NEW DELHI: No Central University was awarded the Visitor's Award by the President this year, a first since its inception in 2014, and going by the reply from the President's office, it is safe to surmise that the award will not be conferred in coming years as well.
In an announcement made on May 2 this year, four academics from different universities were given the Visitor's Award in "Research" and "Innovation" categories by President Ram Nath Kovind for their pioneering works in the respective fields.
However, the award was not conferred on any Central University, unlike what is provisioned in the 2014 notification issued at the time of institution of the award.
When contacted, the President's office said the award was not given since it would have amounted to a "duplication" of the government-instituted National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) to rank the top universities.
"Since the NIRF rankings have been introduced, it was felt that we should not duplicate it. As NIRF has been instituted by the government and it also ranks universities, there's no point duplicating it," a senior official from the Rashtrapati Bhavan told IANS.
Asked whether it would be awarded in the future, the official said the decision would rest with the future Presidents.
However, this was not the first year that the NIRF rankings and the Visitor's Award had coincided. NIRF, an initiative of the Human Resource Development Ministry, was started in 2015 and has issued rankings across several categories -- including one for top universities -- in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The Visitor's Award has gone to Hyderabad Central University (2015), Tezpur University (2016) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (2017).
Research and Innovation are two other categories in which the Visitor's Award was originally instituted to be conferred. Awards in these categories continue to be given without any break.
The President of India is the Visitor to all central universities of the country, and in this very capacity, the award was established to "promote healthy competition amongst central universities and motivate them to adopt best practices".