Founding Vice Chancellor, Professor (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar of OP Jindal Global University speaks to Namami Chakravarty about university-society relations after Global University Leaders Council.
Q. How should universities around the world assert their institutional identity?
Universities need to reimagine their institutional identity on the basis of a shared understanding of the common good for both society and the institution. It is necessary that universities assert their autonomy and independence not just on the basis of curriculum and pedagogy, but also on the basis of a larger sense of responsibility towards fulfilling the common good for societal development. This recognition of the common good should become the raison d’etre of universities around the world.
Q. How the ‘common good of universities’ can be implemented in institutions across the world?
There are five critical elements of the common good that are necessary for universities to embrace for the future. First, universities should be working towards the pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination through research that improves lives of people and society in general; second, universities should be engaged in the kind of teaching and learning that enables and empowers the youth for the development of enlightened global citizenship; and third, universities should be engaged in the pursuit of speaking truth to power intellectual rigour, objective analysis and evidence-based research that helps in building informed citizenry and impactful policy-making.
The fourth focus of universities should be on aligning the vision of contribution of universities towards societal development with the mission of institutional excellence in order to gauge institutions according to their purpose and objective in this direction. The fifth element should be to provide individual and institutional leadership in accordance with the importance of pursuing common good and their work towards developing societal consensus among all stakeholders, such as government, private sector and civil society.
Q. How does the objective of common good can be embedded with the vision of universities?
The pursuit of common good for universities need to be integrated urgently into the vision and mission statements of universities. There has to be a deeper understanding of the demands, expectations and aspirations of societies from the universities. It can be better achieved by aiming the fulfilment of the societal needs from the academic institutions.
Q. What is the importance of liberal arts and humanities studies in building a democratic and inclusive society?
We cannot build democratic and inclusive societies without having a foundational understanding of liberal ideas in our higher education system. Regardless of the discipline or programme of study, universities possess a duty and responsibility to foster the study of humanities among all its students. Critical thinking and the pursuit of interdisciplinary education in all programmes is a sine qua non of higher education reforms. It is important for countries around the world to invest in the pursuit of liberal arts and humanities education for developing and inculcating shared ideals of global citizenship and cosmopolitanism among its young populace.