"Trust good private universities": Dr. Chauhan, HIHT Univ

From a small tin shed OPD, the HIHT hospital has grown to a major institution of medical care and a Deemed University today.  HIHT University has 750 bed multi-specialty teaching hospital with state of the art allopathic medical facilities. The hospital also has full-fledged facilities offering Ayurveda, Homoeopathy, Yoga and Holistic Medicine therapies. Dr. Vijendra Chauhan, Vice Chancellor HIHT University reveals, “With the mission of providing cost- effective healthcare, the university has integrated traditional knowledge with modern technologies.” This university credits to impact the lives of 340 causalities when they got hit by Himalayan Tsunami.  


Q. You have great competitors like AIMS, Maulana Azad Medical college.Being a private player, how far have you reached in providing efficient medical education in India?
A. I have seen this institution growing from a small tin shed to a Medical city. The credit goes to our faculty for providing good clinical services and producing good alumni who are our ambassadors today. In just one year the indexed publications from our institution have doubled, crossing the mark of 114 last year. Until recently, the state of Uttarakhand had no facility for comprehensive cancer treatment. This void has now been filled with the development of the first of its kind cost effective, comprehensive cancer research centre in this institution to serve the region. This centre is equipped with modern facilities for radiotherapy, brachy therapy and nuclear medicine.

The biggest challenge which we face as a private university is from the government where we get step-motherly treatment. Getting government funds from ICMR, DST, etc. is not so easy.   A good example of this is that despite having the best facilities for Cancer treatment and despite treating a large number of cancer patients successfully, when it comes to funding, the government funding and recommendations go to government Institutions and not to the one who has done exceptionally good work.

During the Himalayan Tsunami this institution played a very vital role in saving the lives of more than 340 patients, who were air lifted to our hospital. They were treated totally free with no aid from the government.

Q. So what’s your strength today?
A. Our holistic approach allows medical students to gain an appreciation for various alternative and indigenous systems of medicine, in keeping with global trends of exploring new alternatives for health maintenance and promotion.

Q. What’s the major drawback of Indian higher education? 
A. Our Indian students do not have facilities for being counseled properly, especially those who come from rural backgrounds. They are hence confused and choose the wrong courses of study. Many MA s and MComs are working as attendants in many institutes. One does not need an MCom degree to become an attendant. A high school pass-out could have done the same job. Have we not wasted our country’s infrastructure and precious wealth on them?   On the other hand, if they had been provided useful vocational skills, they would have been better off.

Higher education needs to be tailored to the student’s interest and capabilities. Economically-poor but academically-meritorious students and those who have a passion to excel need to be supported.

The intake process is also faulty. It is very demoralizing for the meritorious student. There is no uniformity in the admissions process in our country. What’s wrong in having a reliable, transparent central entrance examination for all professional colleges of the country?  Even the Supreme Court could not decide on it till date. This is the irony of our country. What type of professionals would we be producing if merit is not given its due?  We are not realizing where the country would end up after 20 years, if we do not take remedial measures today.

Even the curriculum prescribed by various statutory councils does not take it into consideration the local and the national needs. Students facing the future are being taught by teachers of today using the curriculum of yesterday. We need to focus on student-centered learning techniques, create faculty and educationists who are sensitive to the needs of students and the country and nurture an environment for growth. 

Q. What’s our opinion on research output produced by Indian universities?
A. Promotion of need-based original research, published in recognized journals and not reproducing the research of the advanced countries with work of dubious quality, is essential. Institutions like CSIR and ICMR, do give research grants. However, they   should design a mechanism for assessing and ensuring quality research. The researchers should submit 6-monthly progress reports. If the progress is not satisfactory, the grant should be discontinued and even consider blacklisting the errant researcher. The existing system needs to be tuned up. Universities, Councils and academies should make provision for awards for outstanding original research work ( like the Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar award) 

There are about 350 private universities in this country. How many grants they receive from these research granting agencies is a relevant question to ponder? Private institutions are always viewed with suspicion and given second class treatment. This is not right. All proposals, irrespective of whether they are from government or private institutions should be assessed uniformly and, if they are good, these proposals should be funded. I can assure you that the day this is done, the quality and quantity of meaningful research publications in this country would increase significantly.

Q. How do you idealize world Class University in India? 
A. Let us not copy the West. There was a time when people used to come to India to the great universities of Takshila & Nalanda. We have a great heritage. We have all gone in a deep slumber. Let us wake up.

Merely having Nobel laureates and medalists attached to a university does not always mean that the university is great. To me, it is more important to see how much useful research has been generated that could improve the quality of life of the common man.

Higher education is very costly in the West. How many of us can afford to educate our children in Western universities?  We need to understand our local & national needs. We have lot of hidden talent lying idle in our universities. They are not able to perform because of a political climate that is more concerned with bureaucracy than meritocracy that is punitive rather than promotive. A new culture needs to be developed where fertilization of thought and a thirst for innovation is created. Instead of establishing new campuses, let us revamp the existing ones. The dead wood needs to be removed and fresh blood needs to be infused. Autonomy with accountability needs to be encouraged. Perish or publish useful research should be the motto of these universities

 

You do need good infrastructure, but it is the quality of individuals who are working there which makes all the difference. Most educationists would agree that a good university should have autonomy and an open and free environment for learning. There should a harmonious relationship between the faculty and students. The students should have freedom of expression and a zest for learning. It is important to promote imagination and a sense of enquiry.

 

A true world class University pushes forward the frontiers of knowledge and transform lives of people. A university is known by the eminence of its faculty and the achievements of  its alumni.

 

Q. Your Rural Development Institute (RDI) is unique providing rural outreach activities focused on scalable models of development.
A. Yes, we have intitated village health volunteers (for Mother and Child) program in the 90s, a component of which was incorporated in the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) of Government of India’s  ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) scheme. A unique learners kit for adolescents on sexual and reproductive health called ‘Yuvansh’. This kit was developed by RDI and over 2,00,000 have been trained through it.  This has been replicated for adolescent girls under the SABLA scheme of the Department of Women and Child, Government of India. We have also worked on ccomprehensive community-based program of safe drinking water and environmental sanitation along with livelihood enhancement through participatory watershed development in over 100 villages. 

Q. Are public and private universities playing their roles in terms of best interest of the country? 
A.
You have dual yard stick for government and private institutions. On one hand, some of the government universities have an acute shortage of regular faculty. Their infrastructure is in a very bad shape. But how many government institutions have been de-recognized?  On the other hand, a private institution cannot afford to have a faculty deficiency of even 5 to 10% and can in no way compromise on the infrastructure prescribed. 

Government does not have adequate finances to develop and open new professional institutions to meet the increasing needs and challenges of this country. Involvement of private players is a must. They are willing to invest and fund educational institutions. We need to provide accountable autonomy to them. Why can’t our regulatory bodies prepare good polices so that private institutions take on the burden of higher education and at the same time provide cost effective education. Why can’t the intake process be made more transparent and uniform? Is it difficult? We need good visionaries and professional leaders in these regulatory councils.

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