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India should focus on university education reforms: Summers

Mumbai: India is paying inadequate attention to improving its university education system, and this could limit its potential to achieve high growth and inclusive development on a sustainable basis, Prof Lawrence Summers, President Emeritus of Harvard University said here today.

Summers, a former US Treasury Secretary, also made a strong appeal to the Union Government to introduce ambitious reforms in its university system to meet the aspirations of its large and aspiring young population.

“India should aim to have at least a third of its young population to avail good-quality higher education by 2030. It should aim to have at least five universities to earn a ranking among the 100 top universities in the world. It should also aim to attract at least 10,000 American students to come and study in Indian universities,” he said.

Summer was giving a talk this evening on ‘Reinventing the university: Reconciling Equity and Excellence in Higher Education Worldwide’, at the Mumbai University campus in South Mumbai.

The talk was organised by the University of Mumbai and Observer Research Foundation Mumbai.

Summers asked India to grant complete autonomy to its universities, create a vibrant academic culture, and encourage competition among universities to achieve higher standards of excellence.

“In the United States, no Governor or legislator can interfere in any way with the functioning of universities,” he said.

He said the government should permit private universities and give both public and private universities flexibility to attract best teaching talent.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman, ORF Mumbai, said the Narendra Modi government should launch a ‘Study in India’ campaign, to attract a large number of foreign students to enrol themselves in Indian universities.

For this campaign to succeed, each of our 700-plus universities must be given adequate autonomy and financial support to pursue the goal of ‘Quality higher education for all’, he said.

Dr Sanjay Deshmukh, Vice Chancellor of Mumbai University, welcomed Summers.