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CM seeks academics’ views on revamping higher education in AP

Hyderabad, Feb 16 (INN): In an attempt to revamp the state’s higher education system, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Monday held a video-conference with academics and education experts from various top universities in the country. Even vice-chancellors of 26 universities from the state were part of the meeting.

The video-conference is a first-of-its-kind initiative taken by a state government to involve experts from across the country to design a policy framework for higher education in the state. This is in line with the Chief Minister’s aim of making Andhra Pradesh an education hub and a knowledge state.

The Chief Minister said that such video conferences could be held once a month in order to brainstorm and come up with new ideas that will make education inclusive by including innovation, creativity and diversity. “Education should support employment and lead to development,” he said.

During the brainstorming session, the Chief Minister asked experts to come up with solutions to upgrade existing universities, suggest new models of education for new/upcoming universities, integrate technology with new and existing models and make Research and Development (R&D) a core part of universities.

Recalling his previous meetings in the month, the Chief Minister told the experts that Apollo Hospitals has come forward to set up an institution in Chittoor which will address the needs of medical and health sectors by providing 20,000 trained personnel every year.

Similarly, he also explained about Siemens which came forward to invest Rs 2,500 crore to Rs 3,000 crore in skill upgradation. Even DELL has evinced interest in skill development.

Pitching in, Ajit Rangnekar, Dean of the Indian School of Business, said that the government has to look at strengthening primary education before thinking about higher education. “We can’t create miracles in higher education if we have a weak primary education sysem,” he said, adding we need good quality institutions that will make our students employable for their skills.

Meanwhile, IIT Delhi director Pankaj Jalote, who joined the video-conference, said that we require a 3-tier system of including research varsities and universities with vocational courses.

B.N. Jain, Vice Chancellor of BITS Pilani, suggested the Chief Minister to look into an “all digital open university” model where MOOCs and other courses can be offered online. He also said that universities could look at improving Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) by creating capacities in privately-funded varsities to serve the society.

“The state government should also address land acquisition issues and work with AICTE and UGC to excel in research,” he said. Scholarships, he said, should not be state-funded but varsities should have the option of letting students choose them based on their interests. “Even fee shouldn’t be state-controlled. Instead, colleges should be allowed to charge fee based on the quality of education imparted to students,” he said.

Anand Sudarshan, former vice-chairman and MD, Manipal Global Education Services, pointed out that the state requires not only quantitative and qualitative approach but also a diverse approach towards higher education. “The new policy should envisage diversity in courses, diversity in cultures, diversity in levels of education ranging from under graduation to research. The government should also focus on encouraging education entrepreneurship and grant autonomy to universities for collaborations,” he said.

Stating that R&D is a game of passion and inspiration, Narendra Ahuja, Professor of Computer Sciences from the University of Illinois, said R&D should be made part of the curriculum in every university.

Leena Srivatsava, vice-chancellor of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), said that the state government should aim for vision 2050 which includes giving global perspective to our students, faculty training and setting up of living labs.

Giving a different perspective, Indus Shahani, principal of HR College of Commerce and Economics, said that creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking should be central part of the new-age education.

“We need to create job seekers and job providers. We can work this out by way of collaborations only. Collaborations with institutes within India, with international universities, student-exchange programs, creation of innovation hubs, etc,” she added.

Professor Indira Parikh of Foundation for Liberal and Management Education (FLAME) said that we need to create institutions for further generations and develop new models of education.

Enabling flexibility for students to choose courses should become part of our higher education system, said Sudhir Jain, director of IIT Gandhinagar.

Dileep Ranjekar, CEO of Azim Premji Foundation, said that the state needs a sustainable, long-term education policy. “Execution is the key,” he added.

In order to make AP a hub for best private universities, Rishikesha Krishnan, director of IIM Indore, suggested that a concept of ready-made infrastructure or shared infrastructure should be explored. “Vice-chancellors’ selection shouldn’t be political. Their salaries or grading should be given based on their performance,” he added.

S. Parasuraman, director of TISS Mumbai, said that education system should be made inclusive. “Women’s security, leadership programs and use MOOCs to improve curriculum,” he added.

Meanwhile, B.V.R. Chowdari, honorary advisor GoAP and professor at National University of Singapore, outlined four key areas: Education, research, globalization and enterprise. “Universities should be made accountable and work on future needs of education system,” he said.

Minister Ganta Srinivas Rao, Chief Secretary IYR Krishna Rao, Principal Secretary to CM Satish Chandra, Secretary (Higher Education) Sumita Dawra, Commissioner for Technical Education Udaya Lakshmi and other officials were present at the meeting.

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