|Pranab Mukherjee addresses the convocation at Nehu in Shillong on Tuesday. Picture by UB Photos
Shillong, Oct. 22: President Pranab Mukherjee, lamenting that it has been over 80 years since an Indian university produced a Nobel Prize winner, today appealed to institutions of higher learning to introduce “innovative changes with urgency” with stress on the “culture of excellence”.
He said this while delivering the convocation address at North Eastern Hill University (Nehu), which was attended by thousands of students despite the shutdown called by Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC).
“The delivery of higher education in India cannot be allowed to continue in a routine fashion any longer. There has to be an elevated level of urgency among the administrators and academicians to introduce innovative changes in the institutions,” Mukherjee, who is also the visitor to the central university, said before rounding up his two-day maiden visit to the state.
According to many international surveys, he said, Indian universities are not reckoned amongst the top universities in the world.
“The standards of our universities are much higher than what the rankings suggest, but the universities have not been able to adequately present our cases for a higher ranking,” he added.
Pointing out that it is over 80 years now since an Indian university produced a Nobel Prize winner — C.V. Raman — the President said Amartya Sen, S. Chandrashekar and Hargobind Khorana were all graduates of Indian universities but received their Nobel Prizes while working in US universities.
“We in India have the best teachers, students and the talent but we are not well co-ordinated. If we can make the right call at the right time, we will get the necessary response,” he said.
At the same time, the President stressed the importance of the culture of excellence.
“A culture of excellence has to be promoted by allowing adequate flexibility in different aspects of academic management. Every university that has core competency in a particular discipline, has outstanding faculty and the potential to be developed into a centre of excellence, has to be adequately supported,” Mukherjee said.
In this context, he spoke about the Centre for Cultural and Creative Studies in Nehu, which is working towards realising the artistic and cultural aspirations of the people of the region.
The Centre is collaborating with the indigenous communities to preserve, protect and promote the rich diversity of the Northeast.
With assistance from the UGC, the Centre is setting up a Northeast India Centre for Diversities to showcase the rich multiplicity of the region.
Mukherjee urged the authorities to give their support to turn this department into a centre of excellence in a time-bound manner.
Moreover, the President said Nehu has acted as a “centre of empowerment of the people in the Northeast”. He expressed happiness over the gender parity in the student population, with a 1:1 male-female ratio, and the fact that women outperform men beyond the ratio. Nehu has fulfilled an important objective of India’s higher education system, he added.
Earlier, Mukherjee inaugurated an innovation club and witnessed an exhibition of traditional herbal practitioners on the university campus. On the occasion, he also witnessed the Nehu Professors’ Patents Exhibition.
Among those who were present at the convocation were Meghalaya governor K.K. Paul, chief minister Mukul Sangma, Nehu chancellor Prof. Andre Beteille, and vice-chancellor Prof. P. Shukla.
Around 2,452 students received their degrees today in the presence of the President. Another 5,912 students received their degrees in absentia. Among those who were conferred with PhD degree, included Meghalaya urban affairs minister M. Ampareen Lyngdoh.