A much-needed fillip for unearthing excellence

University of Hyderabad and JNU have bagged the tag of ‘Universities of Excellence’

There’s a reality check for every university. Have they realistically aspired for world-class status with their performance in teaching and research initiatives? In the global context, aiming for excellence calls for sustained effort, and requires continuous building of capacities and capabilities. It’s a tall order, on which everyone cannot deliver, but can at least aspire for.


UPE scheme

To support the long-term strategic visions, UGC adopted a scheme, ‘Universities with Potential for Excellence (UPE)’ and as the name suggests, the aim was to identify a few universities with the potential to achieve excellence leading to its holistic development. Of all select UPE universities, UGC has given the grand tag of ‘Universities of Excellence (UoE)’ to two -- JNU and University of Hyderabad -- for overall quality of performance.


Who are shortlisted?

The criterion for selection is NAAC with grade “A”, proof of ongoing higher-level research activities, university-industry collaboration and community outreach. Only the deserving get selected. “My colleagues in 64 departments, 25 centres, two institutes and one school have brought out exceptional research output, effectively participated in seminars, and published 1400 articles in peer reviewed journals, 600 articles in books, 400 full-papers in conference proceedings and 300 books as single author/editor. The 2013 SCOPUS survey estimates 88 percent growth in publications by my colleagues in high-impact science. Last year, 373 faculties participated in international conferences, 512 in national seminars. Currently my faculties are involved in 23 UGC-funded major research projects and 152 projects funded by international agencies. Science and technology faculty received 30 patents both international and national,” said Dr Suranjan Das, VC, Calcutta University.


Prof. S.K Sopory

Vice Chancellor, JNU


Q. What support did the UPE scheme promise for JNU?

A. The action plan recommended by the UGC’s Expert Committee includes support for two specific or focus areas of strength within the university. Our focus areas include: one, genomics and proteomics in systems of biological and environmental origin employing physical and nanoscience techniques. Second, globalization, national development and knowledge systems: Interfacing economy, politics, society and culture and fund for the holistic development of the university.

Other areas identified for support are on: training research and research governance; up-gradation and expansion of academic and physical infrastructure; participation of teachers and students in academic conferences; up-gradation and expansion of research and teaching infrastructure; outreach activities and up gradation and expansion of knowledge base and connectivity.


v What are the issues that need to be fulfilled under this scheme?

A. The activities for financial assistance are: Research support for areas not covered under focus areas; Field work support for students and teachers; Office of Research support/advisory on fund raising/project writing; IPR/IPM cell; Technology/Idea incubation Centre; Upgrading classrooms  in old buildings/school libraries; Expansion of AIRF to house new facilities (augmentation of National Imaging Facility and/or setting up of nanolithography for Biology); Upgrading of audio/visual equipment; Organizing smart classrooms/video-conferencing facility; e-classrooms for all schools and special centres; Strengthening of ICT.


Under “Outreach” the following activities are due for financial support: Activities related to gender sensitivity and social diversity; Imparting scientific temper in society; Development of a cyber library; Support for the Office of International Collaborations; Support for JNIAS; and support for digital archiving and Audio-books and e-books.


Q. What has been the outcome?

A. Within a few months from the release of the fund, two focus areas mentioned above identified under the action plan of UPE Phase II, by the UGC Expert Committee, were set into motion.


The key feature implemented by the university for allocation of funds has been an online portal, developed in-house, whereby an individual faculty or faculty groups can apply for financial support. Special emphasis for interdisciplinary research was advertised, cutting across Schools and discipline boundaries within the University. Accordingly, 164 proposals have been submitted by 320 faculty members, and considered for various levels of funding. There were two proposals across schools and disciplines (Sciences with Humanities and Social Science). This shows considerable infusion of interdisciplinary approach into the research proposed under the UPE Phase II programme of JNU.     


Work is already underway for implementation of the action plan pertaining to the overall enhancement of the University.   

Focus of the scheme

The scheme helps in defining the strength to be comparable to world class universities – in terms of achieving excellence in learning process, academic programmes based on the socio-economic needs of the country, training, research, innovation, and governance to face future challenges. According to Dr Ashish Swarup Verma, VC, Jadavpur University, “Such schemes encourage the faculty to dig into complex research, aiming for real outcome. Our H index increased by 70-80 percent.”


Support period

Every phase of the UPE scheme is for five years, extendable up to 10 years. During the IX, X and XI plan periods the scheme improved the status of select universities. In 2001, only five universities were selected – JNU, Hyderabad university, Jadavpur University, Pune University and Madras University. Dr. Haribabu, Acting Vice Chancellor of Hyderabad University, shares his experience. “The scheme augmented our research capacity, and we created research fellowships through UPE. We also created Centre for Modelling Simulation Design and Bio-informatics programme which brought together people from biology and IT to teach and exchange knowledge.”

During the X plan, Mumbai University, NEHU, Madurai Kamaraj University and Calcutta University were picked up and six under the XIth plan.

haribabuDr. E Haribabu

Real world problems are multidimensional and they are inter-related. So that is why we need interdisciplinary approach to understand the problems and provide solutions

Quantum of financial assistance

The initial grant for the universities with potential was Rs. 25 crores; now in the XIIth plan, on the basis of review, the UGC is enhancing it to Rs. 75 crores for five years. The break-up of funds comprises 30% to be spent on one or more focused areas identified by the university; 70% on overall development – academic and physical infrastructure, collaborative in-house, national and international research projects. Each university with UoE status will be given Rs. 150 crore in phases.

“UPE has enouraged faculty members to further write proposals for bigger grants. We are using UPE funds to build big academic complexes to accommodate 1500 students at a time, paper presentations in international conferences, augmenting library resources,” says Dr. Haribabu. Celebrating the UoE status, he says, “Presently we have Rs. 200 crore worth research projects mobilized through various sources.”

Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority (IRDA) gave them a grant of Rs.1 crore to start Hyderabad lecture series. Interestingly, the first lecture was by Nobble laureate Amartya Sen.


Private players get access

In the XIIth plan, the UGC decided to include private universities under section 12 B of the UGC Act to earn the status of ‘University with Potential for Excellence’. Of the 165 UGC-approved private universities, five will get the tag during every plan period. A tough battle is expected among private players to bag the coveted star of excellence.

Universities with Potential for Excellence

Name of the University

Focus Area

Jadavpur University, Salt Lake Campus, Kolkata

Mobile Computing and Communication and Nano-Science

Pune University, Ganeshkhind Road, Pune

Bio-Chemistry & Biotechnology

University of Hyderabad, Kukatpally, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh

Interface Studies and Research

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Genetics, Genomics and Biotechnology

University of Madras, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Herbal Science

Madurai Kamraj University, Nagamalai Puthukottai, Tamil Nadu

Nano science in Biology

North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, Meghalaya

Bio-Sciences and Area Studies

University of Calcutta, Senate House, Calcutta

Modern Biology

University of Mumbai, Mumbai

Green Technology

Osmania University, Hyderabad

Material Research - Social Relevence

Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi

Advance Functional Materials, Genomics and Proteomics

University of Rajasthan, Jaipur

Materials and Converging Sciences : Nano Praticles,
nano-composites and multilayers

Karnatak University, Dharwad

Anti-tumour Activity : An Integrated Approach

Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar

Material Science

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