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Need to improve quality of higher education: President

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Private sector participation in higher education should be encouraged with focus on social objectives and quality, the President said 

PNew Delhi: India is witnessing a decline in standards in the quality of higher education and there is need to reverse this trend, President Pranab Mukherjee said here on Tuesday.

The National Knowledge Commission in its Report to the Nation of 2006 referred to it as a “quiet crisis that runs deep”, he said.

Addressing a conference of Vice-Chancellors of Central Universities, Mukherjee also said that universities should not only provide knowledge and skills but also inculcate values of humanity and virtue.

The President said access to knowledge was fundamental to the country’s bid to empower its people.

“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.

“The simple fact is that much more needs to be done to ensure availability of opportunity to aspirants, to pursue higher education near the place of their residence.”

Even though India has the second largest higher education system, a report by the Planning Commission released last year pointed out that gross enrolment ratio (GER) in India of 16 percent was much below the world average of 27 percent.

Ninety percent of colleges were found average or below average on the basis of their accreditation from the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), the report said.

He said that besides being a powerful tool for the realization of the nation’s technological and economic advancement, higher education had to fulfill the aspirations of the youth, who are restless and looking for directions.

He also stressed that the flight of intellectual capital had to be discouraged by addressing service conditions of faculty and offering them incentives to serve the institutions within India for longer periods.

Speaking on the occasion Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, improving quality and fostering excellence in our institutions of Higher Education is a critical challenge that we must collectively address. He also termed it as a sobering thought that not one Indian university figures in the top 200 Universities of the world today.

The Prime Minister said, the goverment expects Central Universitites to play the role of Quality leading Institutions.

He said, the 12th Plan has also rightly identified the task for the next 5 years as building on the momentum generated in the last ten years in education and continuing the focus on expansion, equity and excellence.

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