Universities need to transcend national boundaries: JGU VC Raj Kumar

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New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) Universities have a larger role to play in the development of societies and need to assume a leadership role that transcends national boundaries, the Vice Chancellor of a leading private Indian university has said.

“Universities have a larger role to play in the development of societies. They need to assume a leadership role that transcends national boundaries and are able to appreciate diversity and pluralism in all its forms and manifestations.

“Universities need to recognise that they have a special role in society,” Professor C. Raj Kumar, founding chancellor of the O.P Jindal Global University (JGU) said at the Times Higher Education (THE) Asia Universities Summit 2018 held in partnership with the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) from February 5-7 in Shenzhen, China. JGU was the only Indian university invited to speak at the summit.

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“While societies become more myopic, it’s important for academics to continue to share perspectives to influence public opinion,” added Raj Kumar, who was among 400 delegates from Asia’s best universities, top researchers, higher education leaders, policymakers and industry chiefs.

Responding to a question on challenging political leaders when there are value challenges, Raj Kumar said that while VCs might be more nuanced in their public engagements, dedicated advocacy arms in universities have a duty to speak out. Academic freedom is central to a university, but with all freedoms come responsibility.

He also said that universities should be the vanguards in the pursuit of truth and should promote truth via evidence — this being a key role for science and the social sciences to play in the 21st century.

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To another question about internationalisation, Kumar observed; “JGU is a unique example of internationalisation. It is deeply committed to promoting international engagement through building substantive collaborations with universities around the world. Universities need to enable these partnerships and it is through these collaborations that we can advance to cause of global understanding and educational cooperation.”

The 2018 Asia Universities Rankings results were announced on the sidelines of the summit, with the National University of Singapore topping for the third year in a row. India has 42 institutions represented in the rankings, with Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science topping the list at 29.

Responding to a question on university rankings, Raj Kumar said he was a staunch supporter of the system.

“I strongly believe that university rankings are important for providing opportunities for universities to benchmark themselves with regard to quality and excellence. Rankings help universities to redefine their vision and mission towards seeking ways to develop new institutional imaginations for the development of a knowledge society,” he maintained.

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