India needs universities exclusively for research

India needs universities exclusively for research

On A May 30, I felt proud that three Indian Americans were among the 11 felicitated at the 'Champions of Change' event at the White House that...

On A May 30, I felt proud that three Indian Americans were among the 11 felicitated at the "Champions of Change" event at the White House that highlighted immigrant innovators and entrepreneurs; the best and the brightest from around the world who represent the very best in leadership, entrepreneurship, and public service, who are helping create jobs in America, grow the economy, doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities and make the US more competitive.

Yes, there are hundreds and thousands of intelligent people from all corners of the globe who have migrated to the US for better opportunities in research and who have made their second homeland rich while making their motherland proud. A Last week, I happened to meet quite a few of my former students, true 'Champions of Change' from the past decades, who had entered the reputed Stanford University and were instrumental in doing quality research and establishing several industries in the Silicon Valley area. Their intellectual property, converted into hundreds of patents, inventions and designs, provided employment to many Indian graduates in their companies and boosted our nation's economy too.

My students' achievements are a proof that there is no exaggeration in the statement that Stanford University is one of the world's leading research and teaching institutions where students are distinguished by their love of learning and desire to contribute to the greater community; for them, there is no greater objective than being at the edge of a field and advancing the frontier of knowledge. A Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley from the US, to name a few, are among the top research universities, and with their autonomy, innovative ideas, focus on frontier research in all fields, have been truly global in their reach, accepting and encouraging extraordinary intelligence.

If A knowledge and education can be termed a A 'growth industry', for they have a direct impact on the nation's wealth and progress, these research universities have attracted huge investments from industries as well as governments' funding for their pioneering research, and have not disappointed the investors. While feeling elated at our Indians' role in America's progress, I wish to note some of the changes in foreign policies, educational needs and the suitable response we need to have to keep ourselves at least afloat.

In this century, unlike in the past, there is a growing interest in university education among native Americans in view of employment opportunities; consequently, the US finds that it needs more teaching universities rather than research universities. A Teaching universities do not stress more on independent research potential of the learners, and their aim is to teach the students employable skills so as to be absorbed into the upcoming industries or manufacturing units within their country, for the new government policies have cut down business process outsourcing to the developing countries. I am sure that their policymakers will strengthen their teaching universities, but how about us, the Indians who have been their 'Champions for Change'? Is it not time for championing our own cause at home?

We have increased our universities in number; we have almost one university per district in Andhra Pradesh apart from the ever-increasing deemed universities, and distance learning facilities. We have uniformity in our quality which is most of the time mediocre. All our students are products of teaching universities and need to be employed by some others of a higher intelligence and competence.A While acknowledging that all universities should work to provide an education that raises individual productivity and lifelong learning, what bothers me is our inability to establish even one international research university of enviable standards so far. Do we have any exclusive research universities?

Can we plan for research universities at home to accommodate all our extraordinary geniuses or intelligences as brain drain is now slowing down? So far, all our gems have migrated; now we need to retain and polish them on our own shores for two reasons, one: we need to strengthen our economy through research, two, the opportunities of employment on alien shores are decreasing for the average learners even with university degrees.

Alas, even our IITs do not figure in the world's top 100 institutions. Research quality is a key criterion in many university ranking and rating systems. Academic peer endorsements, citations per paper, research papers per faculty, prolific academic experts get maximum points, and evidently a university with faculty which has international awards, ability to attract international funding and compete in ground-breaking research would attract intelligent and efficient students too.

The leading institutions in emerging Asian countries, such as China, Singapore and South Korea, have all recently made very strong gains. Six of the leading universities in Korea were in the global top 200 in QS. Having a research university is not a mere status symbol. A Currently, from our neighbourhood, Asian universities are pursuing global competitiveness, as society demands that universities produce world-class research, innovative leaders, and train graduates in skills more responsive to the labor market. Their universities are pressured to achieve, and sustain, "world-class" status, the very highest international standards.

This isn't just a theoretical exercise; they have realized that top universities are unique institutions incredibly valuable to local, national, and global societies. They have a transformative effect on the lives of their already-talented students, challenging them to even greater heights of achievement, and sending them out into the world equipped to assume positions of academic, cultural, artistic, and political leadership.

World-class universities conduct research that transforms our understanding of the world, past and present, and that, in turn, cures real world problems, such as diseases. They generate ideas that become businesses, creating value for our economies. In Singapore, China, Korea, etc, governments are investing billions to transform their universities into genuinely world-class institutions. Their existence and persistence matters enormously not only to the people who work and study in them, but also to those in societies around them.

It is not surprising that many Indian billionaires unhesitatingly fund research projects in Singapore and willingly establish their industries there. While being a bit disappointed that we have not even one top ranking research university to boast of, I am not brushing aside the steps being taken by us, however slow. In a large democratic set-up like ours, even educating the beneficiaries about the expected outcomes of the innovative steps being taken becomes a challenging ordeal. Opposition to the four-year degree course being introduced now by the DU, the lukewarm response to the integrated courses and dual degree programs introduced by even the Central universities, the craze for the 'foreign' tag are just a few examples.

How the proposed Nalanda University, which is our former President APJ Abdul Kalam's dream and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen's mission, envisaged to retain its glory as a beacon of knowledge and unblemished standards, will attract top faculty and students as it had done once, is yet to be seen. A Times have changed; the definition of knowledge also has changed and its applications in the knowledge society have multiplied rapidly. So, while being elated that many of our neighbouring countries areA supporting our dream university, one cannot ignore the fact that donations are not pouring in but just trickling in. The world is now virtual and flat; it attracts and retains the best of talent from anywhere and benefits thereby; it invests wherever there is merit and scope for wholesome rewards in terms of intellectual output convertible into economic gains and employment.

If our Nalanda University can slowly but surely grow strong in all the areas proposed now and includes research even in STEM areas further, all its members would be 'Champions of Change' for our country.

It is time for focussing on exclusive research univerisites in the country so as to give migrating gems a chance to be champion of change right here



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