Exclusive Interview of PU Chandigarh VC Dr. AK Grover with The Educationist
By Azhar Iqbal and Muhamamd Ittefaq
LAHORE: The governments of India and Pakistan must allow to academia to share knowledge and free access to each other, a virtual exchange program between students and teachers is possible, it is not mandatory to move physically but both countries must work together virtually in research.
This was stated by Panjab University Chandigarh Vice Chancellor Arun Kumar Grover in a exclusive interview with The Educationist team at his office in Chandigarh.
He said: “Indian higher education faces the issues of quality, low economic activities and less independent resources.
“Three things were important to universities, 1: Students 2: Investment 3: Teachers. Many countries invest in academia and highly paid teachers are recruited to promote research and grab students in the name of scholarships. Mostly developing countries student cannot pay much tuition fees, so they prefer foreign scholarships. Singapore built their universities this way. The students are a recipe for the institutions.”
To a query about applied research, he said: “The Applied Research in India is not good and in Panjab University it is going to be good but not satisfactory yet.
Following are the details of our discussion with him:
The Educationist: First of all please do tell us about your early life and education?
Prof. AK Grover: I was born in Independent India in the year 1951. My parents came from Pakistan. They came as refugees in the camp established near Delhi university campus. My grandfather was Collector in Canal System, Panjab. I studied in Dhanpatmal Anglo Sanskrit Higher Secondary School, Roopnagar, Delhi ( located on the backside of Maurice NAGAR, a residential area of Delhi University staff). This school was originally in Lyallpur, Pakistan. Majority of my classmates were the children of either the teachers of the university or the employees of university. Here I got the idea to become a university teacher. I remember my three desk-mates one of them was Vijay Olakh whose father got education from Lahore; second LM Johary, now a professor in Oxford University and 3rd was Parjeshu Gupta whose father S.P Gupta was professor of Mathematics. When I was in grade 9 my father was transferred from Delhi to Meerut. I passed my matriculation there.
In 1960s Government of India started a scheme namely National Science Talent Search (NSTS) which used to award scholarship to the students who passed out school to study science other than medical and engineering. After grade 11 a student had to pass the exam of NSTS only once to get scholarship leading to PhD if the student maintained first division (60% marks) in every grade.
350 students were selected in whole India annually and I got that scholarship. I had no parental pressure so I decided to become a professor. After B.Sc. Part-I from Jalandhar I came to Chandigarh because Chandigarh Physics Honors School was the same which was established in Lahore in 1934. In science schools students were got admitted after grade 12 and after graduation they were automatically admitted to Masters. It was mandatory for every master student to do research. This tradition came from Lahore to Chandigarh. I don’t know this school is being runs in Lahore or not but this school still here in Chandigarh.
In 2006 the Indian government started Indian Institute of Science Education and Research parallel to IIT. Students are admitted on the basis of scholarship just like honor school.
The tradition started from Lahore has become the Indian national tradition now. I started my research in TATA Institute of fundamental research founded by Homi Baba in 1967, where only PhD students are admitted after all India exam. When I admitted there, only 12 students were taken from all India.
The Educationist: There are over 160 research publications in your credit. Please tell our readers about your area of research interest?
Dr. AK Grover: I did my PhD in magnetism (physics) and I spent next 30 years working on magnetism and super conductivity.
The Educationist: Where and on what positions you have served before assuming the office of Vice Chancellor Panjab University, Chandigarh?
Dr. AK Grover: In 1977 I got my first permanent job during my PhD as a research associate. After my PhD I went to Imperial College. I served 2 years in England from 1980-82. I served there for 2 years. I stayed on the same building where Abdus Salam had his office. In 1982 I returned back from England I got a contract of 5 years and got permanent appointment in 1986.
I remained in TFR (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research) till 1990. Then Prof. Ram Pekash Bambha appointed me as Professor in Panjab University Chandigarh. I was very young professor on that time at the age of 39. I served 3 years here and then went back to Bombay, came back to Chandigarh in 1994. When I was professor in PU, I worked in Japnese Science City Quba for 4 months and Government of Japan gave me award of Foreign Specialist because. After 18 years of service I was appointed as Vice Chancellor of Panjab University Chandigarh
The Educationist: Almost all your education is from India and you are serving in India? Did you receive any offer from some foreign country to serve there?
Dr. AK Grover: I got all my education in India because of scholarship. TATA Institute of Fundamental Research was same as American Graduate School. It had same reputation and merit. Thats why I didn’t feel any urge to go abroad for my education.
I received scholarship at the beginning so I did not need to go abroad for higher studies. I got job immediately after getting higher studies so, therefore I never thought about to join any foreign institution.
The Educationist: When you took charge as Vice Chancellor PU in 2012, what were the key challenges and how did you overcome the challenges?
