General apathy towards research in India: President

Kolkata, Dec 13 (IANS) Regretting that there was a “general apathy” towards research in the country, President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said India cannot aspire to become one of the top nations in the world without having world-class academic institutions.

“India cannot aspire to become one of the top nations in the world and sit at the high table of the international comity without having world-class academic institutions,” Mukherjee said, while delivering the Debranjan Mukherji Memorial lecture at the Raj Bhavan here.

Comparing India with other BRICS members, he said: “Our emphasis on research and development is very scanty. There is general apathy towards research. In BRICS countries, Brazil and China are far ahead in research work.”

He said that while physical infrastructure for higher education has expanded fast in recent years in the country, which now had 712 universities and over 36,000 colleges, not a single Indian institution figured in the top 200 rankings till some time back.

The president also said that as Visitor to a large number of institutions of higher learning, he has been regularly convening conferences and emphasising on the need to improve international rankings.

“The basic problem is not lack of merit on the part of our higher learning institutions but technicalities and our not providing relevant information to the international rating agencies,” he said.

Mukherjee expressed happiness over institutions now taking the ranking process more seriously in a proactive and systematic manner.

Thanks to the efforts of the institutions concerned and his constant prodding, two Indian institutions have broken into the top 200 for the first time.

The president exuded confidence that many more institutions would make it to the list soon.

He also said that the internet, mobile phones and television have transformed the world.

“There are no longer any territorial limitations. Technology and e-classrooms can be used to access best of teachers anywhere. This will help address the problem of faculty shortages.”

Stressing the need for cross-fertilisation of ideas, he said faculty and student exchanges should be regularly organised. Novel ideas that can be transformed into marketable products should be supported and higher education institutions should in association with grassroots entrepreneurs create incubation centres.

The memorial lecture has been instituted in the memory of Late Debranjan Mukherji, an influential figure who taught Bengali language and literature.

He served in Suri Vidyasagar College, Guskara Mahavidyalaya, Bidhanchandra College at Asansol and the University of Burdwan, where he later became the head of the department of Bengali.

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