President Pranab Mukherjee will interact with the Vice-Chancellors of all Central Universities next week to discuss the standard of education at the country’s higher educational institutions. The last meeting held by any President in his capacity as Visitor of all Central Universities was in August 2003 by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

V-Cs of 40 Central Universities will attend the day-long meeting this coming Tuesday. On the agenda are issues related to raising the standard of Central Universities to world-class universities, improving the quality of research and bringing about efficiency in the working of these universities. Each V-C has been asked to make a brief presentation about the institution highlighting its achievements and problems.

Highly reliable sources told The Hindu that ground realities are hugely different for the Central Universities in the country, with Delhi University, Banaras Hindu University and Aligarh Muslim University being well established, while those set up later like Jawaharlal Nehru University and North Eastern Hill University are suffering from issues related to quality of education and research. Further, the 16 new Central Universities set up under an Act of Parliament in 2009 are still struggling to establish because of issues like land, faculty and infrastructure.

Also present at next week’s meeting will be officials of the Union Human Resource Development Ministry and the University Grants Commission. The meeting will be followed by dinner, also being hosted by the President.

In 2003 there were only 15 Central Universities and the objective of the meeting then was to make an appraisal of the performance and functioning of these universities and their achievements and problems. Suggestions to improve the Visitor-University interface within the statutory framework were also discussed.

Mr. Kalam had then observed that the education system should be employment-oriented and that graduate students should while passing out from the University have in their possession a diploma in a professional course in addition to a degree. His focus was also on encouraging research. On their part, the V-Cs had raised the issues of a uniform fee structure, infrastructure and faculty appointment.