Higher Education must prepare students to respond to Industry 4.0 needs : Suresh Prabhu

• Universities need to provide students with career counselling, scope for interface with industry & online courses for skill set upgradation : FICCI-EY Paper

New Delhi, November 4, 2018 :  Union Commerce, Industry and Civil Aviation Minister, Suresh Prabhu, urged the education fraternity to recognise the challenges of higher education and respond to the requirements of the 4th Industrial Revolution so that students of the future can live a life to face the world. 

Prabhu was speaking here today at the 14th edition of FICCI’s Higher Education Summit 2018, a global conference & Exhibition on the theme, ‘Universities of the Future’, organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Resource Development, GoI and Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India. 

“It is important not just to know how to learn, but more importantly how to unlearn. This will come about by keeping minds open and having an attitude towards continuous learning”, he said. With the rapid changes in technology, obsolescence is the order of the day. While knowledge is becoming obsolete, it is wisdom that will prevail, he said, adding that education will flourish where innovation is not stifled and respond in a way that helps society. 

The Minister called for partnerships and collaborative efforts of all stakeholders as education cannot be designed only in the universities. Prabhu also released the FICCI-EY Approach Paper on ‘University of the Future – Bringing Education 4.0 to Life’ .

R Subramanyam, Secretary, Higher Education, Ministry of HRD, Government of India, outlined the fundamental principles on which the universities of the future would rest – creation of critical thinking abilities among students, creativity, collaboration, communication and conceptualisation of the issues concerning education.

He said that students of the future would need to develop critical thinking to conceptualise, analyse and find solutions to societal problems. Creativity, he said, was the key to thinking out of the box as the problems were becoming far too complex to be dealt with in the traditional ways. Collaboration between students and academia will create new knowledge and two-way communication and developing a conceptual understanding of a wide-range of issues would flow from academic liberty and the pursuance of liberal education, he added.

Prof. Tan Eng Chye, President, National University of Singapore, stressed the importance of lifelong learning as no university can provide all the skills and knowledge that one wold need for the next 50 years. The challenge, he said, was the creation of new opportunities for graduates who have not upgraded their skills for the jobs available. He expressed the hope that with continuing education through short term courses other jobs would be available to such graduates.

Sudhanshu Pandey, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, underlined the challenges for universities of the future as inter connectivity between university and students, co-location of research institutions with enterprises and prioritising education as a life-long learning experience. Education, he said, has to help in re-inventing time and again and also be relevant for job creation. 

He said that apart from being student-centric, the Higher Education system would have to ensure that universities and students are inter-connected, the lack of which would make students and their education irrelevant for the changing needs of society. 

Dr. N Saravana Kumar, Joint Secretary (ICC &TEL), Ministry of HRD, outlined the priorities and programmes of the government in the field of higher education. He stressed on the imperative of digital education, student- centricity, flexibility and quality education for better outcomes.  “Universities of the Future must be prepared for both unprecented challenges as well unparalleled opportunities for innovation and creation of ‘new-age’ knowledge”, said  Dr Vidya Yeravdekar, Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee and Pro Chancellor Symbiosis International (Deemed University).

Prof . Rupamanjari Ghosh, Co-Chair, FICCI Higher Education Committee and Vice Chancellor, Shiv Nadar Univeristy said, “Technology is a great ‘enabler’ but technology alone will not enable, since it functions in a social systems and social challenges are far more crucial than the technological challenges”. The inaugural session of the summit was also addressed by Mr. Diptiman Das, Chairman & MD, EdCIL; Mr. Dilip Chenoy, Secrtary General, FICCI, delivered a vote of thanks’. The session was moderated by Ms Shobha Mishra Ghosh, Assistant Secretary General, FICCI. 

The FICCI-EY Approach Paper notes that universities of the future must be prepared for both unprecedented challenges, as well as unparalleled opportunities for innovation. Apart from enriching their curriculum from industry inputs, universities need to provide students with career counselling, opportunities of industry interfacing and online courses for skill set up gradation.

To enrich students’ experience, universities could use technology to provide experiential and collaborative learning and provide flexibility in program structures and encourage innovative ideas. Universities need to develop research as a fundamental differentiator, work on innovative models for collaboration and develop a mechanism to safeguard their IP in the digital age. While universities would need to focus on solving societal challenges, regulators need to develop frameworks that focus on outcomes rather than investment in inputs and recognise stackable credentials.

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