Universities in India must award full scholarship to meritorious students and allow them to study for free as is done in universities abroad, said Puducherry Chief Minister V. Vaithilingam on Friday.

Such a system will motivate students to do well, he emphasised, while speaking at the inauguration of The Hindu Education Plus Career Fair 2010. Other universities must also emulate the system VIT has, of providing free higher education to district toppers of government schools in rural areas, he said.

Terming the Plus-Two phase “crucial” for students who had to decide what career they would pursue, he said students and their parents often had different ideas. First generation educated students, especially those from villages, did not receive any guidance from parents and career fairs such as these helped them discover various course options and what kind of future it would ensure them.

“At the end of a course in college, students must come back with a degree. Instead, these days, they come back with a loan to repay too, which often turns into a burden for parents. So students must be careful in deciding what course will guarantee employment and a good future, based on their needs and skills.”

In his special address, Puducherry Public Works Minister M.O.H.F. Shahjahan, who also holds the Higher Education portfolio, said investment in education was an asset to the nation's progress. Pointing at the progress made by the country in the information technology sector, he said the giant strides in the field were owing to the rich manpower available.

“But, for development of society, we need to have more students pursuing courses in humanities and science. In this respect, career fairs such as these will help students understand the courses available in humanities and science field,” he said.

Urging institutions in the higher education sector to also concentrate in developing the soft skills of students, he said in the evolving and highly competitive market scenario, the overall development of student's personality was must.

Chancellor of the VIT University G. Viswanathan stressed the need for setting up more universities with autonomous status. Even the Radhakrishnan Commission appointed way back in 1948 had recommended non-interference by the government in the functioning of universities. To achieve the policy of expansion, excellence and inclusion in the higher education sector, there was an urgent need for establishing more universities.

While the country had moved forward in terms of expansion in the field of engineering, it was yet to achieve this in the medical education sector. “There are around 10 lakh seats available in the engineering field. But in medicine only 30,000 seats are available. We have to go a long way in achieving expansion in medical education,” Mr. Viswanathan pointed out.