Prof. Rajender Singh Sangwan, Director, Academy of Scientific and Innovative Research (AcSIR), shares his views with Pritha Roy Choudhury on some of the challenges in higher education space…
Q. Universities blossom when they have academic autonomy. How do our universities fare in this regard?
A. Autonomy should not be considered in an isolated manner. Are we feeling any kind of constraint? Is autonomy the only way to address those constraints? At certain times, it could be, but it has to be actually worked out whether is it merely autonomy? Or, we analyse the issue that everything has been settled and the only impediment remains that is autonomy. Actually, we should take it case by case, and how much of autonomy we require. We can only say autonomy is a restriction when everything else is fine. First, we have to set the whole house in order and then see if we are not able to achieve what we expected and if that is only because of certain requirement of autonomy, then it is important.
Q. What is the status of research in universities? Are they progressing in line with expectations?
A. How does research affect society? It is not only literacy, it is literacy in different domains that involve specialisation. It is a major driver of social change, economic development and competence development. So, it provides leadership to the youth to contribute to the knowledge and technology that is going to come up and also to improve the technology that is there today. In this way, both the research facilities and the students involved in the research work excel. This is the time for interdisciplinary research and therefore today’s technology does not have only one or two dimensions that are affected but multiple disciplines and multiple domains.
Q. Is the higher education space opening up enough employment avenues for students? What is being done in this regard?
A. As a purpose of education, employability is not everything, but it is one of the most important factors. We cannot pursue research only for employability. This is an area where one not only gets employment but has the ability of creating employment. If we are to link it more strongly with employability then it should be related to creating employment. For creating employment, we must make our society more thoughtful. There should be more generation of ideas which will lead to a better ecosystem, better environment for the students and this will lead to the development of a passion to think about the subject of study.
Q. A number of universities are signing agreements with foreign universities for student exchange programmes. Why this sudden rush for exchange programmes?
A. Today students’ mobility and global connectivity are very important. They are important not only for the students but also for the faculties so you have a counter view, you have multiple views on that. Students will not only be learning something from students abroad but they will also interact with a larger society or a different society. By that kind of thoughtfulness, Indian students or Indian faculty may have idea of a solution of a problem elsewhere in another country and students from another country can have a solution for us in areas where we have a problem. But MoUs must be implemented. Translating them into reality is more important than mere signing it.
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