Education, especially higher education, is to be the fountainhead of a developed, prosperous and enlightened human society that contributes to peace, prosperity, harmony and happiness all around. This is, of course, a tall order, but then who other than the Indian universities, the repositories of tremendous wisdom of the Orient, blessed with enlightened and inspired minds of faculty and students as the torchbearers of the faith of the people could deliver this promise. This calls for a sustained focus on Quality, Relevance and Excellence, nurtured in an environment of integration of education with Human Values and targeted to Nation’s Development and a peaceful world.
Hon’ble Prime Minister of India ShriNaredraModiJiwhile addressing to the Hon’ble Chancellors and Vice Chancellors of Indian Universities on 11th December 2023 at the launch of the mission Viksit Bharat@2047 was absolutely clear in his mind that the education that we impart to the young generation in our colleges and universities in India will have a decisive role in transforming our country into a developed and prosperous nation.It was emphasized that one of the strongest democracies of the world, India today stands at a defining movement in its history to achieve a quantum jump in its economic growth, social transformation, environmental sustainability and good governance. To succeed in achieving such a transformation with speed and ease, we need to prepare our young generation to provide the leadership for the country and prioritize national interest over everything else, said the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India. The university education has to go beyond imparting knowledge by taking on board the task of nurturing both the technology skills as well as soft skills and mentor the young inspired minds to imbibe the character skills of honesty, integrity, peace, harmonious coexistence and environmental sustainability. The higher education eco-system is to be greatly revitalized to foster an environment of learning not just only to know but learning to do and learning to live together in harmony with nature. Great opportunity is thus knocking at the doors of the universities and colleges in India to make higher education and research, in true sense, major drivers of national development and societal transformation.
Universities to lead by Example in Environmental Sustainability
The university campuses for long, not only here in India but also around the world have been largely devoted to cultivating and imparting knowledge to their students. It was assumed that the men and women of knowledge shall utilize their competence and caliber to serve the society and mother-nature as responsible citizens of the world and help create a world of prosperity, good health and happiness while sustaining the beauties of nature and the rich biodiversity with which the nature presents itself on planet earth. However, we find that knowledge alone is not the sufficient condition to create men and women of conscience, nor it alone leads to creating an abiding faith in peace, harmony and sustainability of the natural environment. It is therefore important to nurture the dimension of character and righteous conduct in the seekers of knowledge to shape them as the ambassadors ofpeace and crusaders of sustainable development. For this, the universities are to lead by example in environmental sustainability by developing their campuses in a manner that they practice the highest levels of compliance to clean air, green energy, water security and effective waste management. The universities shall then preach what they practice and shall shape their students as crusaders of Viksit Bharat that shall create India, the Bharat of our dream and lead the world on pathways of inclusive and sustainable development protecting the interest of people and the planet mother earth. The university education needs its strong connect with the local community and a global outlook to nurture a mindset tuned to peace, progress and sustainable development in a tech-savvy world.
Paradigm Shift is Needed in Carrying out Research
Universities and Institutions of higher learning are to be the lifeline of the local industries and drivers for change both at national and global levels to cause technology revolution and innovative new product development to fuel the growth of the economy and compliance to environmental sustainability. This requires a paradigm shift in the way research is carried out in the universities and in the institutions of higher learning. We need to devise mechanisms which supports the growth of Solution Research and with the active participation of the industries engage the innovative minds of the faculty and students in developing path breaking science and game changing technology innovations that shall give rise to the growth of new age enterprises and services that shall make universities as the drivers of growth engines of economy, creating both the prosperity, good health and happiness all around.
This would require universities to create the desired ecosystem for Solution Research, Technology Incubation and supportive environment for i2IPc, ideas to innovated products and commercialization. In short, it calls for a major departure in our approach from “Universities as centers of learning and scholarship” to “Universities as Global Knowledge Enterprises” i.e. Centers of learning and scholarship, technology and innovation incubation and enterprise development. Universities then shall adopt the mantra “Knowledge to Sustainable Prosperity” and become the propulsive thrust for accelerating the Socio- Economic transformation of the society.
