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Round-table on Innovation Universities

Aarti Dhar

New Delhi: The Human Resource Development Ministry is organising a round-table on August 28 to discuss the Innovation for Universities Bill, 2010.

The exercise will see different shades of opinion, primarily that of the academics, on the proposed Bill that has evoked extreme reactions, ranging from criticism to appreciation, from the stakeholders.

N.R. Madhava Menon, former Vice-Chancellor of the National Law School of India University in Bangalore, while appreciating the concept, said there would be many challenges in implementation, including the prevailing mind-set which was not very conducive to it. He said the Indian brains abroad would be attracted by the idea of Innovation Universities.

“There is great deal of cynicism among the intellectual class and some degree of suspicion with the new government initiatives.”

The Bill “is a great idea” which might shock the intellectual consciousness in disbelief of the government's intentions, Professor Menon pointed out.

Though welcoming the idea of setting up innovation universities, Professor Debashis Chatterjee, Director, Indian Institute of Management (Kozhikode), said much would depend on how the concept was finally implemented. “We will have to wait and see the final outcome.”

Reacting to the draft, he said: “Such universities are necessary because in the U.S. and the U.K. universities today are essentially what they are because of the kind of innovations they did in their higher education system. In India, at present we have a straightjacket, typical conventional education, with little room for developing skills. This needs to be changed.”

Appreciation poured in from the ICFAI Foundation for Higher Education that runs several universities. It said autonomy was a welcome move, but wanted any provision for reservation removed from the Bill.

“If the endowment fund is to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore or above, then there will be few takers,” said T.R.K.Rao, Director, Corporate Communications of the Foundation. Things would, nevertheless, depend on how the proposed law was implemented, he added.

Tamil Nadu-based SASTRA University said the proposed Innovation Universities would result in the “closure of the existing universities,” caused by a false hope that such universities alone would be innovative.

Its Vice-Chancellor, R. Sethuraman, said all existing universities should be given autonomy with accountability and freedom from interference by bureaucrats and politicians. This would go a long way in furthering research and academic growth of institutions, as recommended by the Yashpal Committee.

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