Burdwan/Durgapur: President Pranab Mukherjee Friday expressed disappointment over the quality of higher education in the country and regretted that leading academic institutions lacked orientation towards research.

Addressing educationists, researchers and students at two academic institutions in Burdwan district, the president also called for spreading the spirit of innovation across all sectors, saying India’s future progress will depend increasingly on the ability to innovate.

At the 34th annual convocation of Burdwan University, Mukherjee referred to the qualitative shortcomings in higher education and said there was no room for complacency.

“India will be able to attain high economic growth and become a leader in the comity of nations only by developing a knowledge economy,” he said, drawing attention to the neglect of research in the universities.

Quoting the National Knowledge Commission’s 2006 report, Mukherjee said the situation in higher education was a “quiet crisis that runs deep”.

“There is no dearth of talent in the faculty or students of the country. What is needed is more coordinated efforts,” he said.

Earlier, speaking at the ninth convocation of the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Durgapur, Mukherjee said during the past few years, a concerted effort has been made to put higher and technical education on a firm footing.

But he said the urgency to build up and expand the engineering education infrastructure could be no reason to give quality any lesser priority.

“We have only a few good quality institutions unlike our past when we had world class institutions of higher learning like Nalanda, Odantapuri, Somapura, Takshashila, Valabhi and Vikramashila.

“We do not have today a single university or institution that can compete with the best universities in the world. Reputed international surveys have ranked Indian institutions outside of the top two hundred places,” he said.

“Higher academic institutions in India lack orientation towards research, as a result of which, their standing amongst the top global institutions is not very high,” the president said.

He emphasised that the institutions should be able to challenge the frontiers of knowledge and make revolutionary contributions in different disciplines.

“They must be able to find solutions that help common man to lead a better life. They must be able to guide policymakers in issues ranging from energy security to environment degradation, sanitation, urbanisation, healthcare and education.”

“Our future progress will depend increasingly on our ability to innovate, to devise efficient processes for the industrial sector and better solutions for governance. For that, it is necessary to permeate the spirit of innovation to all sectors – business, government, education and society,” he noted.

Mukherjee said the country’s innovation strategy must focus on generating ideas that promote inclusive growth and benefit those at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid.

Averring that there were many grassroots innovations that can be developed into suitable products if provided with technological support, he called on the higher academic institutions to play an important role in mentoring such innovative endeavours.