Washington: The Higher Education Foundation took a step towards shaping its vision of reforming India’s higher education system as the Visioning Workshop 2022 was held at Hotel Mayflower in Washington D.C.
Envisioned by Shri Rahul Karad, Executive President of MIT World Peace University, over three and a half years ago, the Higher Education Foundation will be an association of Indian universities, AICTE, UGC and NAAC, and USA’s NSF, with eminent education leaders and academicians from India and the Indian Diaspora in the USA.
The foundation desires to create a unique platform to bring together Higher Educators and Researchers of Indian origin and wishes to organize the World’s Largest Multidisciplinary Convention for Strategizing and Transforming Higher Education in India and beyond.
In the opening address, Dr. Suresh Garimella, President of University of Vermont, expressed hope and opportunity among the group for collaboration and progress and said, “Hundreds of millions of students must be upskilled in India and the quality of education of India is uneven and variable. Indian research, in my opinion, is primarily supported by the government while the US has a more robust system. We have to keep in mind the differences of the systems in the two countries as we discuss how to partner, there is a lot of experimentation and innovation needed. The greatest thing about the US education system are the Land-Grant acts and I am thinking, is there a version of it that can be applied in India?”
He laid emphasis on the primary function of the meeting which was partnership. He added, “As we consider opportunity today and remain cognisant to the necessary scale, the matter of achieving quality at that scale is a daunting challenge. Here’s where a truly effective deployment of distance education, in my opinion, may provide some answers, both for continuing in professional education and also for full-scale degrees. I think India could do this better than any other country if you implement it well. We are here to spend a day to fundamentally seek to find ways of improving the quality of education and the excellence of research. We envision this discussion is directed towards planning a broad and inclusive platform where real issues are targeted, complimenting government efforts, where available and forging new ones, where needed.”
By means of the foundation, the platform will facilitate an intense and ongoing interaction between the eminent academicians and thought leaders of Indian origin in the US and academic and scientific leadership of India. Through the discussions, they can continue to work on the principle of osmosis to enrich and transform the Indian Higher Education System by drawing on the best practices in education in the US and vice versa.
The workshop had noted panelists, 18 Indians and 10 from the USA, and they discussed innovative partnerships, entrepreneurship and commercialization, the research ecosystem and pedagogical innovations in higher education.
The panel, through discussions, explored the possible partnerships that can be implemented at scale in areas of undergraduate studies, study abroad or PHD programs, early-career faculty development, networked centers and others.
Opportunities for India-US collaboration on innovative ideas and business opportunities were also discussed along with the needs and support required by the research ecosystem. Need for innovation in teaching modalities was also talked about at length.
Ambassador of India to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, said, “Within the large canvas of India-US partnership, the knowledge space has limitless potential. As the world faces multiple challenges including health care, clean energy, climate change, supply chain issues cyber threats etc. India and the United States have unique synergies, combining Indian talent and US technology that can address them.”
He pointed out the efforts made by US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to develop government partnership and emphasized on the higher education opportunity for the two nations. “Today’s spirit is for innovativeness. Anything where we can come together, create new avenues in which our institutions can connect, we’ll be happy to do that,” he added.
The Higher Education Foundation will facilitate collaborations with foreign universities, educationists and regulators abroad to gain insights about improving our educational environment. The aim is to enhance and impart knowledge through the process of deliberations, invited talks, research and thought leadership.
Executive President of MIT World Peace University, Pune, Shri. Rahul Karad expressed his wish to make the use of the Indian diaspora for transformation of Indian higher education and said, “Institutions in the US allow students to flourish and grow and the research is also strong. We want to look at the governance of the institutions and the policy issues. I’m sure we are going to have concrete and outcome-based discussions here.”
He added, “Usually such collaborations happen only between premier institutions but with this project, we want to penetrate deeper with opportunities to collaborate for tier 2 and 3 universities as well.”
The programme aligns with the objective of Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas of the Government of India and expects to build the most comprehensive database of global academicians of Indian origin.
NSF Director Dr. Sethuraman Panchnathan laid emphasis on multilateral partnerships for finding the best solutions to global challenges. He said, “There are three pillars to an innovative partnership – advancing frontiers of research into the future to meet the speed and scale requirements, ensuring accessibility and inclusivity and securing global leadership.”
“I look forward to establishing a strong partnership at NSF and I commit to you today that NSF will work really hard to strengthen this partnership,” he added.
The attendees feel that sustained collaborative efforts through forums such as this workshop are needed. With leaders such as Vice Chancellors of private and government universities, more meetings of this stature will take the fraternizing ahead.
With the programme, the Foundation aims to strengthen the research ecosystem of India’s higher education system. The idea is to aid researchers from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and for a cluster of universities to carry out high value research across the world.
The Visioning Workshop 2022 had over 50 attendees and the Foundation is already looking ahead to having more at the convention planned for next year.