended with a sense of fierce competition for excellence, debate and self appraisals amongst all the World Class Universities and other non-ranking Universities as well. The excitement and the interest have also naturally evoked tremendous public interest in many countries including ours. When the 2005 World Rankings done by the THES was published, it showed two top Universities of Malaysia getting displaced from their previous year’s positions by about 100 places. Such was the extent of the rancour that not only there was a strong demand for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate this mighty fall in the world ranking, but it led to the resignation of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Malaya!
When I asked a Professor from Stanford University last year about the basic mandate of that University, promptly he responded that “We at Stanford aim at giving our students the ability to lead the world in every sphere.” Stanford University, US, is one of the top ranking Universities by both the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University World University ranking for 2013-2014. It is this ‘ability to lead the world in every sphere’ is what that is required to produce ‘World Class Professionals’. How are our Universities placed in enabling the students to lead the world as World Class Professionals?
It is pertinent to point out that Assam has 2 Central Universities, 9 State Universities and 3 Private Universities out of the 44 Central Universities, 299 State Universities and 140 Private Universities of India. Attempt to address the question as to how our Universities can create World Class Professionals cannot be made in isolation from the larger Indian context. Obviously our Universities (not only the Universities of Assam but all other Indian Universities) must raise their levels to extents where at least some attributes of a World Class University are achieved. The answer to the question of the ability of our Universities to produce World Class Professionals therefore lies in our ability to transform into Universities of world reckoning (World Class Universities). In other words, our Universities must take the path towards this transformation in order to produce professionals with global competence.
The Global Context
Before we embark upon the current thinking on the strategies for this transformation of our Universities, it may be pertinent to have an understanding of what is actually meant by a ‘World Class University’. Professor Philip Altbach, an eminent American scholar and author from Boston College, the US, wrote - ‘Everyone wants a World Class University, no country feels it can do without one. The problem is that no one knows what a World Class University is and no one has figured out how to get one. Everyone however refers to the concept. Many of those seeking to identify ‘world – classness’ do not know what they are talking about.’
Jamil Salmi, the Coordinator of the Tertiary Education in the Human Development Network of the World Bank, in his widely read book ‘The Challenges of Establishing World- Class Universities’ , published by the World Bank in 2009, mentions the following key characteristics of World Class Universities-
• Has an international reputation for its research
• Has an international reputation for teaching
• Has a number of research stars and world leaders in their fields
• Is recognised not only by other World Class Universities (for example US Ivy League) but also outside the world of Higher Education
• Has a number of World class Departments (that is not necessarily all)
• Identifies and builds on its research strengths and has distinctive reputation and focus (that is, its “lead” subjects)
• Generates innovative ideas and produces basic and applied research in abundance
• Produces ground breaking research output recognised by peers and prizes (for example, Nobel Prizes)
• Attracts the most able students and produces the best graduates
• Can attract and retain the best staff
• Can recruit staff and students from an international market
• Attracts a high proportion of postgraduate students both taught and research
• Attracts a high proportion of students from overseas
• Operates within a global market and is international in many activities (for example, research links, student staff exchanges and throughput of visitors of international standing)
• Has a very sound financial base
• Receives large endowment capital and income
• Has diversified sources of income (for example, government, private companies sector, research income and overseas fees)
• Provides a high quality and supportive research and educational environment for both its staff and its students (for example, high quality buildings and facilities/high quality campus
• Has a first class management team with strategic vision and implementation plan
• Produces graduates who end up in positions of influence and/or power (that is movers and shakers such as Prime Ministers and Presidents)
• Often has long history of superior achievements 9for example, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the UK and Harvard University in the US)
• Makes big contribution to society and our time
• Has the confidence to set its own agenda
To achieve the characteristics attributed to the producers of World Class professionals-the World Class Universities, as quoted above is undoubtedly a very tall order. It is pertinent to refer to the response of Charles W Eliot, President of the Harvard University in the nineteenth century that ‘it would require Fifty million dollars and 200 years’ to create a World Class University, when the question was put to him by John D Rockefeller.
Without going into the various definitions of a World Class University or into the parameters (not free from controversies and limitations) that are employed by the SJTU and the THES in according the ranks to these Universities, it may perhaps be acknowledged that, excellence of the highest order in the teaching – learning process (the educational process) and research activities of a World Class University determine the direction of human progression in knowledge and sustained welfare of the human race.
Is World Class University the only way out?
There are also some very significant questions that have been raised in the wake of the great hype about the World Class Universities. For example, what is the rationale for the aspiration to create World Class Universities? Can we not think about developing some locally relevant system outside the frame work of the global competition for world ranking? Should countries like India write off their cultural traditions of education in the rush for ‘World Class’ status which is ‘synonymous’ with ‘elite western’ culture? Can the other tertiary education institutions- the Polytechnics, Community Colleges, Open Universities, etc., be considered for promoting as institutes of global reckoning?
Tertiary education plays the pivotal role in enabling a country to develop globally competitive economies through building the quintessential human capital comprising of skilled and productive labour force and through promoting strong innovation system. The comment of Justin Lin, the Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, World Bank, in this context is worth mentioning-
‘In seeking a position on the lists of best Universities in the world, Governments and University stakeholders have expanded their own perceptions of the purpose and position of tertiary education in the world. No longer are countries comfortable with developing their tertiary education systems to serve their local or national communities. Instead, global comparison indicators have gained significance in local development of Universities. These World Class Universities are now more than just cultural educational institutions-they are points of pride and comparisons among nations that view their own status in relation to other nations. World class standards may be a reasonable goal for some institutions in many countries but they are likely not relevant, cost effective or efficient for many others. Knowing how to manoeuvre in this global tertiary education environment to maximise the benefits of tertiary education locally is the great challenge facing University systems worldwide.’
When we think about how to prepare world class professionals through our Universities we must not be carried way only by the dream and aspiration of a World Class University in our state or the country. The larger and most important role of the Universities- as the tallest centres in the tertiary education system, in bringing in economic development at the local (state) and at the national levels should not be overlooked or confused with. Therefore drawing reference from the World Bank publication of Jamil Salmi, ‘The Challenges of Establishing World- Class Universities’ it is important to remember that the efforts to transform our Universities into institutes of global reputation (World Class University) must take into consideration the strategies for the economic and social development of the nation. Secondly, the strategies for our tertiary level education cannot be delinked from the strategies for the primary and secondary level education. Thirdly, there must be plans for an integrated tertiary education system where other such institutes are developed with equal emphasis for teaching, research and technology innovation.
There cannot be one general guideline or strategy for producing top class professionals from University and institute. Jamil Salmi, in his book points out that irrespective of the various strategic possibilities towards establishment of a World Class University, there are three fundamental requirements- student and faculty talent of the highest order, enormous fund and flexible governance policy which can ensure the establishment of a World Class University.

