"Adopt inter-disciplinary approach"

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday expressed concern about the quality of higher education; pointing out that even Indian premier institutions do not figure among the best in the world.

Addressing the Diamond Jubilee function of the University Grants Commission (UGC) here, he urged all stakeholders in the higher education system to urgently consider issues of quality.

Another issue the premier flagged as an area of concern pertained to shortage of faculty; more so since the problem was likely to become more acute with the expansion that is planned in the coming years. Further, according to him, the university system needs to dwell more on research and enhancing the number and quality of doctoral programmes.

Pointing out that inter-disciplinary perspectives are the cornerstone of present-day research, Dr. Singh said it should become part of the culture of Indian universities.

“We must reverse today’s situation where individual departments largely operate as islands, and there should be greater focus on problems that engage the faculty in inter-disciplinary research.”

Similarly, he stressed the need for strengthening the university-industry interface to give a fillip to Research and Development.Of the view that this would be beneficial to both the university system and the industry, he asked academics to make a detailed study of how this interface works in other countries so that the best international practises can be replicated here.

Both Dr. Singh and Union Minister for Human Resource Development M.M. Pallam Raju listed the measures taken by the United Progressive Alliance government over the past decade to facilitate equitable access to higher education. This, Dr. Singh underscored, had resulted in the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in higher education going up to 19.4 per cent in 2010-11 from 11 per cent in 2005-06. The GER for women in higher education increased from 9.4 per cent to 17.9 per cent during the same period.

At the same time, Mr. Raju conceded that the GER was still below the world average and India had set for itself the target of 30 per cent by 2020.

Stating that a special drive would be undertaken to make teaching and research an attractive career option, he announced the setting up of chairs in various universities in the name of Indian Nobel laureates.