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Parliament approves 15 more central universities
Published on 8 Dec. 2009 1:22 AM IST
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Parliament Monday approved the creation of 15 more central universities with the Rajya Sabha unanimously approving the measure and the government saying the new institutions would set “benchmarks of excellence”. The Lok Sabha had passed the Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2009, on Dec 1 and it will now go to President Pratibha Patil for assent before coming into law. Of the additional universities, 12 will be new institutions while three state universities will be upgraded to central status. Two of the new universities will be set up in Jammu and Kashmir, one in Jammu and the other in Srinagar, an issue that triggered intense debate in the house. “The new institutions will emerge as benchmarks of excellence and centres of wealth creation,” Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said while replying to the 190-minute debate in the house. Putting “in perspective” the challenges that lay ahead, Sibal said it was “important to develop an ecosystem of education that promotes quality and excellence to keep pace with the rapidly developing world”. “There is a connect between economic growth and education. As more and more young children get access to higher education, there will be faster growth,” he maintained. In this context, he noted that while 220 million children go to school, “there are millions who don’t go. Only 12.4 percent of schoolchildren go to college. This means 26 million go to college, there are 194 million who do not reach college. “As we ensure that more and more schoolchildren go to colleges, through measures like the Right to Education Act, we have to cater to the demand for college seats rising from 26 million to 40 million in the coming years. “Have we done enough to address this growing demand? Quite frankly, the answer is no. We have to think how to meet this demand. Should it be through a public-private partnership? Should the state governments do more?” the minister wondered. “Perhaps our most important agenda is rapid reform to enable excellence and quality in the educational sector,” the minister contended. During the debate, member after member from the opposition ranks questioned the logic of - but did not oppose - the creation of two new central universities in Jammu and Kashmir. Kishore Kumar Mohanty (Biju Janata Dal) hoped the decision was “not a sop to the separatists” as Jammu had originally been selected as the site of the central university but it was later shifted to Srinagar because suitable land could not not be found. Bharatkumar Raut (Shiv Sena) termed the Jammu decision a “political compromise” that would “open a Pandora’s box” as other states would also demand a second central university. Sibal, however, shot this down, saying the government did not intend to set up a second central university in any state. “It was a policy decision on Jammu and Kashmir because of the peculiar situation in the state,” the minister contended. Sharifuddin Shafiq (National Conference) wondered what the fuss was all about. “It is unfortunate that whenever there is good work being done for Jammu and Kashmir, it is said an effort is being made to divide Kashmir. This kind of mindset needs to be changed. Unless you see all of Jammu and Kashmir as one, you will not be able to solve its problems,” Shafiq contended. Responding to concerns expressed by members whether the new universities would be able to attract adequate faculty, Sibal said: “This is a very, very serious issue. We have set up a task force on this. In the next five years, we hope to increase the number of doctorates awarded annually from 5,000 to 30,000. We are investing hugely in this.”

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