On January 12, 2017, SAI hosted a roundtable discussion in Delhi to bring together leaders in the field of higher education in India. The event provided a rare opportunity for the leaders to come together and discuss what is at stake for educational institutions, and what can be learned by looking outside of India.
Mark Elliott, Vice Provost for International Affairs at Harvard University, during his first trip to India, delivered the opening remarks. He explained that the key issue facing liberal arts education is making the case to convince students (and their parents) of the value of this type of education. From his time at Harvard, he has learned that it is much more important to teach students how to think than teaching specific skills – especially since many jobs that students will take in the future do not even exist yet. Elliott also discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion for higher education in relation to gender, race, ethnicity, and nationality.
Attendees agreed that there are widespread structural regulatory challenges that inhibit progress and constrain independent universities from flourishing. Attendees noted that they look to examples such as Stanford and technical colleges in Singapore and Hong Kong to see how they have progressed rapidly. However, it was noted that leaders must make sure they address the balance of quality vs. quantity when attempting growth.
The discussion centered around important questions regarding the future of liberal arts higher education: managing student expectations around placement, instilling the importance of critical thinking when it is at odds with what institutions currently value, creating high quality PhD programs, and handling faculty shortages.
Attendees discussed several ways to improve the field, and agreed that collaboration is important for institutions. They also discussed the role that technology can play in fostering better collaboration.
Participants included Prof. Rudrangshu Mukherjee (Ashoka), Dr. Leena Srivastava (Teri), Dr. C Raj Kumar (Jindal), Prof. Souvik Battacharya (BITS Pilani), Dr. Anita Patankar (Symbiosis), Mr. Manit Jain (Heritage Schools), Dr. Ajay Dandekar (Shiv Nadar), Dr. M.L. Singla (Faculty of Mgmt Studies), Dr. Pramod Garg (AIIMS Delhi), Prof. John Varghese (St. Stephen’s), Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra (JNU), Dr. C Raj Kumar (Jindal), and Dr. Suman Sharma.