President Pranab Mukherjee was at the alma mater of former prime minister Manmohan Singh and late 1968 Nobel laureate Dr Har Gobind Khorana on Saturday, where he said that the universities must produce the competent and committed individuals of character and integrity required to build the country of our dreams.
He acknowledged the contribution of Panjab University in educating generations of students, and remembered its alumni who had become leading figures in public life. In reference to the PU's global recognition, he said: "Placed in the 276-to-300 bracket on the Times Higher Education Survey ratings for the year 2014-15, it is the highest-ranked Indian institution."
PU vice-chancellor Arun Kumar Grover said the university had a unique inter-state body corporate status. "It is not a central university but it receives financial assistance from the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the University Grants Commission by special arrangement. If the Government of India continues the financial support to help us fill our teaching vacancies and maintain our infrastructure, we can break into the top 200 in the world in a few years," said the V-C.
Speaking on India's democratic polity and pluralistic society, the President said that with democratic rights, came democratic responsibilities. "Educated youth must build a resurgent India; your education gives you the opportunity to make a difference. This is the time to engage with our beautiful, complex, and sometimes noisy democracy," he said.
Mukherjee said higher educational institutions would do well to recognise emerging global trends that were creating new
models of knowledge dispensation. "The rising cost of higher education and the changing profile of education seekers, aided by technology, have led to many open online courses (MOOCs). Due to its advantage of speed, scale and efficiency, it is fast catching up as the preferred mode of learning. Blended MOOCs-online instruction supplemented by periodic classroom interaction-also has the potential to gain ground," he claimed.
Choice-based credit system would provide students with mobility across the higher educational system, said the President, asking universities to take note of these evolutions to maximize their benefits.