Integrative and Interdisciplinary Education
The agenda for Viksit Bharat@2047 revolves around empowering the nation with people of great capabilities to support the rapid track transformation of the nation, causing major breakthroughs and achieving quantum jump in our accomplishments in all sectors of nation’s development. India can do it and do it in an exemplary manner. The success of Chandrayan-3, its lander, Vikram landing with precision on south pole of the moon and the ease with which its intelligent and autonomous rover,Pragyan rolled over the moon surface to perform the tasks assigned has made the world scientific community immensely proud of India’s Science and Technology prowess. This success of ISRO and its Scientists and Technologists, besides its leadership owes to the integrative and interdisciplinary environment of research and development that has been nurtured in a mission mode over the years. The need of the hour in the universities in India is to nurture interdisciplinary education, engage in cutting edge interdisciplinary research, cultivate translational and solution research and foster creativity and innovations in abundance and take them to the level of commercially viable technologies and products of vital value to make India a world leader in quality education and research.
The new age education and research requires creating innovative and enterprising minds in an environment of collaborative education and research. Indian universities need to therefore nurture an environment for collaborative, trans-departmental, integrative and interdisciplinary education and research to create the capabilities for rapid track transformation of India into a prosperous and developed country. It must not however be forgotten that the growth and advancement on economic front need to be simultaneously associated with the development of people and the economic systems that assure highest compliance to inclusivity and sustainability, so important for the realization of the vision of the Viksit Bharat. Here a greater emphasis is required on research for development and technology innovations for making circular economy work with great success. The university campuses are to gravitate with such path breaking science and technology innovations.
Establish World Class University Gurukuls in India
The idea of a University Gurukul revolves around the university campuses as self-sustained, AtmaNirbhar Campuses seriously engaged in nurturing talent, cultivating path breaking science and technology innovations and practicing highest levels of inclusivity and sustainability. These campuses while focusing on local needs shall cater for universal education and research aspirations of the global community. While living and learning in harmony with nature shall be the hall mark of the UniversityGurukuls of Viksit Bharat, these Gurukuls shall generate their own energy, have effective rain water harvesting and waste water treatment, recycle and reuse of treated water, grow their own food and maintain biodiversity and an environment of clean air. These University Gurukuls shall remind us about the Gurukuls of ancient India which practiced self-reliance, created an environment for nurturing purity of mind and a sattvik lifestyle while at the same time engaging the inspired minds of faculty and students in higher-end research for development that made the Bharat of the ancient as the world leader both in scholastic as well as economic pursuits. No wonder the Bharat was for millions of years the world leader in science and technology and a marvel of human civilization that attracted the world community to make India their destination for learning and scholarship. To begin with the Government of India may consider establishing 5 such world class University Gurukuls in selected locations in India and provide a great opportunity to make these University Gurukuls as the change agents for the redesign of the world class universities worldwide.
Such world class University Gurukuls of modern India shall attract the best of minds from around the world and make India, the Bharat a major hub for education and research for an inclusive development and a sustainable world. Yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda, Naturopathy and Sattvik food shall form the composite offering for nurturing a healthy body, healthy mind and a happy soul. The healthcare would then be redefined as wellness practiced in these University Gurukuls.The university education would then, in true sense, become the foundation for holistic development of the students and a preparation for leading a blissful life in service of God Almighty and Mother Nature.
Amity University Haryana Campus Designed for Sustainability
It may not be out of place to mention that Amity University Haryana campus is blessed with a campus environment of living and learning in harmony with nature. The lush green 110 acres campus is the perfect example of inclusivity, environmental sustainability and unmatched biodiversity. Its flora and fauna attracts dancing peacocks in great numbers and 44 varieties of butterflies. With a well-functioning Gaushala with about 100 healthy cows, organic farming, fruit orchard and a herbal garden within the campus, the campus community enjoys the cleanest air quality almost throughout the year. The campus is fully water secured along with wastewater treatment, recycle and reuse system in place, the campus solar power plant meeting much of the energy needs make AUH campus leading by example in sustainability and biodiversity. The founding fathers of Amity Education Group have developed Amity universities in different states of India to serve the cause of sustainability and national development.
The research community of the university is seriously engaged in research for development in areas aligned to national missions and goals of Viksit Bharat. The focus on IPR and Patenting and Innovation Incubation further makes AUH a university with a difference.
*The author Prof PB Sharma is the past president of Association of Indian Universities, Founder Vice Chancellor of DTU and currently is the Vice Chancellor of Amity University Gurugram, Haryana.