O.P. Jindal Global University's Founding Vice Chancellor, Professor, Dr. C. Raj Kumar spoke at the prestigious 2017 Hamburg Transnational University Leaders Council, Germany from 7th-9th June, 2017. O.P. Jindal Global University was one of the two Indian higher education institutions invited to the Council. Indian Institute of Technology was the other institution that was invited.
The forum was organized to initiate a dialogue among global university leaders about the current key challenges that national higher education systems around the world are confronted with.
The Council brought together the presidents, vice chancellors and rectors of leading international universities and was co-organised by the German Rectors' Conference, the Körber Foundation, and the Universität Hamburg. The first Council was hosted in June 2015 and it gathered university leaders from about sixty leading research universities.
Professor, Dr. C. Raj Kumar spoke in two panels during the Council. He addressed the inaugural panel on 'Six Countries - Six University Leaders' that discussed the impact of massification of tertiary education, the emergence of the global knowledge economy and increasing national and international competition and how these issues have further advanced differentiation and diversification processes in post-secondary systems worldwide.
Professor, Dr. C. Raj Kumar observed that, "The future of Indian universities will depend upon how effectively we address the challenges of providing access to high quality education for a large number of youth while promoting aspirations to build institutions of global excellence. Mediocrity in higher education needs to be rejected and the regulatory environment should favour differentiation and assessment models that recognise institutions of excellence."
Addressing over 50 heads of universities from both the developed and developing world, Professor, Dr. C. Raj Kumar observed that, "International rankings of universities have created new opportunities for Indian universities to aspire towards seeking excellence. The paradigm shift in the Indian higher education system is being promoted through efforts to create world class universities in both the public and the private sector. The historical distinctions borne out of biases and prejudices between public and private universities needs to be eliminated in India if we were to promote excellence in our institutions of higher learning. All universities should be treated equally and ought to have a public character and should be contributing towards common good. All universities regardless of their establishment history need to be assessed on the basis of their contributions to teaching, research, knowledge creation, publications, social engagement and community impact. The higher education institutions in India ought to be assessed and be made accountable for their commitment to the vision and their own institutional mission."
Professor, Dr. C. Raj Kumar was also invited to contribute to a panel discussion on the 'Privatisation in national post-secondary systems' where he spoke about the idea to draw directly from institution building efforts at JGU and the challenges of the Indian higher education context.
Addressing the gathering, Professor, Dr. C. Raj Kumar said, "The privatisation of higher education system is an inevitable public policy choice in many developing countries around the world including in South Asia, Latin America and Africa. However, it is important to note that higher education institutions including universities ought to be not for profit private institutions. The availability of good quality higher education that is affordable, accessible, and that promotes equity and efficiency, is an essential public good, which needs to be promoted by public and non-profit private sector initiatives. The jurisprudential foundations of the "not-for-profit" character of an institution should not be confused with the ability of institutions to determine their fee structure and the compensation they can pay to staff. The critical aspect of non-profit is that the additional income generated by the institution is retained and used for its development. This is typically used for research initiatives, scholarships and fellowships, as well as infrastructure development."
Professor, Dr. C. Raj Kumar further observed that, "JGU was established through a philanthropic initiative of an Indian benefactor, Mr Naveen Jindal, as a not-for-profit university with a view to promoting excellence in higher education. It is important to recognise that world-class universities are non-profit institutions. As we aspire to increase the quantity and raise the quality of higher education institutions in India, we need to draw from experiences around the world. There is a reason why there is not a single world-class university run on a for-profit basis. Public and private universities, which are top ranked in the world and are reputed for excellence in teaching, research and capacity-building, have all been not-for-profit institutions."
The Hamburg Transnational University Leaders Council reflected on the challenges which include threats to university autonomy and academic freedom, conflicting theories of the university and education, questions of access to higher education and financing of university teaching and research. The Council acts as a forum for discussions on the core mission of the university in a globalised higher education landscape.
The forum considered the challenges of private higher education in the public interest and deliberated on adequate funding and control mechanisms of national post-secondary systems.
It is worthwhile to mention that in December 2015, the International Institute for Higher Education Research and Capacity Building (IIHEd) on behalf of JGU drafted the 'Sonipat Declaration on World-Class Universities in BRICS and Emerging Economies' and initiated consensus on the declaration among representatives from higher educational institutions across the world at the BRICS and Emerging Economies Universities Summit on 'Why emerging economies need world-class universities.'
The Declaration draws consensus across six key principles that will guide the creation and development of world-class universities: the pursuit of knowledge and promotion of innovation; highest qualities of students, faculty, and staff; highest research standards; appropriate resources for universities to achieve greatness; environment for free enquiry and career development; and enhancing the quality of teaching and research through local and global connections.
There are many overlaps between the Sonipat declaration and the Hamburg protocol in terms of addressing the key challenges faced by universities today.