Dr. AK Grover: The challenges were to maintain the legacy of the university. We took the steps to maintain the heritage of the Panjab University which has splendid heritage and it was a challenge. I gave the confidence to the faculty to maintain the quality of education in PU.
The Educationist: How you differentiate between the PU of 2012 and now PU of 2016.
Dr. AK Grover: There was not a big difference, I feel its better as compared to 2012. It is my ultimate objective to maintain the system in a better way.
The Educationist: What is the Student-Teacher ratio and also please do tell about Student-to-PhD Teacher ratio in your university.
Dr. AK Grover: There are almost 15,000 students in 70 teaching and research departments of PU Chandigarh and total faculty members are 720 including 215 Professors, 110 Associate Professors, 368 Assistant Professors and 111 others 111. Total number of permanent faculty with PhD is 501. There are 655 guest faculty members 655, 83 visiting faculty and 171 temporary faculty members.
There are 25 percent non PhD staff in PU but Engineering Department has different ratio there 40 percent non PhD staff is teaching.
The Educationist: What is the number of PhD student per year on the average?
Dr. AK Grover: There are 300 PhD students including 200 female and 100 male students.
The Educationist: What is total budgetary allocation of Panjab university and what is the share of research grants for faculty members and research students.
Dr. AK Grover: Total budget of the university is 4760 millions.
The Educationist: How many international students are currently enrolled in Panjab University?
Dr. AK Grover: There were 166 international student including 49 Men and 77 Women in PU Chandigarh.
The Educationist: What is the gender ratio of faculty and students?
Dr. AK Grover: 60 percent were girls and 40 percent boys in students as well as almost same in faculty.
The Educationist: In your opinion what are top three issues of higher education in India?
Dr. AK Grover: Indian higher education faces the issues of quality, low economic activities and less independent resources.
The Educationist: How many registered Patents you have so far?
Dr. AK Grover: Unfortunately there are not too much registered patents. This year there are 5 national patents registered.
The Educationist: How many conferences are organized at PU annually?
Dr. AK Grover: There are 10 International, 44 National, 10 State and 16 at university level (last year).
The Educationist: Please tell us about campus area and infrastructure facilities in PU?
Dr. AK Grover: PU campus area is 550 acres. There are 321 classrooms, 267 laboratories and 43 seminar halls.
The Educationist: Are student unions and teachers union active in India universities and in PU as well?
Dr. AK Grover: Yes, student unions are active and also teachers union and every year election held for both the unions. They never made hurdles in educational activities. I meet with the representatives both unions almost twice a month. This time student union gave a proposal to include their president as member of syndicate and they are thinking about it.
The Educationist: Do these unions affect negatively and politicize academic culture?
Dr. AK Grover: No, not at all. They never create hurdles in academic culture. Student unions have affiliation with one of the major party of Panjab but there is peaceful environment here.
The Educationist: Who heads the Syndicate, how frequently your syndicate meetings held and what is the law regarding it?
Dr. AK Grover: The vice chancellor heads the syndicate meeting once a month. Sometime it took 8 hours long. It is following the 1882 law.
The Educationist: How Asian universities can improve their ranking?
Dr. AK Grover: They should concentrate on the parameters which Times Higher Education and QS considered for ranking. Asian universities concentrate on research, generating their resources, employed graduates and societal confidence on academic institutions.
The Educationist: In Pakistan social sciences has been ignored during the last several years, now our Higher Education Commission has established a council for this purpose. What about India?
Dr. AK Grover: Now the situation of social sciences is also not good in India but here they recently established an institution of social sciences in 2015.
The Educationist: How important technical education is for the developing countries? What do you think?
Dr. AK Grover: Technical education is very important for developing countries. We taught the same curriculum here in Chandigarh institutions as in Bombay.
The Educationist: In 20th century there was a concept of cultural imperialism, now academic imperialism (in terms of attracting international students to their home country) do you agree?
Dr. AK Grover: Yes, I agree because three things are important to universities, 1: Students 2: Investment 3: Teachers. Many countries invest in academia and highly paid teachers are recruited to promote research and grab students in the name of scholarships. He said mostly developing countries student cannot pay much tuition fees, so they prefer foreign scholarships. He said Singapore built their universities this way. He added that students were recipe for the institutions.
The Educationist: Pakistan and India is playing cricket together? Politicians, journalists, businessmen and people for other walks of life visit each others’ countries. What is your opinion about academic collaboration between India and Pakistan?
Dr. AK Grover: The governments must allow to academia to share knowledge and free access to each other. There would be a virtual exchange program between students and teachers. It is not mandatory to move physically but both countries must work together virtually in research. He said it was easily possible to exchange ideas virtually.