Convocation Address of Prof. Ashutosh Sharma at Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham

Prof. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India, addressed graduands at the 13thConvocation of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham at Coimbatore campus on 21st August, 2016. Reproduced below, is the complete text of his speech.

Respected President Sampujya Swamiji Amritaswarupananda Puri; Pro-Chancellor Brahmachari Abhayamrita Chaitanya, Vice-Chancellor Dr. Venkat Rangan, Medical Director Dr. Prem Nair; Registrar, Deans, Directors, Chairpersons, faculty and graduands of Amrita University and parents.

A very good morning to all of you.

I am very pleased to be with you on this historic 13th Convocation of Amrita University. It is a profound and defining moment for 4477 graduands from all disciplines including Engineering, Business, Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Nursing, Journalism, Biotechnology, Information Technology, Arts and Sciences, Humanities, Health Sciences, Education, Microbiology, Hospital Management, Visual Media Studies, Mass Communication, Social Work, Nanosciences and Ayurveda. My heartfelt congratulations with a special appreciation to those who have received awards, medals and distinctions. But remember, no matter what your marks or divisions or medals are, you will always be stars in the little corners of our hearts and you will certainly all contribute immensely to our society and nation. Today’s ceremony is also called ‘Commencement’. It could refer to commencing of our true education and learning! Remember, learning neither begins nor ends in class-rooms; it is a life-long commitment we make today. 

I also offer my congratulations to the proud parents whose role in the success of their children is far larger than the children usually believe at this juncture of their lives. Our wholehearted appreciation is also due to the faculty, staff and leadership of this great institution that have aided in shaping your education, thoughts, values and careers ahead.

We are now at a defining moment of our history. Times are critical, challenges are great and urgent and stakes are high. Many parts of the world are in strife, conflict and turmoil. You are the agents of change. I am sure each one of you will meet the challenges by imbibing the wholesome values and virtues derived from this great institution guided by renowned humanitarian leader, Satguru Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (AMMA)….

…..‘Education for Life’ in addition to ‘Education for Living’.

You will step out today with a robust education backed by one of the most valued degrees. Amrita University has been ranked as the top private university in India in several World University Rankings (WUR) such as Times Higher Education Asia Rankings 2016; Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Asia 2016 ranking, Times Higher Education BRICS Rankings 2015-2016 etc. Amrita has also been ranked 14th in the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) ranking of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) as well. In this national ranking, AMRITA is ranked among the top two private universities in India. 

India’s economic development and transformation is intrinsically linked to its education and skilling. Only an educated country can aspire to be a developed country. We thus need to ramp up the numbers of Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) as also architect ‘world-class’ institutions such as AMRITA. By 2030, India is likely to be the youngest nation in the world with nearly 140 million people ready to enter the portals of an HEI. It will be interesting to note that one in every four graduates in the world will be a product of the Indian higher education system. Higher Education with an innovative mindset is the key to leveraging the demographic dividend for the benefit of the society and community. This will require both extensive public and private participation. The need for increasing HEI numbers is further complicated by the globalization, competition and knowledge-driven economy. ICT tools, Internet and social media have resulted in the explosive growth of knowledge. Knowledge is not only going to drive the Indian economy, but also, it is going to permeate into all the strata of Indian society for a better quality of life for its citizens. 

The Indian higher education system needs to elevate itself in the knowledge economy by striking a balance between quality and quantity. A multi-pronged strategy is needed. In addition to teaching institutions that primarily focus on skilling and teaching, here is need to promote many more “world-class universities”, which are hubs of innovation and research excellence. These drive innovation as also create new knowledge and transform the country into a knowledge superpower.

Here I am happy to note that AMRITA, a multi-campus, multi-disciplinary, research-intensive university with 5 campuses, 18000 students, 1800 faculty, 200 academic programmes, 5000+ Scopus-indexed publications, 15000 citations and Rs. 220 crores in research funding is doing extraordinarily well. AMRITA is also developing solutions for the societal needs such as sustainable development, water, waste disposal, environmental protection, renewable energy, climate change etc. …. Formation of multi-disciplinary teams of researchers and students in the unique Live-in-Labs to focus on transformation and development of India’s villages is another laudable effort. This is leveraging and synergizing the strengths of the medical and engineering colleges for the benefit of the bottom of the pyramid.

Recognizing the immense talent, technical knowledge, dedicated faculty, and visionary leadership with a focus on service to society, the Government of India has awarded Amrita University numerous mission mode projects: AVIEW (Amrita Virtual Interactive E-learning World), Haptics-based vocational training and education for women’s empowerment, Virtual Labs, Adaptive Learning, Academic ERP (Academic Enterprise Resource Planning), TIFAC-CORE for Cyber Security, TIFAC-CORE for Biomedical Engineering, National Knowledge Network (NKN) Global Classroom, etc. AMRITA is a partner in various international bilateral governmental research programmes and initiatives, such as Indo-US Initiative (Cyber Security, Cyber Crimes, & Cyber Forensics), Indo-European Union (Erasmus Mundus, India4EU programs), Indo-Japan Initiative in Wireless Networks & Applications, Indo-Brazilian bilateral programme on Wireless Networks and Techniques with Applications to Societal Needs, Indo-Italy bilateral Science and Technology Co-operation in Robotics, and Indo-Brazil programme in Nanomaterials for Renewable Energy.Amrita University is steadily marching forward in service of the society and humanity through its path-breaking research innovation and products.

AMRITA is also a model for all Indian universities in attracting the best of talent from all over the world. The brain gainand brain circulation are evident as many faculty members at AMRITA are from the global universities of repute such as Oxford, Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford, Purdue, State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo, University of California; University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign; University of Texas, Dallas;Cornell; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Stern School of Business, New York University; University of Southern California, etc.

Friends I would like to share with you a few brief thoughts; a few things I have leant in my life. Now you are plunging into a new phase of personal and professional life. Now you need to make all your decisions on your own. While your decisions will be your own, never do the cardinal mistake to think of ‘your’ successes to be your own! Now, you will have to be a serious and committed team player. Don’t forget to bring positivity in interacting with your team. And don’t forget to cheer people with those great words: ‘You did a splendid job’, ‘What is your advice in this matter?’, ‘Could you please?’, ‘Many thanks’. Let the emphasis to be on ‘We’ rather than, ‘I’.”

Focus on your dreams, be prepared to take calculated risks and do not get deterred by failures. In fact, there is no such thing as a failure. Strive to realize your fullest potential. Friends, Ronnie Oldham, a well-known Sales Executive has rightly said and I quote “Excellence is the Result of Caring more than others think is Wise, Risking more than others think is Safe, Dreaming more than others think is Practical, and Expecting more than others think is Possible.” I am sure each one of you will leave your unique footprints of excellence.

I wish each one of the graduating students all the very best again in whatever endeavors you may emba
rk on. May this day in your life be a special one, a significant one and the start of something beautiful. Here I shall quote Mr. Gordon B. Hinckley who says, “I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know. If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass.”

Friends, I wish you a path with a heart for the journey that you start now. I wish you the world. Live long and prosper. Jai Hind!

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