Monday, April 23, 2012

Number of "innovation universities" reduced

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has watered down its ambitious plans of setting up 14 new "innovation universities". Not only has it dropped the numerical target, it has now reworked its concept to allow existing universities to be classified as innovation universities after a change in their governance structure. The reworked proposal is likely to be taken up by the Cabinet at its next meeting. Universities will not only have knowledge clusters, but also build linkages with research institutions and industry. These universities will focus on research-oriented innovations in design, development and delivery.

The Planning Commission, which is also working on some restructuring of the higher education sector as part of the 12th Five Year Plan process, suggested the change in the proposal. It now allows for existing universities and institutes to be upgraded to the status of universities for research and innovation after changes in governance structure. The Plan panel had raised objections to the idea of thematic universities, arguing that there are almost no world-class universities set up on a thematic basis. The MHRD has made it clear that even the theme-based universities will need to promote inter-disciplinary learning and research.

Over the last two years, there had been talk of setting up innovation universities focused on environment and ecology, culture and sports. However, none of these discussions progressed, even though several universities in the US and the UK expressed an interest in setting up innovation universities. There were apprehensions that resources would flow to the proposed innovation universities while the existing ones would not be helped to perform better. These apprehensions prompted the change in the concept of innovation universities.

The Sam Pitroda-headed National Knowledge Commission (NKC) had suggested that each of the 14 varsities be earmarked Rs. 200 crore (Rs. 2 billion) annually.

Source: The Economic Times, April 23, 2012

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