Chandigarh, March 16: Calling for academic institutions to be benchmarked and accredited, President Pranab Mukherjee said universities should gear up to the challenge posed by new models of knowledge dispensation, especially online courses.
Addressing the 64th annual convocation of Panjab University (PU) here, Mukherjee said the universities should be prepared to look at the future of knowledge dispensation.
"Higher educational institutions would do well to recognise emerging global trends that are creating new models of knowledge dispensation. Rising costs of higher education and changing profile of education seekers, aided by technology, has led to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
"Due to its advantage of speed, scale and efficiency, it is fast catching up as the preferred mode of learning. Blended MOOCs - online instruction supplemented by periodic classroom interaction also have the potential to gain ground," Mukherjee pointed out.
Pitching for academic institutions in the country to be benchmarked and accredited, the president said these institutions should to create quality consciousness.
"To pursue excellence, core competencies must be identified and centres of excellence nurtured. To create quality consciousness, every institution must be benchmarked and accredited," he added.
"At the apex of the education system is the university. Indian universities have potential to be the leading institutions in the world. For that, urgent improvements in academic management are needed," Mukherjee said.
The president said universities need to redefine teaching methodology to make it more effective.
"To make learning more effective, teaching pedagogy must be refined, curricula up-dated regularly, an inter-disciplinary approach adopted and evaluation mechanism reformed," he said.
The president honoured Nobel Peace Prize 2014 winner and Children's rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, Fields Medal winner (2014) and noted Mathematician Professor Manjul Bhargava and renowned agricultural scientist and Padma Vibhushan recipient, M.S. Swaminathan, with honorary Doctor of Laws and Doctor of Science (honoris causa) degrees.
Noted lyricist and film personality Gulzar was honoured with the PU Sahitya Rattan Award and leading ophthalmologist Amod Gupta of PGIMER was conferred the PU Vigyan Rattan Award. Emphasising that the teaching faculty to be made up-to-date in their field of knowledge, the president said faculty recharge programmes must be conducted.
The president complimented PU for being the highest ranked Indian institution (276-300th bracket internationally) in the Times Higher Education Survey 2014-15. The president said roping in the industry in the academic scheme of things was the right thing to do in the present context.
"An industry interface can benefit in terms of involvement of industry personnel in curriculum design and project guidance; sponsorship of chair positions; and setting up of incubation centres and laboratories."
He said these could be facilitated "through an industry-interface cell as well as by induction of industry experts in governance mechanisms".
Mukherjee advocated that institutions should reach out to its alumni to associate them in academic management through governing bodies and for business and project mentoring and curriculum design.
He said higher education institutions like universities should not confine themselves to classrooms and campuses. "These can act as a role model to usher in socio-economic development," he said, adding that academic institutions must take active part in the recent initiatives like 'Clean India' and 'Digital India' launched by the central government.
On the occasion, 682 students, 514 of them women, received degrees and medals.