Prof. AK Grover,
Vice Chancellor, Panjab University
Q. What is your take on Indian higher education and its research capabilities?
A. At the national labs, whenever a science conference happens a very small number of people are engaged in activities; so capacity building is limited. There is no multiplier effect to that. The renowned experiments abroad in which Indians participate are being done on behalf of universities there, so we don’t have the counterpart of that. So the Department of Science and Technology came up with an idea that India’s next participation in a mega science project should happen on behalf of universities of India so that there is a ‘capacity building’. This multiplier effect will result in larger number of people gaining exposure to international science who will eventually go on to contribute at universities and colleges. UGC is also keen on developing colleges as research institutes. Via this capacity building UGC wants participation of a larger community to get distributed to research centres, which are associated with smaller universities and colleges.
Q. Panjab University has figured among the top world-class universities. What has been the driving force?
A. It was always among the top ranked universities, but the first recognition that it was a top-rank university came via PURSE (Promotion of University Research and Scientific Excellence), a scheme initiated by DST that five years ago identified five universities to be given Rs. 10 crores every year to improve their research infrastructure so that better research can be done there. These five universities were selected on the basis of a criterion. PU was in that league and that way it is a premiere university. What has happened is that, that was only in sciences, so earlier in 2013, we were approached whether the university will provide data to Times Higher Education (THE) survey so that the university can be considered for the world ranking. That request came from Ministry of HRD and Planning Commission nudged us.
Q. What according to you is a ‘World Class University’? What can India do to have one?
A. In the ranking of BRICS & Emerging nations by THE, Panjab University is placed at 13. Peking University is number one. And Peking University is 100 years old like PU. But in global THE Ranking while Peking is at 45, Panjab is placed between 226-250. I don’t know how to go from 226 to 100, but I certainly know how to go from 13 to 1 by looking at a comparison between Peking and Panjab. We have a target. We have to do exactly what they have done. It is not that we don’t know what they have done; this university is setting out a Vision 2020 which should be followed to be a World Class University. One simple thing needs to be done. The top ranking global universities are research universities. They are graduate-programme-centric, PhD-programme-centric. Undergraduate education happens in colleges; universities per se get people for Master’s and PhD.
Q. Why are Indian universities not research-oriented?
A. Because many of our internal undergraduates (candidates) leave the institute for jobs after graduation. Some minimal financial support can be given to Master’s students. Sometimes students quit after Master’s programme as their parents will not be able to support them during PhD. We have to attract good graduates to join our integrated Master’s programme. We want resource to support them so that they contribute to research, this is what Peking University is doing, we need to do that too, incentivize graduate school programmes.
We have 11 faculties and we want to start graduate school programmes for all of these and within these faculties we want to have inter-disciplinary programmes. Where a science faculty will have all the science departments but all science departments cannot be inter-disciplinary, so we have to make sub-groupings within science faculty to encourage inter-disciplinary programmes because that is where the cutting edge research is. This is what we have to do, if we do this, then we are in the world-class league.
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