 

Reality Checks-The Indian Context
India has the largest Higher Education system in the world. This enormous system comprises of
• Institutes of National Importance and other University level Institutes-39 (6%)
• Deemed Universities-130 (20%)
• Private Universities- 140 (21%)
• State Universities- 299 (46%)
• Central Universities- 44 (7%)
• Colleges- 35,539
(Source: UGC)
In sharp contrast, the combined number of Higher Education Institutes in the USA, China and Europe is just 10,800 which have an enrolment of 62,446,570 with 5782 as the average enrolment per institute. On the other hand, the total enrolment number of students in India’s 35,359 colleges is 20,297,126 with an average per institute enrolment of just 571 students.
A few reality checks before we proceed for any strategy development to create word class professional from our Universities and institutes should be in order. Assam has 2 Central Universities, 9 State Universities and 3 Private Universities. The Assam Agriculture University is one of the finest agricultural Universities in the country. The growth rate in the number of Higher Education Institute in Assam is 7.78 as against the national rate of 9.58% during 2006 and 2010. The Gross Enrolment Ration (GER) in Assam is 7.04% in 2011-2012 (national GER is 13.58%). This is the lowest amongst all North East states. Mizoram has the highest GER of 26.5% and the average GER in the NE states is 16.62 (Annual Status of Higher Education in the States and Union Territories, 2012, MHRD, Govt. of India). The undergraduate level enrolment in Assam for the year 2011-12 is 94% while it is just 6% for the Post graduate. While there is perceptible growth in the number of Higher Education institutes in the state for Engineering/Technology with a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 30.68%, Law, Management and Computer Science/IT with CAGR 73.12%, there is a marked decline with respect to the growth of institutes in the fields of Medical Science (-11.04%), General Science, Arts, Commerce (-1-5%) and Polytechnics (-5.83) during 2009-10. This according to the MHRD report, 2012 is a ‘worrying sign as the polytechnics are required to improve the employability of the students’. All the four major Universities of the state, two State and two Central Universities of Assam, viz., Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University, Tezpur University and Assam University, respectively have been rated B(Good) by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). None of these Universities has been rated A (very good). With a few exceptions, this is, by and large the general scenario in the other states as well.
Obviously there is something terribly wrong in our Higher Education sector. Sam Pitroda summed up the scenario in the Higher Education sector in India very succinctly as “19th century’s mindset, 20th century’s process and 21st century’s needs”. It is therefore not unsurprising that none of the Indian Universities figure in the list of world ranking.

 

Indians Can be World Class Professionals
While the scenario above is quite grim, there is an unmistakable silver line when it comes to the question of World Class Professionals from India. One has to read the book ‘Silicon Valley Greats: Indians Who Made a Difference to Technology and the World’ (Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 2003) to have an impression as to the extent of the contribution of Indian professionals to the US success story behind the giant IT enterprise at Silicon Valley, US. Some of the iconic companies founded at Silicon Valley include the Sun Microsystems by Vinod Khosla, Hotmail by Sabeer Bhatia- besides the seminal contributions of Indian professionals like Kanwal Rehki, Narinder Kapany and Vinod Dham towards innovations of Ethernet, Fibre Optics and Pentium Chips respectively. It is important to point out that all these immigrant World Class professionals are the products of the education system back home in India. According to some estimate, the number of Indian immigrant entrepreneurs who established Engineering and Technology based companies in the US in the last decade, far out numbers the same founded by immigrants from UK, China, Taiwan and Japan put together. Such is the potential of the Indian Engineers and Technology graduates that many Multi National Companies (MNC) have started setting up their major R & D establishments in the Indian city Bangaluru. According to NASSCOM 2010, there are more than 400,000 professional employees, belonging to 750 R&D subsidiaries of MNCs in India (http://www.sourcingline.com/resources/it-mncs-maintain-rd-expansion-spree-in-india). A significant percentage of the human resource employed in the R & D and innovation centres of some of the most technology intensive companies and organisations in the US, viz., Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Adobe, McAfee and NASA are Indian professionals. That India can be a major platform for technology innovation with global marketability can be witnessed in the 4300 strong R&D facility of GE in Bangaluru where there is one Indian professional in each group of six professionals worldwide who are engaged in global product innovation. Intel developed its Xenon 7400 series in 2008 entirely from its R & D facility at Bangaluru. The success stories of the Indian companies such as Wipro Technologies, HCL Technologies and Dr, Reddy’s Laboratories in convincing the MNCs about their capabilities in offering off-shore innovation services in technology development and in convincing the MNCs to outsource parts of their innovations- from semiconductors to drug discovery, to India can be seen in the $20 billion market earned by these Indian establishments in 2012 (India Inside: ‘The Emerging Innovation Challenge To The West’ Nirmalya Kumar and Prakash Puranam; Harvard Business Review Press 2012).
All these instances are evidences of the fact that Indians have the potential to become World Class professionals. But all these professionals who are making a mark in our country and abroad are not the outcome of an education system designed and developed to produce such world class professionals- most of them with the exception of those who are the alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology (ies), it has been the outcome of their individual grit and hard work to transform their inherent potential to the levels of that world classness. Their blossoming into world class professionals is an outcome of efforts that is more individual and incidental than institutional. But the fact remains that India has talents that can be world class.

