Set up regional UGC centre in Chennai: Semmalai

DINDIGUL OCT. 28. The Education Minister, S. Semmalai, today appealed to the University Grants Commission to set up a separate regional centre in Chennai, besides the one in Hyderabad, to cater for the needs of a large number of colleges in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring States. Tamil Nadu, he assured, would extend all assistance.

He was speaking at the valedictory function of the South Zone Vice-Chancellors' conference, organised by the Association of Indian Universities, at the Gandhigram Rural Institute near here.

Mr. Semmalai said higher education in India was at the crossroads owing to fast technological development and a social obligation to transform higher education from an elitist base into a mass system. There was an urgent need to bring about a fundamental change in the philosophy of higher education. Mere quantitative growth and expansion of learning centres would not constitute a watermark in higher education, he said.

Though there were 12,124 colleges, accommodating 93 lakh students, through regular and distant educational modes, only 7 per cent in the 18-23 age group was enjoying benefits of higher education. Besides, 4.23 crore people were educated unemployed. Still, many Indian universities continued to depend on liberal government funding. Eighty per cent of beneficiaries in colleges and universities were drawn from 30 per cent of the top income group in urban areas. The moot question was whether we were planning priorities in higher education to make it self-sufficient.

In Tamil Nadu, the Government facilitated conferment of autonomous status to 44 colleges. When it tried to make erstwhile colleges into constituent colleges of universities to make them stand on their own legs, the teaching community raised a hue and cry.

He endorsed the view of the Governor that Vice-Chancellors were reluctant to accept new ideas.

The Minister, referring to views of the Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen, said university education was in a state of crisis, not because of lack of resources but due to deterioration in quality. According to the UGC, 55 per cent of affiliated colleges were of inferior quality and not recognised by it.

S.V. Chittibabu, former vice-chairman, TN State Council for Higher Education, wanted 75 universities in the south zone networked for transfer of knowledge, exchange of resources and for digitisation of libraries.

Dayanand Dongaonkar, Association of Indian Universities, secretary-general, and the Gandhigram Rural Institute Vice-Chancellor, G. Pankajam, spoke.

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