“We need a diverse higher education system to provide access, equity and quality of education to youngsters,” said Dr Latha Pillai, advisor to the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, Bangalore, while speaking at the inaugural function of an international symposium on ‘Genes, Environment and Diseases,’ at VIT campus. The symposium was jointly organised by the VIT University and the National University Singapore on Thursday.
Pillai said higher education the world over was undergoing rapid changes due to technological innovations and this had reduced the gap in access to learning. In India, the transition is perceivable despite constraints, she said. The major issues plaguing the higher education sector are access to higher education and increasing the gross enrollment ratio. As against the country’s plan to have 1,500 universities, at present only 651 were catering to a small percentage of aspiring students, she said. While setting up new universities is a priority, consolidating the existing ones to meet the demand could be one way to bridge the gap. From six in 2007, the number of private universities has increased to 168 now, and is expected to double soon, Pillai said.
“We must ensure that the universities impart the necessary skills to the students and this is possible by a diverse approach that allows universities to focus on growth of undergraduate, postgraduate, research, online and hybrid institutions,” she said.
The universities should think of providing a lifelong learning process, especially for professionals, by following the US modular model. She felt that vocational education should not replace the traditional streams of education.
In his presidential address, VIT Chancellor G Viswanathan said that the first edition of this international symposium would address issues concerning human diseases and cure aspects. Genes as medical tools should be explored to diagnose diseases early and develop treatment protocols, he said.
The Lifetime Achievement Award in Genetics was presented to Dr A T Natarajan, Professor Emiritus, Leiden University of Medical Center at the Netherlands while Lifetime Contribution Award in development of Science and Education in India was given to Professor K M Marimuthu, Professor Emeritus, University of Madras.
Dr Ramalingam, dean, School of Bio sciences and technology at VIT, welcomed the gathering.
Around 200 participants from across the globe are participating in the three-day event.