Prof Ved Prakash was formally appointed as the chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) recently. He is a well known name in the field of education. He also officiated as the acting Chairman of UGC for nearly two years. He answers some questions on higher education in an interview with Pankaj Vohra. Some excerpts:
What steps can be conceived for enhancement of inclusive and qualitative higher education?
The three challenges of expansion, equity and excellence have to be addressed in an integrated perspective. Institutions need to be incentivised to increase their student intake capacity. Creation of new institutions on a large scale and allowing for a significant role for communities and private sector can meet this deficit. It is vital that this expansion is inclusive and in areas where institutional density is lower than the national average. There is also a need to evolve suitable modules of collaboration where public resources can be synergised with private philanthropy. A key measure of inclusive expansion will require significant increase in vocational education through new polytechnics, community colleges. Diffusion of boundaries and distance learning can additionally provide better opportunities for expansion, equity and excellence.
What structural reforms in higher education can mitigate our model of governance?
There is a need to introduce more efficient and productive models of improving the governance system. Reducing the burden of affiliation system through amendment of Acts by the state universities is an important concern. Developing an overarching regulatory framework for effective coordination of regulatory agencies is also the need of the hour. Exploring and setting up of meta- university concept can provide learners a flexi mode of education.
How do we enhance excellence to improve our ranking among the top universities of the world?
Excellence in higher education is possible through greater autonomy coupled with higher and performance linked funding for universities that sustain excellence. It can also happen through enhancing skills and pedagogic awareness of teachers for improving instructional dynamics besides expanding and reforming faculty development initiatives and incentivising faculty and student mobility across institutions for cross fertilisation of ideas. There is also a possibility of enhancing technology-mediated teaching and expanding e-resource availability to students and teachers. Also, instituting awards to faculty for reflecting their achievements on global platforms.
How can the research and innovation sector be strengthened?
It is an accepted fact that an essential mandate of the university system is to teach and train high quality personnel who can face the challenging assignments of a dynamic society. Instituting curricular, pedagogical, assessment, research and organisational innovations can be an important intervention. Establishment of special incubation centres and research parks can provide a fillip to research and innovation. It will be relevant to provide special funding to research-intensive universities.
How can internationalisation of higher education help to expand the frontiers of knowledge?
There is a need for clearer articulation of the concept of internationalisation of higher education. Providing greater autonomy to institutions to enter into collaborative partnerships with the best universities abroad can be an important initiative besides working out areas of collaboration and exchange programs. It would be relevant to design policy measures to attract foreign scholars to enroll in Indian universities. Augmenting the faculty with intellectual resources available outside the system in the form of professors can go a long way in meeting the need.