SHIMLA: The recent announcement by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh to have a centre of excellence (higher education) in every district is indeed a very bold statement. Now how this dream is materialised would depend a lot on the vision and foresightedness of his policy planners.
As of now the state of higher education in Himachal is quite abysmal with not even a single institution qualifying to be a national-level centre of excellence. Of course there is Indian Institute Of Advanced Studies at Shimla, but it falls under a different category of academic faculties, and anyway Himachali academicians have made little use of it. The agriculture and horticulture universities at Palampur and Solan, respectively, have of and then made some contribution but the same cannot be said about Himachal Pradesh University at Shimla. In fact, so pitiable is the condition of HP University that it does not even find a mention in the list of Indian universities shown by resume hosting websites. The condition of the two government medical colleges and the engineering college at Hamirpur, now known as National Institute of Technology too cannot be termed too good if we go by the repute they enjoy among the student community.
The government’s decision to open higher education in the state to private institutions is one way to cure the ills plaguing higher learning in the state. The JP group has already opened an IT institution in Solan, which has been showing good results. But as of now no established educational institute has shown interest in the state as was being claimed by the government while declaring the opening up of the state for such players. There were also apprehensions that the state would be mushroomed with sub-standard institutions as it happened with Chattisgarh but that too has not happened.
Now that leaves the government with another option – to ask the Union government to open a central university or professional institute in the state, matching the IITs or IIMs. In fact, it can be said that Himachal has been denied its share of such institutes of higher learning. This way, if not directly then at least, the trickle-down effect would benefit the state. Also, there is need for academicians from the state to come out of their sun-basking habit and indulge in some serious intellectual pursuits.