The central government has sanctioned Rs. 3 lakh crore for the National Knowledge Commission in the 11th Plan, a four-fold increase over the 10th Plan allocation, according to Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Mr. Mukherjee, whose valedictory address at the silver jubilee celebrations of VIT University here on Sunday was read out in his absence by Union Minister for Shipping G.K. Vasan, said India produced 2.5 million graduates every year, and this constituted just 10 per cent of the youths in the age group suitable for higher education. Hence, the Centre was laying more emphasis on human resource development.

He said it was proposed to start 15 new universities. Six new Indian Institutes of Technology were opened, and an Indian Institute of Management (the Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management) was set up in Shillong, all during 2008-09. New Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research were established in Bhopal and Thiruvananthapuram.

“In line with the recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission, I am in favour of starting smaller universities, which are responsive to change, and can be managed easily. This requires policy measures and changes in resource allocation. Educational infrastructure such as libraries, laboratories and connectivity needs to be monitored and upgraded regularly,” he said. He appealed to the students to compete at the world level through ethical means to build a strong and prosperous nation.

Mr. Vasan unveiled the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Pillar and the Silver Jubilee Tower.

Chancellor of VIT University G. Viswanathan urged the Centre to introduce the ‘voucher system’ (which is in vogue in many foreign countries) that enables individual students to join institution of their choice.

He said:

“This system will not only help to improve the quality of higher educational institutions but will also ensure a healthy competition among the institutions.

“At present, we find too many regulations and controls, which will stifle innovation, competition and quality of education. Students should be given enough freedom to choose the institutions. This will ensure that the low quality institutions will leave the business.

“What was done to the economic policy in 1991 should be done to the education policy now to improve and expand higher education.”

Mr. Viswanathan wanted educational institutions categorised on the basis of their quality, and not on the basis of whether they belonged to the Central and State governments or the private sector.

As for the introduction of the Fully Flexible Credit System (FFCS) in the VIT, he said he wanted all other universities to follow suit, and favoured a ‘credit transfer system,’ which would facilitate transfer of students from one university to another within the country.

The VIT was prepared to help other universities to introduce this system by sharing its experience. “We want the entire community to grow. We also want to use the institution as an instrument of growth in this party of the country”, he said.

Bryan Dalton, Consular Chief, U.S. Embassy, who handed over the ABET certificate to Mr. Viswanathan, said India was the top supplier of students to the U.S., with one lakh students visiting the U.S. every year.

“The VIT is the first and currently the only Indian engineering institution to get the ABET accreditation in the undergraduate civil and mechanical engineering programme. This certificate means the mechanical engineering and civil engineering graduates of the VIT can obtain the professional engineer licence in the U.S., which has worldwide recognition,” he said.

ABET is a recognised accrediting agency in the U.S. for evaluating educational programmes in applied science, computers, engineering and technology.

Rwandan Minister for Education Charles Murigande released the VIT journal. The former Union Minister, K.V. Thangkabalu, inaugurated the Nethaji Subhas Chandra Bose Block and released a book on ‘VIT History.’

Abdul Rahman, Vellore MP, and C. Gnanasekharan, MLA, donated furniture and other equipment to government schools on behalf of the VIT.

Kayumba Nyamwasa, Ambassador, Republic of Rwanda, and Sekar Viswanathan and G.V. Selvam, Pro-Chancellors, spoke.

Mr. Viswanathan honoured E.S. Daniel Gunanidhi, the then Collector of the composite North Arcot district, for identifying the land needed to set up the VIT University in 1984-85.

Vice-Chancellor D.P. Kothari and B.V.A. Rao, Advisor to the Chancellor, spoke.

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