Wolverhampton varsity confers honorary degree on N. Ram

University of Wolverhampton conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Social Sciences on N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu here on Monday.

Conferring the honour at an elegant ceremony, Chancellor of the University Rt. Hon. Lord Swraj Paul of Marylebone, PC, said it was in recognition of Mr. Ram's distinguished achievements, both as an outstanding public intellectual and an eminent journalist.

“But, even more than that, we honour him for an attribute so rare and so needed in this contemporary world – Mr. Ram has never hesitated to speak truth to power,” Lord Paul said.

Earlier recipients of the Honorary Degree conferred by the University include the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam; the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah Brown. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley received the honour recently.

Speaking on some broad trends in higher education, Dr. Paul said it was increasingly being seen as an engine of economic development, but governments around the world were overwhelmed by the costs associated with participation. “Globally, the number of people who enrolled into higher education increased from 19 per cent in 2000 to 26 per cent in 2007.”

Referring to the “explosion of institutions” as one of the consequences of globalisation, he said higher education institutions needed to adopt business-like practices to survive in the “global education industry.”

Joint educational endeavours, Lord Paul said, would fertilise links between the vast reservoir of dynamic young people in India and their British counterparts, to the enduring benefit of both nations.

Mr. Ram said he was honoured and pleased to be a recipient of the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Social Sciences from a very fine centre of higher learning in the United Kingdom.

“I am specially honoured that this is a recognition of what I have endeavoured to do as a journalist over some decades and in particular of my journalistic work in the cause of an open and transparent political society rid of the stench of bribes, kickbacks, and top-level political corruption,” he said.

Era of growth

Sharing some observations on where journalism seemed to be headed in India, he said while journalism was widely believed to be in crisis across the developed world, in India and other developing countries the news media were still in an era of growth and opportunity beckoned, especially for the young.

In India, the long-term competition between the self-serving and the public service visions of journalism was on and it bred tension, confusion and, at times, conflict.

Noting that ensuring commercial viability and addressing the vital need of being accurate, informative, insightful, educative and relevant was an “extraordinarily difficult balance to strike,” Mr. Ram said: “Many of us believe there is a middle path, a golden mean that can deliver good results.”

News media needed to work out a template of editorial values and principles and a concept of social responsibility they can live up to and also live with. “Media performance is a matter that is best left to readers, audiences, universities and society to judge,” he said.

Vice-Chancellor of the University Caroline Gipps highlighted key initiatives of the varsity in collaboration with institutions in India.