 

The Global Standing of the Indian Institutes of Technology (ies)
Soon after independence, the importance of Science and Technology as key movers and shakers of our economy was realised by the Government of India. The first Indian Institute of Technology was established at Kharagpur in West Bengal in 1951 with assistance from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). IIT Kgp was modelled in line with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. In 1958 the next IIT was established in Bombay (Mumbai in the later years) with support from the Soviet Union and the UNESCO. IIT, Kanpur and IIT, Madras were formed in 1959 with assistance from a consortium of US Universities and Germany, respectively. In 1961 IIT, Delhi was established with support from the Government of the UK and British industries. An IIT was established without any foreign support in Guwahati in 1994 in the wake of the historic Assam Accord between the All Assam Students Union and the Government of India. The latest to join the IITs is the University of Roorkee which was transformed into an IIT in 2001.
The IITs though not designated as Universities were declared as public funded Institutions of National Importance by the Indian parliament. The IITs are authorised to exercise maximum academic and management freedom. The Government pumped in (and still doing) substantial quantum of fund to all the IITs. The admission into the IIT programmes is one of the most stringent in the world and it even surpasses the same in the top Ivy League Universities of the US. Not surprisingly, therefore the THES ranked the IITs collectively as the third best in the world in its ranking of the Engineering School after MIT and the University of California, Berkely.
All three basic parameters considered as most essential to make a World Class Institute, viz., student and faculty talent of the highest order, substantial fund and flexible governance have been there to quite a remarkable extent in all the IITs and the results are there before all of us to see. With little more support and hard core professionalism in all aspects of the management of the IITs, the day is not far off when these Institutions of National Importance shall morph into International Institutions of Importance with respectable world ranking.
It is a pity that it took the Government of India nearly half a century (43 years to be precise) and that too after a massive public agitation for justice for our own resources (natural and human) to decide to set up an IIT in Guwahati, the capital of Assam, which is richest in terms of nature’s bountiful resources in the whole country.

* Table1 : Current (2013) Global standing of Indian Universities

 

1.

 

2.

 

3.

 

4.

 

5.

 

6.

 

7.

 

8.

 

9.

 

10.

 

11.

 

12.

 

13.

Punjab University

 

Indian Institute of Science

 

Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi

 

Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay

 

Indian institute of Technology – Kanpur

 

Indian Institute of Technology – Madras

 

Indian Institute of Technology – Kharagpur

 

Indian Institute of Technology – Roorkee

 

University of Delhi

 

India Institute of Technology – Guwahati

 

University of Mumbai

 

University of Calcutta

 

University of Pune

 

226-250

 

-

 

351-400

 

-

 

351-400

 

-

 

351-400

 

351-400

 

-

 

-

 

-

 

-

 

-

-

 

-

 

222

 

233

 

295

 

313

 

346

 

401-410

 

441-450

 

601-650

 

601-650

 

701+

 

701+

 

*THE - Times Higher Education

*QS – Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd.

 

Sl. NO.

Universities/Institutes

Global Employability Ranking

Super Rich Billionaire Alumni Ranking

1.

 

2.

 

3.

Indian Institute of Science

 

Indian School of Business

 

University of Mumbai

 

35

 

148

 

-

 

 

 

 

18

 

  • Source: 113 Difficulties in developing World Class Universities Compiled by Dr. Rajiv V. Dharaskar (2014) Published by Schroff Publishers & Distributors Pvt. Ltd.

Table 2: University Statistics 2007-2008

Determination of Quality and Gaps in the Universities

Sl. No.

Parameters

Average of All Universities

Benchmarks

(Asian A Grade Universities)

Quality Gap

1.

 

2.

 

3.

 

 

4.

 

 

5.

 

6.

 

7.

 

8.

 

 

9.

 

Number of Departments per University

 

Age of the University in years (as in 2004)

 

Number of sanctioned Faculty positions per University

 

Number of filed up faculty positions per University

 

Percentage of faculty positions vacant

 

Number of faculty members with PhD

 

Percentage of faculties without PhD

 

Number of teachers per department per University

 

Number of Books in Library

29

 

44

 

287

 

 

220

 

 

25%

 

158

 

24%

 

8

 

 

288,913

34

 

51

 

432

 

 

329

 

 

0

 

432

 

0

 

10

 

 

352,886

5

 

7

 

145

 

 

109

 

 

-

 

274

 

-

 

02

 

 

63,973

 

  • Source: 113 Difficulties in developing World Class Universities Compiled by Dr. Rajiv V. Dharaskar (2014) Published by Schroff Publishers & Distributors Pvt. Ltd.

