Thursday, April 30, 2015

Remarks at the Chancellor's Council

Dear Colleagues,

I was asked by the Chancellor to make some concluding remarks at the end of the first session of the Chancellor's Council on April 29, 2015. I did not have a text, but I give beow a gist of what I said. Your comments are welcome.


Concluding Remarks by former Ambassador T.P.Sreenivasan, VC, KSHEC at the First Meeting of the Chancellor’s Council on March 29, 2015.

Distinguished Chancellor, Esteemed Pro-Chancellor and Members of the Chancellor’s Council,

Allow me to express my sense of satisfaction over the formation of the Chancellor’s Council. Some time ago, a former Chancellor, Shri.Nikhil Kumar, had asked me for a note on the role of the Chancellor in our system and I had suggested the formation of an “Eminent Persons Group”, including Vice-Chancellors and other educationists to coordinate the work of the Universities and to ensure implementation of decisions by the UGC, the Government and others. Since the Higher Education Council had only an advisory role, there was need for another body, I had said. The formation of the Chancellor’s Council meets an important functional requirement.

I shall not go into the working of the Higher Education Council here. I have circulated a short “Agenda 2015”, which outlines what we have been doing. The details, including all our reports, are on our website also.

In the presentations we have heard, each Vice-Chancellor has described what is being done to enhance quality in the Universities. But I am of the view that our education cannot get better unless there is comprehensive reform. Fundamental changes are necessary in what we teach and how we teach it. We need a new generation of higher education, a “Higher Education 2.0”. We, therefore, identified six areas, which demanded immediate attention—infrastructure, teachers’ training, use of technology, autonomy, research, and internationalization. We have formed experts group in each of these areas and submitted more than ten reports. We are in the final stages of submitting ten more reports, which, if implemented, would transform the higher education scene. The work of the Universities should be within this framework, instead of each of them reinventing the wheel.

Only two of our reports have been fully implemented, ie Reform of the Semester System and establishment of autonomous colleges. Two of our other recommendations, the creation of an Assessment Council (KSAAC) and a Faculty Academy, have been accepted, but the process has not been completed. The Government has to pick and choose from the broad menu we have provided, depending on its priorities and availability of resources. The Council is ahead of the Government as we are dreamers and planners.

As the implementing agency of RUSA, the Council has been engaged in negotiations with MHRD for more than a year. In keeping with the grand vision of RUSA to transform higher education, we submitted several innovative proposals, covering the whole spectrum of reforms. But the MHRD kept changing the criteria and qualifications for allocation of funds. We are greatly disappointed that the allocation made for the entire Plan Period for Kerala is only Rs. 110 crores and that too entirely for infrastructure. The decision to include only established institutions with NAAC accreditation has ruled out all new and innovative institutions. In other words, the hopes raised by RUSA to bring about a major change have been belied. Moreover, the assurance that planning, funding and monitoring will be entrusted to an academic body has been derailed. Restructuring and empowering the KSHEC to handle RUSA are pending, but the allocated funds will be administered in consultation with the concerned institutions. Some additional funds may be made available for aided colleges during the Plan period.

Skills development has become very fashionable and several Departments and agencies have begun programmes with the funding available from several sources. But there is no coordination among them and the skills developed are of a marginal nature. The National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) is not in place, as far as I am aware, though some discussions have taken place, notably at the Govt. Engg College, Trivandrum. The initiative of the Chancellor’s Council in this regard will hopefully lead to the setting up of the NSQF.

As for Choice Based Credit system, the implementation of the Hrdayakumari Committee is still incomplete. The UGC Guidelines, I believe, are not consistent with the system we have put in place. I would suggest that we discuss the situation in Kerala with the UGC before we implement the new Guidelines.

We have heard reports about achieving the goal of Tobacco Free Campus. I would submit that today there are greater dangers in the campuses such as alcohol, drugs and sexual harassment. At a workshop held by KSHEC recently, officers responsible for gender issues told us horror stories of the state of affairs in the campuses. Of particular relevance are the charges of exploitation of research scholars by their guides. KSHEC has just set up a Committee under Prof. Meenakshi Gopinath, who has done great work at the national level to advise the Government on dealing with gender justice issues.

KSHEC has been in the forefront of propagating MOOCS. Some awareness has been created, but the larger academic community is still not aware of the immense potentials of MOOCS. India is the second largest user of MOOCS, but the drop out rate is very high. MOOCS are essential to bridge the gap between the knowledge of our teachers and the current knowledge out there in various subjects. I would request the Vice-Chancellors to integrate MOOCS in the curricula and enable students to earn credits. Local content will have to be created for the Indian platform, SWAYAM, to create our own MOOCS.

KSHEC has a Committee working under Prof.Gangan Pratap to strengthen research in our Universities. It is lack of research that keeps our Universities away from world class. We produce PhDs, but plagiarism and fake theses are not the only problems. Our researchers merely gather information to support a thesis. No product or process is initiated in most cases and patents are few and far between. I believe that research should be revamped, if we are to attain excellence.

As for the agenda item on the Chancellor’s Award, the proposals we have heard, except two from the VCs of Health and Technical Universities, involve a NAAC like study of the Universities. I would go with the suggestion that each University should submit at the end of each year a single achievement of the University, which is innovative and game changing. The Committee could choose the best among them and give the award money to enable the University to proceed further in the same area of accomplishment. Such an award will promote reform and path breaking initiatives.

One last point I would like to make, with due respect to all the VCS, who made power point presentations, is that we should omit such presentations. The power point presentations are out of the Boardrooms in many countries. Instead of discussing an issue from a personal perspective, we tend to project existing data, which are available from the websites. I would request the Chancellor to consider this suggestion also.

This First Session of the Chancellor’s Council has been extremely rewarding and I would like to thank the Hon.Chancellor for his historic initiative. The presence of the Pro-Chancellor and his words of wisdom have added to the value of this session.

Thank you.

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