Emphasising the need for more centres of excellence and wider vocational training, President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday urged the country's universities to take upon themselves the task of encouraging research in key areas to ensure that the country's population could become an asset and not a liability.

Mr. Mukherjee was delivering his convocational address at a privately run Lovely Professional University (LPU) in Phagwara, near Jalandhar, where the Afghanistan President, Hamid Karzai was conferred an honorary doctorate degree. As many as 7801 regular and distance education students received their degrees.

Despite a legacy of Takshashila and Nalanda, none of the Indian universities figured in the top 200 across the world, Mr. Mukherjee said expressing concern, “Outstanding personalities who won Nobel prizes were Indians but working in Universities outside India.”

When every year the country was adding 12 million work force, Mr. Mukherjee advised education institutions to take advantage of technology and utilise "out of the box thinking" for innovative measures to introduce more vocational courses. He said it was unfortunate that less than seven percent of the total workforce had received vocational training.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Karazi, expressed concern that years of strife had led to a situation where his country suffered due to lack of higher education. He said that living up to the expectations of a friend, India has given 2000 scholarships to Afghan students. He said that India had also gone beyond its means to provide a two billion dollars aid for rebuilding Afghanistan.

In his message to students, Mr. Karzai said, “You are the citizens of India and citizens of the world and you represent a country that is fast rising in economical, industrial and social growth. Your presence is felt all around. Keep progressing and at the same time, remember your culture and use your energy for the country’s welfare”.

Punjab Governor Shivraj V Patil, presided while Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, was the guest of honour for LPU's third convocation.

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