President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said universities should not only provide knowledge and skills, but also inculcate values of humanity and virtue.
"A university is a seat of learning 'which recognizes no frontiers except those of human mind itself'. It is the custodian of culture and a channel of communication with the world outside," said President Mukherjee in his address at the Conference of Vice Chancellors of central universities at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.
President Mukherjee said that besides being a powerful tool for the realisation of the nation's technological and economic advancement, higher education has to fulfil the aspirations of the youth, who are restless and are looking for directions.
"The dearth of key talent for important academic and research positions in important institutions of higher education is a major challenge," he added.
President Mukherjee also emphasised that another daunting challenge is the regulatory architecture and quality of governance.
"Therefore, the focus now has to be on policy formulation that promotes autonomy and good governance,"
President Mukherjee stressed that the flight of intellectual capital has to be discouraged by addressing service conditions of faculty and offering them incentives to serve the institutions within the country for longer periods.
President Mukherjee stated that the participation of private sector should be encouraged by formulating appropriate policies without compromising on the social objectives and the quality benchmarks.
"The Central Universities must act as a catalyst in taking forward this policy and make India a knowledge economy. The Universities have to act more proactively to improve the quality of faculty and they should build a directory of grass root level innovators," he said.
Emphasizing that we are witnessing declining standards in the quality of higher education in the country, President Mukherjee said: "The National Knowledge Commission in its Report to the Nation, in 2006, referred to it as a "quiet crisis that runs deep". We have to reverse this trend and for that collective wisdom is needed."
President Mukherjee stated that access to knowledge is fundamental to our bid to empower our people.
"Though India has the second largest higher education system, the gross enrolment in the country in 2010 was only around 19 percent which is much below the world average of 29 percent. The enrolment of the disadvantaged sections is a matter of great concern. For example, for scheduled tribe population the gross enrolment ratio in higher education is only half of the national average," he added.
President Mukherjee emphasized that the simple fact is that much more needs to be done.
"We have to focus on quality of education imparted and the availability of opportunity to aspirants, to pursue higher education near the place of their residence," he said.
Union Human Resource and Development (HRD) Minister Dr. MM Pallam Raju, while speaking the occasion, stressed on mandatory accreditation of Universities which would set a quality bench mark.
He said that the way forward was to inspire teachers and have a targeted approach on capacity building of the faculty.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, National Innovation Council chairman Dr. Sam Pitroda, Ministers of State for HRD Dr. Shashi Tharoor and Jitin Prasada, UGC chairman Professor Ved Prakash and Vice Chancellors of 40 central universities were among the dignitaries present on the occasion.
Such a conference is being held after a gap of nearly 10 years. The last conference of Vice Chancellors convened by the President was in 2003 during tenure of Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam. (ANI)