New Delhi, Dec. 26: Faced with an acute shortage of scientists in the next couple of years, the government has decided to set up four national institutes of science.
The centres in Allahabad, Chennai, Pune and Orissa will be dedicated to churning out scientists for the future as “almost 30-35 per cent of (government) scientists are due to retire”, University Grants Commission chairperson Arun Nigavekar said.
The retirement will be from the government’s top research centres. “There is a need to attract a large number of scientists to fill this vacuum,” Nigavekar added. He was unveiling at a news conference here today a package of incentives for universities and colleges during the UGC’s golden jubilee celebrations.
The “brain drain” will affect the Centre for Scientific Industrial Research and the departments of atomic energy, biotechnology and oceanography.
“The shortage will be due to (both) the retirement of such a large number of scientists as well as a dearth of students studying basic sciences. Students these days are not opting for basic sciences,” UGC secretary Ved Prakash pointed out.
Each new institute aims to correct the balance by admitting 100 students after a joint entrance test. They can then opt for a 2-year bachelor’s degree, a 3-year masters and then a PhD. “The new centres will be affiliated to universities,” Nigavekar said.
The UGC’s golden jubilee bonanza also includes a Rs 30-crore package for universities willing to improve their infrastructure. The chosen ones are Hyderabad Central University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jadavpur University, and Chennai and Pune Universities.
“By the end of this financial year, we would identify 150 colleges which have a potential for becoming institutes of excellence,” Nigavekar said. Those ready to revamp their laboratories, libraries and general infrastructure would be rewarded.
Autonomous institutions certified by the national committee for accreditation and with the potential to excel would receive funds worth Rs 1 crore. “We have started receiving applications from colleges,” Prakash said.
Emphasising the need to improve the quality and reach of higher education, Nigavekar said the government should fulfil its promise of investing 6 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product in education.
The country has 15,614 colleges, 309 varsities and 9.28 million students — 22,000 of whom are the first graduates in their families. “Our viewpoint is that any large amount of investment in higher education is justifiable,” Prakash said.
But the government has been trying to withdraw from the higher education sector since the beginning of economic liberalisation. It has been emphasising self-reliance for universities so that subsidies for higher education could be slashed in favour of primary education.
“We also need to step up industry-institute collaboration,” Prakash said. “They are the people who know what their (the industries’) requirements are.”