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Sustaining and reinvigorating higher education a major challenge: Mukherjee

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Sustaining and reinvigorating higher education in India as well as in other parts of the world has become a major challenge, especially for public institutions, according to President Pranab Mukherjee.
 
Addressing the first convocation of the English and Foreign languages University (EFLU) here yesterday, the President said challenges for such institutions, both outside and inside, can be seen as four distinct factors. These are escalation of costs of learning; narrow pragmatics, that is, market-oriented fast-track skill acquisition, as the sole goal of learning; the allure of invasive dominant communication systems depleting attention span; and corrosion of trust.
 
“Any attempt to build or re-orient higher education in such a situation requires administrative acumen. Administrative strength and sensitivity removes hurdles in the path of learning, and allows academics to thrive, as this University has displayed,” he said.
 
He referred to the six-decade-long growth of EFLU since its inception as the Central Institute of English, established as part of the vision of the first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru for a new India in 1958 and later as Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages in 1972 before becoming a Central University in 2007. 
 
Mr Mukherjee said he was happy to know that the university had built a significant research profile in language and literary studies, cultural and inter-disciplinary studies.
 
“Today EFLU stands out among the Universities of South Asia with specialized competencies in the areas of language, literary and cultural pedagogies, language sciences, teacher education and research,” he added.
 
Recognizing the seminal role played by the university and assisting productive expansion of its founding vision, the Union Government has entrusted EFLU with several groundbreaking and important projects such as National University Students Skill Development, National Literacy Mission Authority and Massive Open Online Courses, he noted.
 
Acknowledging the eminent role that the university evinces in teacher training and education, the Ministry of External Affairs entrusted the university with international responsibility for training diplomats and for designing trainer training programmes.
 
“I am told that in this regard centres for English Language training have been set up in ASEAN countries and five new centres are coming up in African countries,” he added.
 
“I am happy to know that the university has initiated outreach programs such as university – industry interface and mutually beneficial dialogue with public sector undertakings, social welfare organizations, government agencies, media houses and private educational institutions,” the President said.
 
During his speech, Mr Mukherjee advised the faculty, students and the staff to avoid cynicism that is an easy alibi to evade responsibility. “One way of achieving this is making everyone a stakeholder in collaborative institution-building. Immersive teaching supplemented by intensive research alone can advance the vision of the University in generating new knowledge and sharing it with everyone,” he added.
 
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Later, inaugurating the centenary celebrations of Osmania University, the President said universities should be developed as temples of higher learning. “They should be places for creating learning environment, where free exchange of ideas will take place and where mighty minds in the form of students and teachers would exchange ideas.
 
“Osmania University was also established with this dream that it will be an institution of excellence where free minds will meet freely, interact and exchange ideas and live in peaceful co-existence. In ancient India, Universities such as Taxila, Nalanda and Vikramshila had attracted mighty minds in the form of students and teachers.
 
“Today, there is no doubt that there has been huge development of educational infrastructure in the field of higher learning. However, there are some areas of concern. As Visitor to more than 100 Central Institutions of higher learning, I have been continuously emphasizing that these Institutions in India should occupy their rightful place in the international ranking process,” he said.
 
“Apart from looking into this aspect, attention also needs to be laid on basic research and education. There should be interface and effective inter-linkages between industry and academia. We cannot live in isolation. There is need for investment in research and innovation so that we can occupy our rightful place in the international community,” he added.
 
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