 

Research in our Universities

  • It is an irony that in our Universities teaching and research do not go hand in hand. Making of world class professionals require that our Universities have excellent research foundation. Engagement in research can only ensure high quality teaching. Engagement of the faculty members in research is reflected in the number of publication and patents earned by them. India’s share of research contribution in the world was 3.5% as against 21.1% of China in 2010 as revealed in a study carried out by Thomson Reuter. When one compares Zhejian University of China, which was ranked 197 by the THES in 2014 and Delhi University, it is found that the student enrolment of DU is 1,38,000 as against 39,000 of Zhejian University. One in every 6 students in Zhejian University enrols for the PhD programme, in contrast to 1 in 50 at DU (Source: 113 Difficulties in developing World Class Universities Compiled by Dr. Rajiv V. Dharaskar (2014) Published by Schroff Publishers & Distributors Pvt. Ltd.).

. We are a nation where 11 million students in the age group of 17-23 years, are enrolled in the higher education institutions. There is a need to make the best use of the vast creative and innovative potentials of this huge human capital by our Universities through stringent talent /merit best admission process. The lack of undergraduate programmes in most of our Universities is a major lacuna. Although Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University and Tezpur University have started the Integrated post graduate programmes in recent years, there is an urgent need to incorporate the component of research in these undergraduate curricula.

Another parameter that gives a measure of the research vibrancy of a University is the number of PhD degree awarded. Our Universities must increase the number of student enrolment in doctoral research programmes. The already stated disparity in the number of students enrolled in the PhD programme in a Chinese University with world ranking and Delhi University above should be educative for us. The rather dismal record in terms of award of PhD can be seen in Table 3.

In terms of attracting funds for research from different agencies, Tezpur University is the only University in Assam which has 141 ongoing projects valued at INR 56.46 crores. The number of Departments selected under the Special Assistance Programme (SAP) of the UGC and the FIST programme of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India is also highest at Tezpur University.

 

Table 3: Comparative research funding in the State Universities of India selected from the zones for the year 2012-2013

Name of the Zone

Name of the University

Number of Ph. D. Degree awarded

Ongoing Research Project

Funding for the research project

No. of Dept./sections under various national programmes like SAP/ CAS/ DST/ FIST / COSIST etc.

North

University of Rajasthan

Punjab University

219

227

33

79

12 Crores

5.33 Crores

5

20

East

University of Calcutta

Patna University

140

101

175

14

14.30 Crores

0.93 Crores

20

01

North East

Gauhati

Dibrugarh

Tezpur University

Assam University

103

74

    31

   58

56

30

         141

        138

5.06 Crores

4.49 Crores

54.46 Crores

 6.45 Crores

04

14

                26

               13

South

University of Madras

University of Mysore

381

153

221

85

41.46 Crores

4.62 Crores

20

09

West

University of Mumbai

University of Pune

322

232

135

70

5.30 Crores

16.02 Crores

12

11

Compiled from various sources, viz., Indian Journal of Science and Technology Volume 3 No.3 and the Annual Reports and the websites of the Universities Google searches Universities

It is worthwhile to refer to the high quality research output of Punjab University which is the only and primary sources in some Indian University which is ranked within 225-231 by the THES in 2013. Punjab University’s score in the citation of publication was 84.7%. There are a number of international research projects where the faculty members of this University is actively associated with.

In order to become an University capable of creating world class professionals our Universities have to define the Thrust Areas of their research taking into account the research strength of the faculty members, fundamental intellectual importance and relevance of the areas to the overall development of the state and the nation. The academic programmes are required to dovetail with research components in order to create an integrated teaching- learning –research system. It is to be remembered that publications and citations are the benchmarks of a University that brings world class reputation.

Industry-Academia Interfacing

Universities must forge linkages with industries through creation of common platforms for research. While industries have their own in house R & D set ups the Universities in our country have generally failed to attract the industries in order to address the industrial problems through research activities. Quality professionals are to be moulded by the Universities who eventually would find employment in the industrial sectors. Therefore it is of utmost importance that our Universities engage in meaningful research activities with the industries.

Assam being endowed with some of the richest natural resources of the country and even the world requires the most important component necessary for economic development, i.e., the human capital in the form of world class professionals. It is a matter of great concern that none of our Universities in Assam, except for Tezpur University has any long term sustainable industry-academia interfaces. It is surprising and most unfortunate that the Dibrugarh University which is located right in the middle of the two major industries of the country and the world- oil and tea, are yet to have any industrial research hub for these two giant industries on its campus. These two industries and the University have a lot to gain through mutual research engagements. Assam is also located in one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world. Our Universities can produce world class professionals in drug discovery from natural products only if the pharma industry comes forward to set up their R & D set up in any one of our Universities. It is to be pointed out that research of this kind is prohibitively expensive and until and unless the pharma companies do not decide to invest in a big way it is not possible for the Universities to do it all alone. These industries have so far failed to take advantage of some the finest graduates in Chemistry, Life Sciences, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Computer Sciences produced every year by these Universities, in carrying forward research leading to drug discovery from the unique medicinal flora and fauna of the state. The synergy between our Universities and the industries shall undoubtedly lead to creation of excellent human resources. Again there is tremendous scope for creating highly professional human resource by our Universities in the field of Wild Life Management and Tourism through similar synergy with the industrial and the corporate sectors.

The Research Councils of our Universities should have nominees from the industries and government research laboratories as a matter of statutory requirement.

The Assam Agriculture University has over the years developed several remarkable international research collaborations especially in the field of Agricultural Biotechnology, the latest one being under the aegis of the prestigious Singh- Obama scheme of collaborative research. Undoubtedly, this University is producing some of the finest professionals in agriculture. But of course, it can do even more and better.

