India at Davos: Indian universities have a transformative role in building sustainable futures

The Theme of WEF 2020 Annual Meeting is Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World and Indian Universities need to focus on building leadership and imagination with a stronger focus on sustainable futures. Leaders from government, industry and academia aimed to understand and assess critical definitions of what human talent is and how it can thrive in the 21st century.

 The sustainability framework should permeate all aspects of institution-building among the Universities of the world. Indian Universities can play a global catalytic role for promoting sustainable futures given the significant demographic situation that prevails in India. These include providing representative access, particularly to marginalised groups of citizens; balancing such access with the provision of university environments that are of global standards; helping our students bridge gaps in communication and thinking skills that can meet the requirements of globalised careers and roles; and perhaps most importantly, institutionalising efforts to identify and correct social and economic disparities.

As part of the Caspian Week – WEF sessions where two panels discussed Education & Leadership for Sustainable World and The Role of Global Universities in Promoting Sustainable Futures, the focus was on challenges that universities are confronted with today and that global universities can play a specific role in advancing the cause of sustainable development, including observations about the foci of universities as they assume a leadership role in educating the youth of the world and preparing them for the future.

Times Higher Education, the world’s prestigious educational entity aimed at interrogating the point of ‘place’ for universities in a hyper-connected world. The panel examined where global universities are from, and where they are going, and question the role of governments and industry in potentially re-balancing the world’s educational resources to where they are needed most.

The identity of the 21st-century university as the foundational base for fostering cosmopolitan and global world visions is both an imperative necessity and at the same time an increasingly difficult ideal in our age. A key question is how university leaders can negotiate within these ambiguous, complex and volatile contexts to preserve the core purposes of the university to provide safe havens for innovation, dissent and cosmopolitan worldviews.

(The author is Vice-Chancellor of OP Jindal University)

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