The challenge in higher education is to maintain excellence while bringing opportunities to students from rural areas and disadvantaged sections. The second Education Summit to be held here on Thursday will look at these aspects, said G.Viswanathan, convenor, Education Panel, and Chancellor, VIT University.

Speaking to The Hindu on Tuesday, Mr. Viswanathan said the summit being organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) would have three sessions.

The first would focus on attracting professionals to the teaching profession. “There is a shortage of teachers and there is no proper training for teachers. As a country we are lagging far behind developed nations and even China in research output,” he said.

The second session would focus on rural India. Weaker sections do not have access to even school education and the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), which is only around 12 per cent for the country, is even lower in rural India, he said. The session would look at means of correcting the situation where many good teachers did not wish to go to villages as their own families would need support.

The third session would look at building ecosystems for higher education through research and innovation.

For this, the country should look to build more universities, he said.

Unlike in many other countries, higher education happened in colleges which were mostly tutorial institutions. Various committees had looked into this issue and had suggested the setting up of more universities and the conversion of reputed colleges into universities.

The government’s suggestions on deemed universities recently were also taken into account without consulting stakeholders and without releasing the contents of the expert committee’s deliberations. “We need excellence in our system but the State is not able to handle the entire higher education needs of the country. While reform is needed, it should not target only private universities but should include State and Central universities in its ambit and should be transparent,” he said.

The summit would provide such a platform for all stakeholders including industry to come together and suggest means to improve the situation, he said.