Need to defend universities as free spaces, says Hamid Ansari

Vice President M Hamid Ansari.

Chandigarh/Punjab, March 25: Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari on Saturday said there is an imperative need to defend the universities as free spaces, independent, critical repositories of knowledge, and as sources of renewal of liberal values that provide avenues of social mobility and equality to the people.

He was addressing the 66th Convocational Address at the Panjab University here.

Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, Panjab University vice-chancellor AK Grover and other dignitaries were present on the occasion.

Sharing his views on the significance of universities in our society the Vice-President talked about the idea of a university and how it differentiates itself from other establishments where education is granted concentrating on the requirements of daily life.

“The need for them to teach its members to think, to go beyond the obvious in learning for examination purposes, and to acquire the capacity and habit to question; the necessity for them to focus on research, to produce new knowledge that may be beneficial to society and the economy; the need to undertake social research, given the diversity and complexity of all societies in a fast changing world; and the imperative need for academic freedom so that the thought process and its expression is untrammelled by official or societal constraints,” he added.

The Vice-President said that a University has to be more than a mere polytechnic.

“Even in disciplines with obvious professional connections, the university should first aim to build a profound understanding of the discipline,” he added.

The Vice President said that a University has the double responsibility of giving guidance on matters of intelligently important and conducting research on those very matters.

He also underlined the important role of social research in questioning and deconstructing ‘social and cultural convictions’ that circulate and generate in any community, especially during phases of change and uncertainty.

The Vice President added that the contemporary events in our country have shown that there is much uncertainty about what a university should or should not be doing.

“The freedom of our universities has been challenged by narrow considerations of what is perceived to be ‘public good’,” he added.

The Vice-President opined that the right of dissent and agitation are ingrained in the fundamental rights under the Constitution, which sets out a plural framework and refuses any scope to define the country in narrow sectarian, ideological or religious terms.

“A University must foster an environment that prizes intellectual freedom,” he concluded. (ANI)