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IEF Meet focuses on Excellence in Higher Education

IN A REMARKABLE INITIATIVE TO ADDRESS PRESSING ISSUES ON QUALITY OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN INDIA, INSTITUTIONAL EXCELLENCE FORUM (IEF) HELD AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ‘THE EXCELLENCE AGENDA: TRANSFORMING INDUSTRY-ACADEMIA INTERFACE THROUGH EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP’ AT ‘THE GRAND’, NEW DELHI, ON MAY 3, 2013

Drawing together top brass from the government, institutions and industry from different countries, the convention which served as a powerful platform to weigh up key issues and global best-practices of attaining excellence in higher education. IEF has its roots in an overriding concern of a group of like-minded people to create an active think-tank that would facilitate expansion, excellence and equity in India’s higher education.

Working towards popularising locally adapted global innovations in education, IEF is garnering increasing support from prominent industry and institutional bodies, embassies, universities and solution providers. In a very short span of time, the forum has emerged as an important channel for promoting institutional excellence by working with a large number of corporates, academics and policymakers on crucial issues.

According to IEF foundermember Anuj Panwar, “the focus of IEF is to bring novel solutions for changing existing paradigms of administration, learning pedagogy, student engagement and relationship management under a single ecosystem.” To attain this, the forum has adopted a threepronged approach: dissemination of ‘excellence models’ and best practices, origination of new ideas to attain excellence through stakeholder collaboration, and promotion of research.

It is pertinent to note that while India has witnessed a manifold increase in the number of universities and colleges, increased access to higher education has brought with it a fresh set of challenges. There is a worrying trend of inter-group and regional disparity in learning levels as the quality of higher education varies across the vast span of the country. Taking stock of this, the Twelfth Five-Year Plan has stressed on addressing these issues in a focused manner, by improving the quality of higher education in India through a gamut of measures. Initiatives like the IEF are poised to play a strategic role in partnering with the Government and the private sector to make different aspects of higher education well-aligned to the industry and to international standards.

In the overwhelming response received by IEF’s international conference on excellence through effective leadership, one message is clear – both the private sector and the Government today realise that the creation of knowledge networks, innovation centres and quality institutions are necessary to overcome the challenges that India’s higher education system grapples with. Top experts from various countries participated in the convention to arrive at a shared understanding of institutional excellence, identify impediments and suggest measures of achieving excellence.

Those who spoke at the conference included Kumar Gaurav, vice-president of Zensar Technologies, and Dr Jukka Viitanen, CEO and founding partner of Hubconcepts Inc., Finland. Explaining that developing innovation hubs requires policy frameworks, physical infrastructure, service structure and education, Dr Viitanen shared the case study of Shanghai Tech Park that today hosts over 6,000 internationally renowned Research and Development centres.

The discussion on Excellence: Reality, Myths and The Road Ahead’ was led by Dr Raj Singh, Vice-Chancellor of Ansal University. Noting that the future of higher education in India belongs to the private sector, he took a forthright self-critical take on analysing the education sector. Explaining how the unbridled growth of private colleges in the country has compromised the quality of higher education, Singh gave interesting international examples to conceptualise ‘excellence’ and suggested ‘solutions.’ He said that, in 1990, there were 87 business schools, and, today, the number exceeds 4,000.

There was a gripping panel discussion on ‘Benchmarking Indian Higher Education for Excellence,’ led by Dr Gautam Raj Jain, founder of Giraffe Accolade & UNDP Consultant, along with Dr Viitanen, Dr Sandeep Chatterjee, Registrar, JawaharLal Nehru University, and A N Singh, renowned management consultant. There was a brilliant speech on ‘Investing into Excellence’ by Lloyd Mathias, founder-director of GreenBean Ventures. Drawing on his rich experience, Mathias shared some very intelligent thoughts with the audience, on how academic institutions can become centres of excellence.

The conference drew to a close with an open-house on collaboration in achieving excellence, led by Probir Roy, cofounder and promoter-director of Paymate, along with Tushar Pandey, senior president and country head of Yes Bank, Mathias, and Dr Gautam Raj Jain.

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