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Consultative Meeting on Proposal Development under the new UGC Scheme for Establishing Centre for Fostering Social Responsibility and Community Engagement, PRIA, New Delhi, 30th January 2015

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University’s Perspective: Prof Meenakshi Gopinath, Mentor and Former Principal, Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi

“In the wake of this new scheme, it is incumbent for us to seize this opportunity, for it is for the first time that Participatory Research has entered the domain of Higher Education. Today, we are looking at participatory publics and seeking the creation of the concept of global citizens. It needs to be seen as to how we can melt these two concepts in this scheme.”

“Can we begin to envisage what we want to see at the end of the projects and then work backwards? Can we envision as to what we would like our universities to transform into at the end of this scheme?”

“If we are seeing this scheme as an opportunity to open up liberal space for discourse, then we have a historic role to play herein. Therefore, in this process, if we accord due importance to the fact that ‘why we are engaging in this particular way’, then this has the potentialities of going beyond this scheme.”

Civil Society’s Perspective: Dr Rajesh Tandon, Co-chair, UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education

“If we perceive this Centre as a brick and mortar structure, it is bound to die, for want of oxygen for funding. However, if we visualize this three years as an opportunity wherein we can derive a set of resources and legitimacy from the UGC to promote an engagement in all disciplines, teaching and research, we would be moving in exactly the right direction in making this scheme eminently successful.”

“This scheme should be used an opportunity to see the universities as public spaces and the professors as public intellectuals. It is often observed that the convening power of the universities is underutilized. Therefore, considering its ability to gather multiple voices, this scheme should serve as a platform wherein differing perspectives are talked about, if not incorporated. For example, Bhagat Phool Singh Mahila Vishwavidyalaya (BPSMV) has provided space for dialogues for interventions including BPSMV, PRIA, panchayat leaders, community boys and girls, and university students alike.”

“The proposals can be built around local context and issues such as availability of water resources, ending violence against women, improving agricultural productivity, urban poverty etc, and then integrate the university’s function of teaching and research around such issues, incorporating community engagement For example, the issues of declining sex ratio and water scarcity in Bundelkhand region can be taken up and a proposal framed in a creative manner.”

Government’s Perspective: Dr Pankaj Mittal, Joint Secretary, University Grants Commission (UGC)

“We need to envisage it as an innovative scheme, which sees participation from each and every department of the respective university, as the broad mandate of the Centre positioned it as an inter-dependent unit and not a stand-alone one. Therefore, all departments of the universities would be connected to the Centre for all activities, while the infrastructure of the whole university would be available for use by the Centre, be it for space or people.”

“The UGC has been facing a shortage of good proposals, especially from the North Indian Universities. It strongly feels that good universities, with creative thoughts and innovative ideas should be provided adequate funding support.”

 “If you want to build genuine partnerships and have a set of innovative and important themes, around which the proposal can be built, then the UGC through this scheme can demonstrate the true spirit of speech.”

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Picture 1: Dr Rajesh Tandon, Co-Chair, UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, Dr Pankaj Mittal, Joint Secretary, UGC

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