Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandeswari has said that despite the giant strides of progress on the education front, the gross enrolment in higher education in India at 12 per cent is much below the optimum desired level of 20 per cent plus to attain growth.

Addressing engineering students at the inaugural of a two-day ‘Medho Mantan’ organised by the Avanthi Group of Engineering Colleges at Kalabharathi auditorium here on Tuesday, she said that 60 years after Independence the number of universities had gone up to 500 and the number of students enrolling for higher education was 120 million. But the gross enrolment in higher education was a dismal 12 per cent as against 60 per cent achieved by the U.S. and Canada, 40 per cent by Europe and 15 per cent by China. The international average was 23 per cent. She said that the National Policy Education advocated access to higher education to all.

Commending Avanathi Group chairman and Bheemunipatnam MLA M. Srinivasa Rao for setting up engineering colleges in rural areas, she appealed to other private institutions also to concentrate more on rural areas.

Shortage of teachers

Referring to the comment made earlier by JNTU-Kakinada Vice-Chancellor Allam Appa Rao, she admitted there was a shortfall of teachers in higher education. She, however, said that the shortage was only partly due to poor pay package and the rest was due to high-paying IT sector that robbed the talent pool from coming into the teaching profession.

Terming the separatist tendencies being fanned at universities as “unfortunate,” Ms. Purandeswari felt that universities should be places for confluence of cultures but not to promote regionalism and narrow-mindedness. She described students as “cultural ambassadors” of the nation.

Prof. Appa Rao, who participated as guest of honour, spoke on the tremendous opportunities available in different fields. He advised students to look at other branches of engineering and not just Information Technology. He called for quality and innovation to stay ahead in the competition. He advised students to make excellence a habit. Mr. Srinivasa Rao presided.

R. Govinda Rajulu, professor in IIIT, Hyderabad, I. Muralikrishna Rao, professor of Department of Commerce and Management Studies of AU, J.V.R. Murthy, professor of Department of Computer Science Engineering, JNTU-K, Avanthi Engineering College principal S. Srinivasan, and director C. Mohan Rao were among those who attended.

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