University Community Linkage

Odisha faces irony of economic growth with declining Human Development Index (HDI) ranking, raising doubts about its ability to achieve ‘sustainable’ development. This backdrop makes role of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) critical, as they have twin responsibilities; (i) of identifying solutions to contemporary social challenges; and (ii) of nurturing engaged citizens who can respond to these challenges in future. This social responsibility of HEIs has been endorsed by UNESCO through its 2009 Paris Conference Communiqué and by Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD)’s Policy on Establishment of World Class Institutions and its Unnat Bharat Abhiyaan 2.0 programme.

However, this policy aspiration is far-removed from reality, as universities largely operate as siloed spaces for knowledge production and dissemination. This is largely on account of absence of an enabling eco-system. Reorienting HEIs from their isolated functioning to a more socially engaged mode requires; revising and adapting curriculum and pedagogy to local reality; research based on cross-sectoral partnerships that acknowledges multiple knowledge forms; and using academic institutions’ credibility, research, and training to empower community.

For Odisha’s 18 universities and 1,130 colleges, comprising its HEIs, this implies greater focus on tribals, who despite constituting 23 % of state population, are excluded from the overall development process. This exclusion takes the form of under-representation of their indigenous knowledge systems, in HEI curriculum, pedagogy, and research, and ignoring of their rich history driven insights from developmental planning of the state. In fact, addressing these alone can significantly boost pace of achievement of most Sustainable Development Goals.

That is why exploring how Odisha’s HEIs can be utilized to deal with the state’s contemporary development challenges, by bringing together various stakeholders in Central and Odisha Governments, academia, CSOs, and interested public, is a major new theme for the Conclave in 2018.

Discussion Points:

  • How can higher education sector contribute to Odisha’s sustainable development?
  • What is the current status of social engagement by HEIs in Odisha? What are the promising initiatives and which are the major hindrances in the process?
  • Which cross-sectoral partnerships do HIEs need to build to move away from their siloed existence? What value added does each of these proposed partnerships bring?
  • How have Odisha’s HEIs dealt with SDGs to contribute to its localization? What more needs to be done?
  • Which are the promising new developments in national policies on community engagement of HIEs that can be utilized in Odisha? How?
  • What perspectives and models for socially engaged universities, from within India and from abroad, can Odisha learn from for adaptation in the state?
  • Specifically, how can Odisha’s HIEs more meaningfully integrate lived experience and knowledge system of its tribes into teaching, syllabus and subjects, and research? What tangible results from this can then contribute for sustainable development of tribal communities?