Ashoka University, a new, private, non-profit university, is coming up in Sonepat, in Haryana, about 100 km north of Delhi. It will have a greater focus on the humanities and the liberal arts.
Forget about chasing foreign universities to invest in setting up universities in India - there's plenty of money available within India to fund many many more such credible non-profit private universities. The HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal, ought to be aggressively courting Indian philanthropists and investors first more than foreign universities.
A recent story in Business World throws some light on Ashoka University.
To recreate their own experience of learning at US universities, a group of professionals have come together to set up a new university of liberal arts in India. Well known names in Delhi and Mumbai circles — Ashish Dhawan (ChrysCapital), Sanjeev Bikhchandani (Naukri.com), Pramath Sinha (9.9 Mediaworx), NV “Tiger” Tyagarajan and Vineet Gupta (Jamboree), among others, are part of the International Foundation for Research and Education (IFRE).
To be located in the Rajiv Gandhi Education City in Kundli, Sonepat, across 25 acres, Ashoka University has sought “private university” status from the Haryana government and will be not-for-profit. A total of Rs 50 crore has been paid for the land, and the first phase is expected to cost about Rs 200 crore. The seed capital has been put up by the trustees, apart from donations from individuals.
Dhawan, senior managing director, ChrysCapital — who recently announced he was stepping down — plans to get into school education in a big way. However, with Ashoka University, the “idea is to offer a greater focus on languages, humanities and social sciences and to offer breadth rather than just depth as in the British system. Instead of studying one subject in depth for 3-4 years, the idea is to study many subjects across disciplines,” says Dhawan. He says it will offer courses and areas of study on the lines of universities such as Yale, Princeton and Amherst.
Here's some more info about Ashoka university as described by IFRE.
The International Foundation for Research & Education (IFRE) is a not-for-profit (Section 25 Company) that has been established with the vision to set up the Ashoka University – India’s first world class university. Over the last two years the team has grown in strength and added numerous academic and non-academic members from across the world to build an incomparable team of accomplished and committed individuals driven by the common motivation to give back to the country.
IFRE is also engaging with various reputed universities and schools in USA and Europe to firm up the scope for collaboration in building Ashoka University. A formal collaboration with the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is already in place.
Addendum: From their detailed YIF brochure,
Initial funding commitments are already in place and the balance is being raised through endowments and debt.
Perkins Eastman, a globally renowned architectural firm, has been commissioned to design and develop a campus of the future and master planning is now under way. Construction is due to start in December 2011 and the campus is scheduled to be operational in July 2013. The application for grant of University status is under evaluation by the Goverment of Harayana. The University will start with two schools - Arts and Natural Sciences - in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania and other leading universities and schools of the world
IFRE, has also launched the Young India Fellowship (YIF), a fully-funded post-graduate fellowship programme. Those interested can apply now for The Young India Fellowship. The last date for submission of applications is December 15, 2011.
The Young India Fellowship (YIF) seeks to groom young women and men like you who will lead India through the 21st century. The YIF will bring together 50 emerging leaders from around India in a one-year residential post-graduate programme in our nation’s capital. We will launch you on your leadership journey by opening your mind to a rich and diverse set of subjects and perspectives, delivered by some of the finest teachers of our generation from around the world. In this cross-flow of ideas and inspired learning, we will encourage and mentor you to discover your own self, to understand your personal values, strengths and aspirations, and create a process for you to build a broad life-plan that will align who you are with what you do in life. It really doesn't matter who you are: whether you graduated in the arts, science, engineering or commerce, we are committed to helping you get to where you want to
Here's what they say about why they launched the Young India Fellowship.
India has a large number of gifted and deserving students who are unable to avail of a high-quality learning experience from reputed institutions in India or abroad due to financial or other constraints. YIF will reach out to such students.
Leading undergraduate programmes in India seem to focus too early on professional and specialized courses that tend to stifle the abilities of talented young minds to explore different perspectives and avenues. YIF is designed to rekindle the desire to learn and explore. The perceived value of a broad-based liberal arts education at the undergraduate level has declined over the years. This has compromised a well-rounded learning experience at the higher education level in India. YIF wants to bring liberal arts to the centre-stage of a more holistic learning experience.
New ideas and possibilities get created at the boundaries of various disciplines. YIF aims to showcase the power of a multi-disciplinary learning environment created by some of the best and most inspirational teachers from India and the world.
- Join 50 fellows from around India in the Founding Batch of Young India Fellows: study, work and learn with India’s best minds, carefully selected for their passion and leadership potential. Your batchmates will include engineers, scientists, accountants and lawyers, as well as those who have graduated with degrees in history, sociology, English literature, and the liberal arts.
- Take classes in a range of subject areas that cover anthropology to ethics, life sciences to climate change, and art appreciation to entrepreneurship. You will develop insights and a worldview on a broad set of core disciplines as well as on some of the most complex global challenges we face.
- Learn from some of the world’s most reputed faculty members drawn from the best universities and institutions around the world, and known for their outstanding teaching and research. The hand-picked YIF faculty will not only inspire you and help you learn how to learn, but also challenge you to be the best you can be.
- Get mentored by some of the best minds and role models with diverse backgrounds and experiences. From corporate leaders to social activists, from researchers to entrepreneurs, the YIF Council of Mentors will help you think through what you should do next in life and how.
- Be coached on life skills and develop your “whole person” through a portfolio of engaging leadership courses. You will take courses in writing and communication, learn numerical analysis, critical thinking and problem-solving, and train in business and entrepreneurship.
- Experience working in the real world through a year-long team-based consulting and research project created especially for the YIF. Whether for a major company or a start-up, for a university lab or an NGO, the Experiential Learning Module (ELM) will help you learn from doing.
- Receive a full scholarship of Rs 8 lakhs to cover the entire fee, boarding and lodging when you enter this prestigious fully-residential, full-time programme. And on completion, our experienced placement counselors will support and guide you in securing a career or higher-study opportunity in your area of choice.
The YIF is currently functioning out of Delhi now, but will shift to Ashoka University at Sonepat over time.
For the first three years the YIF is being co-located at the Sri Aurobindo Center for Arts & Communication (SACAC) campus, Sri Aurobindo Society in New Delhi.
From the 3rd year onwards the programme will be moved to the upcoming Ashoka University campus at the Rajiv Gandhi Education City, Sonepat, which is being planned as the hub for institutions of higher learning in the NCR.