NATIONAL

Varsities urged to introduce utility programmes of study

GUNTUR NOV. 9. Arun Nigavekar, chairman of the University Grants Commission, has said that the UGC is proposing to ask universities to introduce "dual degree" courses during the Tenth Plan period.

Addressing the twenty-first and the twenty-second convocations of the Nagarjuna University here today, Dr. Nigavekar said that the current education system was such that students were neither sound in core subjects nor skilled in vocational subjects. And they were neither acceptable to industry nor could become entrepreneurs.

Underscoring the need for an open and flexible approach, Dr. Nigavekar said the students should be enabled to pursue a degree and an add-on utility-oriented programme that would allow them to acquire an advanced diploma along with a degree at the end of four years, instead of three years. Access to education in subjects such as information technology, biotechnology and applied psychology were very important.

Higher education should undergo a "radical change," he said adding that the UGC had introduced Information and Communication Network (ICN) linking all the universities in the country. The UGC Infonet would provide intranet and Internet facilities and extend support for equipment, maintenance and rental cost of bandwidth.

He announced that the Nagarjuna University would be provided with a radio linkage of 128 kbps.

Expressing concern over the poor quality of under-graduate education in pure sciences, he said that the country might face a shortage of good researchers in a few years in the premier research institutes in the fields of atomic energy, biotechnology, energy, oil exploration and communication. The UGC would formulate a collaborative strategy with agencies such as the DAE, the ISRO, the DBT, the DRDO, the CSIR and others.

Dr. Nigavekar underlined the importance of training in inter-disciplinary fields and special attention to college-level teaching at the post-graduate level. The UGC would give more grants to PG centres to improve the infrastructure.

He called upon universities to give priority to research adding that the UGC would establish an autonomous council for the purpose. The Tenth Plan should go in for higher magnitude of funding in an organised manner for supporting research at individual, group and department levels.

Dr. Nigavekar mooted the idea of creating a "Bharat shiksha kosh'' for addressing the resource crunch in the field of higher education. He recommended a set of proposals, including the enhancement of fee in a spread-over-time mode, encouragement to universities to go for self-financing programmes and create corpus funds.

The "shiksha kosh,'' independently-managed finance structure should be set up initially through a bulk investment by the Centre, introduction of education cess — to be paid by private and public sector — and an appeal to the public to contribute to the future of their children, he said.

The "kosh'' would help students get soft loans and institutions to go in for infrastructure development. The Tenth Plan would initiate this innovative process to raise resources.

The plan would also bridge the gap of "knowledge disadvantage'' between social groups and pay more attention to special opportunities for women, minorities and the SCs and the STs.

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