It is pertinent to point out that India has one of the largest S& T infrastructures in the world. However most of it is in the Government laboratories and R & D establishments. The efforts of our Universities in creating quality professionals in S & T would definitely improve once these facilities are extended to the Universities as well for use in research. There is ample scope for meaningful and active partnership between the North East Institute of Science and Technology (erstwhile Regional Research Laboratory) at Jorhat and the GU, DU and the other Universities of the state. NEIST is rated as one of the finest CSIR laboratories in the country. Our Universities must explore possibilities for collaboration with the accomplished scientists of this national institute.

Funding        

No University can develop any strategy towards improvement of pedagogy and research unless there is very strong financial support. In India most of our Universities-both the State and the Central Universities are funded entirely by the government. There is huge disparity in the quantum of money that is given to these two categories of Universities. The IITs and the Indian Institute of Managements and other such central institutes of higher education also receive huge central fund.

The total outlay of the Government of India for higher education for the Twelfth Plan period is Rs. 184,740 Crore which is 11.89% of the total budgetary allocation for higher education and 4.78% for technical education. The planned expenditure on higher education during the Twelfth Plan period is 1.3 times higher than the planned expenditure for the Eleventh Plan period. Ironically most Universities –the Central Universities fail to utilize the amount allocated to them so much so that nearly 50% of the allocated Rs. 84,000 crore about Rs. 30,000 could only be spent during the last Plan period. Tezpur University, which a Central University, was one of the two or three other Central Universities of the country, which could completely utilize the amount sanctioned for developmental work. Delayed release of the fund by the Government is one of the major reasons for the huge unspent fund. Also lack of well articulated proactive planning on the part of many Universities together with unnecessary bureaucratic hassle contribute in no small measure towards this unfortunate state of affairs. As far as the State Government is concerned, funding from the Central Government is very negligible. GU and DU, two of the oldest Universities of the North East are badly starved of fund. Whatever financial support these two Universities receive from the State Government are even too meagre to meet their operational expenditures. The revenue generated by these State Universities through tuition fees and fees from the affiliated colleges is again not substantial enough to think about any expenditure for academic growth of the Universities. The infrastructures of these two Universities are in states of utter disrepair and dilapidation and urgently require infusion of massive fund. Without good fund these Universities cannot create the modern infrastructures badly needed for effective teaching learning and research. Starved of fund, these Universities cannot create any Scholarship for the needy talented students. Provision of bursary shall definitely enable the highly talented students in pursuing higher education.

Endowment fund and fund from philanthropy are just too meagre to merit any mention. Organisation of strong alumni net work in these old Universities of Assam shall attract resources both in terms of fund and human resource. 

  It may be pointed out that all Universities that figure in the top 200 list in the world ranking have very strong fund. Also, most of these World Class Universities are private Universities. None of the Public funded Universities in the US figure in the top 20 Universities of that country. Therefore it hardly needs any reiteration that money indeed matters to create World Class Universities and by inference World Class Professionals.

Talented Students and Faculties- a must for producing World Class Professionals

The main requirement for producing high quality professionals by a University is its students with extraordinary merit and talent. The stringency in admission can only ensure entry of highly meritorious students into our Universities. When equity and access are two main challenges of higher education in our country, how this stringency can be made feasible calls for a thorough review of our policies. An analysis of the recent success of the National University of Singapore reveals that at the time of independence, the University of Malaya was a flagship University of the country. One of its two campuses was in Singapore which merged with the University of Nanyang in 1980 to form the National University of Singapore (NUS). By 2005, the NUS was able to find its place at the 19th position in the world ranking of Universities by the THES whereas the University of Malaya slided below at 192 in the group of second tier research Universities. The populist policy of the Government of Malaysia favoured a restricted admission process for the University of Malaya allowing only the Malaya students in admission with stringent measures to discourage the students of Chinese and Indian origin. The University also followed a tight immigration regulation precluding appointment of foreign faculties. In addition, the University of Malaya has a very low level of funding. In contrast, the NSU has a highly subsidized fee for its students which comprises of about 20% undergraduate students and 43% post graduate students from foreign countries. The policy of the NSU is to attract foreign students not for generating money by means of inflated fee structure for the foreign students but to attract highly talented students from all over. The University of Malaya’s policy on equity by slackening the selection process of its students has its impact in the dilution of academic merit of the student intake and the consequent fall in academic quality.

Concluding note

 In Assam, education reform is the need of the hour -especially in ensuring the high quality of student entry to our Universities.  At least one University in the state may be selected to mould as a World Class University or at least a University with Excellence, where there has to be stringent regulation in the admission process with provision for admitting foreign students, assured free flow of fund both from the public (Government) and private (Industry, Corporate sector, Philanthropy) sources and stringent faculty appointment policy with provision to appoint faculty from good foreign Universities. Faculty promotion should be performance based and there should be provision for incentives to the performing faculties. Besides, the one selected University, as stated above, there has to be an extensive system for the tertiary education institutes in the state where vocational/skill based courses having demand and employability prospects be offered so as to produce high quality human resource for the local, regional, national and even the global market.      

 A University’s ability to attract talented students and faculty members depend on its reputation as a good institution. The visible indicators of good reputation are in the published papers, citations and international collaborations for both pedagogy and research. The invisible part of a University is in its teaching-learning process. The element of innovation in pedagogy in our University is another area that requires serious attention as the quality of the graduates produced by the University depends a lot on the quality of the teaching learning process.

With ICT in place our Universities must make serious effort towards maximal use of this powerful tool in sharing the limited number of bright faculty resources available at each University. There is a necessity of networking amongst all Universities of the state-both the State and the Central Universities  in order to make most in resource sharing rather than making attempts at duplicating resources already available in some.

Higher education historically has never been the priority in our country. Our lackadaisical and amateurish handling of a critical sector of human development have reduced our Universities into “ mere ABC factories, degree giving institutions whose primary focus is not education but conducting examinations” as once commented by the eminent social scientist Andre  Betteille. This is the land where Nalanda and Takshashila Universities attracted thousands of students and scholars from all over the world ages ago. The irony today is that we find ourselves completely displaced from the world scenario. S Ramanujan, C.V. Raman, J.C Bose, S.N. Bose Meghnad Saha, Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo made global intellectual impacts at a time when this country hardly had the facilities that we have in place today. It is great individuals that make great institutions. Our country, our state does not have any dearth of great individuals. What we desperately need is a sound policy on education and a highly professional governance system for transforming our Universities into great institutions of world reckoning from where we can create World Class Professionals.

Notes from Vice Chancellor in the various editions of the DU Gazette (The Biannual Newsfeed of Dibrugarh University)

 

  • July 2014 ushered in a special year for Dibrugarh University. The year will end marking the fifty years of this hallowed institute of higher learning. The historic decision to establish the second University was taken by the then state Government of Assam in July, 1963 and the formal beginning was made two years later on July 1, 1965 after the Dibrugarh University Act was made in 1965 by the State Legislative Assembly of Assam. Initially the University started its teaching programmes in a few subjects like Assamese, English, Economics, History, Political Science, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics at the D.H.S.K College, a premiere College of upper Assam in Dibrugarh which was established in 1945 as the ‘Dibrugarh College’. Subsequently, the University shifted to its present permanent campus in 1968. Befitting as it is, the University is celebrating the year beginning from July 1, 2014 as the‘Golden Jubilee Year’. As we look back at the journey of the University during the last half a century, we pay our respectful homage to all those, whose invaluable contribution made possible the birth of the second University of Assam. Special acknowledgement is due to the benevolent act of late Hanuman Box Kanoi, a Padmashri awardee, who donated an amount of Rupees Twenty Six lakh towards the establishment of the new University. The universally acknowledged role, relevance and importance of philanthropy in the spread of knowledge among humanity through establishment of University are still there and shall always remain for all time to come. Dibrugarh University which began with twenty five affiliating Colleges now has 171 such colleges spread across the seven districts of upper Assam and outside. These include the first Autonomous College of Assam, the North Lakhimpur College. The University now has 17 academic Departments and 21 Centres for Studies offering academic programmes at the undergraduate and the postgraduate levels. The celebrations of the Golden Jubilee Year presents an occasion for introspection, critical review of the University's progress and contribution in the academic growth as mandated in its Act. As we look ahead, we realise the new realities of the world today, the paradigm shifts in the teaching- learning process and the enormous knowledge explosion bringing in sweeping transformation in all spheres of life across the world.
    At the juncture of completing fifty years and preparing for its journey ahead, the University needs to take into account its experience of the last half a century for addressing the challenges in the wake of the new realities of the world today and prepare its roadmap for the future. The challenge is enormous and the journey is on with our conviction and committment.....in search of excellence.

   ** From DU Gazette Autumn 2014

 

  • Once again the fragrance of yet another spring engulfs the campus with joy, hope and inspiration. This has different connotations as batches of students prepare for the ensuing End Term Examination. Successful completion of the courses, expectation for secured positions in their respective career paths and hope for a brighter future keep the campus life vibrant. For a University of half a century’s standing, there is enormous institutional and societal expectation that are hinged on quality and excellence in teaching and learning outcome, research and innovation and on building a reputation thereon. There are challenges and frustrations in ensuring fulfilment of these expectations. The University has to make all out efforts to explore the removal of the infrastructural and human resource deficiencies for effective implementation of the academic reforms in place. Ensuring equity in access to the tertiary education with assured excellence is yet another challenge.
    While we celebrate the success of the few in terms of achievements in the academic programmes and research output we must not lose sight of the despair and frustration of many more eluded by similar success. The entire academic community of the University must wake up to this challenge and quickly. It is difficult but not impossible.
    Education in general and more sensitively, the higher education are required to withstand multiple forces of the complex socio-politico- economic systems at the regional, national and global levels. There has been unmistakable trend in commercialisation of the education system. The University has to sustain its core objectives as a guiding force of the society, the nation and culture against the broader universal perspective. A University can never afford to miss the wood for the trees.

   ** From DU Gazette Spring 2015

 

  • Early in the morning as one strains the eyes along the horizon, the beautiful mountain range presents a spectacular skyline. This is the part of the sub Himalayan mountain beyond which is the land of one of the giant economies of the world, China. If we extend the sky line eastward from this northern horizon, there begins the vast expanse of the South East Asian countries of Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, etc., with Myanmar as our closest immediate neighbour. Geographically, this international border is just about one hundred twenty kilometres away from our University. As we transport our minds to this landscape what strikes us most are some of the finest Universities and institutions of global reckoning that can be located there. Here we are, just about a couple of hundred kilometres away from the Universities like the National University of Singapore, the University of Hongkong, the KAIST -Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Asian Institute of Management, Phillipines, etc., to name a few which are the top most Universities of Asia with respectable World Ranking.
    At a time when we often attempt to find 'Role Models', these Universities which are so close to us must not escape our attention. As the theatre of the world economy is shifting to the South East Asia with China emerging as the formidable competitor for India, we have to take a leaf or two from these Universities and from the youth of these countries. With the 'Look East Policy' being transformed to 'Act East Policy' by the Government of India, we as the easternmost University of the country must take a hard look at the writings on the wall. Hard work, dedication to the nation, professionalism of the highest order are the ingredients with which these Universities have raised their towering heights in the world today. We cannot afford to ignore these ingredients and our responsibility in translating the Act East Policy into reality.

   ** From DU Gazette Autumn 2015

 

  • The introduction of the semester system marked a paradigm shift in our teaching learning process. The three key features of the semester system are–completion of the academic programmes in six months, multiple choices of subjects to be offered to the students–where the extent and depth of the teaching components in the syllabus is absolutely well defi ned in terms of hours of teaching per week, called the Credit and the assessment of the students which is done continuously, throughout the semester. This is in contrast to the earlier Annual system which was for a duration of twelve months, the choice of subjects offered to a student was limited and the assessment of the student was done on the basis of a three to four hour long examination at the end of the year. Not unnaturally, the shift brought in its wake questions, doubts, confusion and a sense of apprehension of system dysfunction. The semester system requires completion of the course in half the time now as the semester has exactly half of the teaching period of what was there in the earlier annual system. Continuous Comprehensive Assessment of the students is just impossible and therefore the entire system is impractical in our situation. All these have emanated largely from the fact that our teacher student ratio is abysmally low. There is not an iota of dispute in the argument that we have far too less number of teachers vis-a-vis the large number of students. The situation is much more acute in the colleges. Now what were the rationales for bringing in the Semester system? Earlier in the Annual system there was no clear defi nition of the treatment of each component of the syllabus, i.e., the extent and depth of treatment of the components. The assessment of a student was decided by an annual examination of a few hours at the end of the year. And a student’s scholastic abilities were determined by her or his performance in a few subjects she or he studied. A large proportion of the innate intellectual potential of a student in many other subjects and skills remained totally unexplored in the annual system. The assessment of the academic strength of a student was just not scientifi c. All the confusion, doubt and the sense of apprehension about the feasibility of the semester system is simply because we all are conducting the teaching, learning and assessment processes in the semester system in the same old ways as we did in the annual system. Our pedagogy and assessment of the course delivery require radical changes. We need to use technology in teaching, learning and assessment like never before. We have to learn how to handle the new system. We have to equip ourselves for conforming to the new system. We cannot expect the system to function effectively until and unless we stop using it in the same old ways of pedagogy and assessment. The shift to the semester system is not a mere ‘System shift’–it’s indeed a ‘Culture shift’...

   ** From DU Gazette Spring 2016

 

  • Universities in India have been passing through a critical phase of transition onto a new paradigm. This paradigm shift is in conformity with the global changes in the realm of education. Inherent in this exercise, are our basic mandates to enable our Nex Gen students globally competitive- ready for a knowledge based society. It hardly needs any reiteration of the enormity of the scale and extent of the hard work implicit in this move to change. The traditional Annual System of teaching learning is already replaced with the Semester System. The underlying philosophy in this system shift is to package our teaching modules into quantified units to be delivered within defined time limits. The purpose is to provide sharper definition of the expected outcome of the courses. The shift is also meant for creating spaces for providing the learners with a range of choices of subjects, though limited, apart from the core courses. Embedded in the system is also the emphasis on skill acquisition. The third key feature is the new strategy for more effective and precise evaluation of the learning outcome of the students through Continuous Comprehensive Assessment. The challenges are enormous but not insurmountable. What is required is a radical change in pedagogy involving massive use of ICT. A more apt expression of this paradigm shift therefore would be a ‘Culture Shift’ rather than a mere ‘System Shift’.
    As we are struggling to conform to the new regime in education, we cannot afford to be oblivious of the cardinal importance of the links in the chain of Information →Knowledge →Wisdom in the teaching - learning and research. For, the very essence of education is embedded in this vital linkage. The abilities of critical and rational thinking, creativity, innovation, sense of fairness and justice, compassion and commitment to the people and the nation, that make a woman or a man a complete human being are ingrained in this. In the present Information Age we must ensure that the students do not miss the wood for the tree. The strong imperative is therefore, to imbibe and absorb new pedagogy (not necessarily within the confines of the classroom alone), and evolve novel mechanisms for effective evaluation of the learning outcomes (not through the age old traditional method of conducting examinations). Our failure in this, shall reduce the ‘paradigm shift’ only to a rhetorical exercise.

    ** From DU Gazette Autumn 2016

  • There has been a lot of concern, confusion and apprehension regarding the suitability and practicability of the semester system in the country. The reasons for this is partly the wrong perception about the semester system itself but primarily due to poor student teacher ratio. A massive effort is required to prepare both the students and the teachers about the basic advantages and requirement of the semester system - a universally recognised pedagogic system. A new culture in pedagogy has to be developed in order to enable appreciation of the effectiveness of the semester system. What has been more worrisome is the aspect of practicability of the semester system in our country where our Colleges and Universities have to cope with very large number of students in classrooms. Genuine and real as the concerns for practicability of the system in our country are, the urgent requirement of ICT in overcoming this particular problem has been appreciated by all concerned. The recent National Convention of Digital Initiatives in Higher Education convened by the MHRD, Government of India during the first week of July has removed much of the apprehensions regarding the practicability of the semester system in our Country. In a watershed development in the realm of Higher Education in India the Hon’ble President of India has inaugurated the first ever Indian version of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS)-SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active –Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) offering more than two thousand courses, SWAYAM-PRABHA-the 24x7 Direct to Home Television Channels (32) telecasting various courses and e-YANTRA-the web based Robotics courses for the Engineering students in this convention. Apart from these, a massive National Digital Library network will now enable all the Libraries of the Higher Education Institutions be connected which will facilitate students to access more than eighty lakh digital resources at zero cost. For a very effective Academic Governance especially relating to examination related documents, a National Academic Depository (NAD) has been created. Dibrugarh University is now developing its long and short term Action Plans, including appropriate legislative mechanisms for extending the benefit of Higher Education to our students on the campus as well as in all our 178 affiliated Colleges through these robust technology platforms. Orientation of teachers and students to the new regimen will require whole hearted involvement of one and all. I have full confidence that the synergy of pedagogy with the new digital technology shall usher in a new era in the academic landscape of Assam and also the whole country.
    Recently the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) has accredited Dibrugarh University as an A Grade University in the Third Cycle of its assessment. The University has also been ranked amongst the top one hundred Universities of the country in the second Annual Ranking of the country’s Universities by the National Institutional Ranking Framework of the MHRD, Government of India. I congratulate all my colleagues in the academic Departments and the Centres for Studies, Administration and our students on these two remarkable recognitions. The University can look forward to even greater accolades and achievements in the coming years. During the last six months, several distinguished visitors came to the University and had discourses and discussions with the faculty members and students. Of all these visits, the visit of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama on April 3, 2017, shall remain as historic. On the infrastructure development front, the commissioning of the Central Sophisticated Instrumentation Centre and the renovation of the Raxaraj Laksminath Bezboroa Library are expected to enhance the academic culture on the campus. The launching of the new Master’s programme on Sanitation, Hygiene and Health with support from the UNICEF is a remarkable academic development. The multidisciplinary programme shall be offered from this semester with participation of the Departments of Education, Chemistry and the Centres for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication, Behavioural Psychology and Geography. The programme will be coordinated by the Centre for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication. The Assam Medical College, Dibrugarh shall also collaborate in running the programme. The UNICEF shall extend its active support to the programme by organising periodic visits by international experts. The Graduates from the programme shall contribute towards fulfilment of the much needed requirement of professionals for the successful implementation of the Nation’s flagship programme, the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. With the renewed grant of additional support from the UGC towards the Area Study Centre on Myanmar and Bangladesh, the Department of Economics and Political Science are sharpening their research focus on these two important countries that figure on the canvas of the Act East Policy.

    ** From DU Gazette Spring 2017

 

  • There have been watershed developments in the University during the last six months. The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) have accredited Dibrugarh University as an A Grade University in the Third Cycle of its assessment. The University has also been ranked amongst the top one hundred Universities of the country in the second Annual Ranking of the country's Universities by the National Institutional Ranking Framework of the MHRD, Government of India. I congratulate all my colleagues in the academic departments and the Centres for Studies, administration and our students on these two remarkable recognitions. The University can look forward to even greater accolades and achievements in the coming years.
    During the last six months, several distinguished visitors came to the University and have had discourses and discussions with the faculty members and students. Of all these visits, the visit of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama on April 4, 2017, shall remain as history.
    On the infrastructure development front, the commissioning of the Central Sophisticated Instrumentation Centre and the renovation of the Raxaraj Laksminath Bezboroa Library are expected to enhance the academic culture in the campus.
    The launching of the new Master's programme on Sanitation, Hygiene and Health with support from the UNICEF is a remarkable academic development. The multidisciplinary programme shall be offered from this semester with participation of the Departments of Education, Chemistry and the Centres for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication, Behavioural Psychology and Geography. The programme will be coordinated by the Centre for Studies in Journalism and Mass Communication. The Assam Medical College, Dibrugarh shall also collaborate in running the programme. The UNICEF shall extend its active support to the programme by organising periodic visits by international experts. The Graduates from the programme shall contribute towards fulfilment of the much needed professionals for the successful implementation of the Nation's flagship programme, the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan.
    With the renewed grant of additional support from the UGC towards the Area Study Centre on Myanmar and Bangladesh, the Department of Economics and Political Science are sharpening research focus on these two important countries that figure on the canvas of the Act East Policy.
    On the whole, the last six months have been quite exciting for all of us in the University. And we all look forward to even greater academic excitement in the coming months with the reopening of the departments and the Centres for Studies after the Summer Semester Break.

   ** From DU Gazette Autumn 2017

 

  • Universities in India have been passing through a critical phase of transition onto a new paradigm. This paradigm shift is in conformity with the global changes in the realm of education . Inherent in this exercise, are our basic mandates to enable our Nex Gen students globally competitive- ready for a knowledge based society.
    It hardly needs any reiteration of the enormity of the scale and extent of the hard work implicit in this move to change. The traditional Annual System of teaching learning is already replaced with the Semester System. The underlying philosophy in this system shift is to package our teaching modules into quantified units to be delivered within defined time limits. The purpose is to provide sharper definition of the expected outcome of the courses. The shift is also meant for creating spaces for providing the learners a range of choices of subjects, though limited, apart from the core courses. Embedded in the system is also the emphasis on skill acquisition. The third key feature is the new strategy for more effective and precise evaluation of the learning outcome of the students through Continuous Comprehensive Assessment..
    The challenges are enormous but not insurmountable. What is required is a radical change in pedagogy involving massive use of ICT. A more apt expression of this paradigm shift therefore would be a ‘Culture Shift’ rather than a mere ‘System Shift’.
    As we are struggling to conform to the new regime in education, we cannot afford to be oblivious of the cardinal importance of the links in the chain of Information →Knowledge →Wisdom in the teaching - learning and research. For, the very essence of education is embedded in this vital linkage. The abilities of critical and rational thinking, creativity, innovation, sense of fairness and justice, compassion and commitment to the people and the nation, that make a woman or a man a complete human being are ingrained in this. In the present Information Age we must ensure that the students do not miss the wood for the tree.
    The strong imperative is therefore, to imbibe and absorb new pedagogy (not necessarily within the confines of the classroom alone), and evolve novel mechanisms for effective evaluation of the learning outcomes (not through the age old traditional method of conducting examinations). Our failure in this, shall reduce the 'paradigm shift' only to a rhetorical exercise.