Thursday, July 07, 2011

With 3 new varsities, Bangalore to turn innovative education hub

Three trendsetting universities in-the-making in Bangalore, with connections to its technology industry, are likely to set off a makeover of India’s stodgy education system. The Azim Premji University, on 100 acres in east Bangalore, will confer development and teacher education degrees. The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS), in 55 acres in Bangalore’s south, has urban transformation at its nucleus. And the Manipal International University, Bangalore, on 100 acres in the northern part of the city, is envisaged as a high-quality international learning centre.

While their cores may vary, all three universities will share a vision of becoming fully inter-disciplinary, highly innovative learning centres. The development is extraordinary for two reasons, said Anurag Behar, Vice-Chancellor of Azim Premji University and the CEO of the foundation funding it. “These are particularly hard to pull off because there is no government funding involved, and yet they are non-commercial and self-sustaining,” he said.

The first batch of 150 students at the Azim Premji University, enrolled for master’s degrees in education, teachers’ education and development, will start classes on July 25. Wipro founder and major stakeholder Azim Premji became the country’s biggest philanthropist when he transferred $ 2 billion worth of his company shares to the Premji Foundation which will administer the university. Its stated mission is to connect education to the bettering of the lives of India’s disadvantaged.

IIHS, which proposes to become India’s first national university for innovation, will start academic sessions next year with a master’s programme in urban practice, its Director Aromar Revi said. The programme, as well as bachelor’s and doctorate degrees that the institute will later offer, will cut across a dozen disciplines including technology, design, economics, law, governance and sociology. “Such integration of diverse streams such as law, governance and the social sciences is rare anywhere in the world,” said Revi. The master’s in urban practice, for instance, will offer students courses such as contemporary India and environment management.

The funding for building the institute’s hub and several other campuses will come from high net worth individuals and corporations. Nandan Nilekani, the head of the unique ID project, and his wife Rohini have gifted Rs. 500 million to the project. Industrialists from the Mahindra and Godrej groups, as well as top-rung corporate leaders, are involved.

To help set up its five campuses, Manipal International University has roped in T V Mohandas Pai, who recently quit Infosys after many years as its CFO and HR head. The five universities will attempt to free young Indians from bizarre marks cut-offs for college admissions, Manipal Education and Medical Group CEO Ranjan Pai said.

The five social sector universities will make education more accessible through scholarships and reduced fees. “They will be path-breaking in that humanities will be integrated as optional subjects with engineering and medical courses,” Ranjan Pai said. “Within the rigid Indian regulatory system, we will strive for a balanced approach where a medical student can do a management course alongside, or a dental student can take engineering as an elective,” he said. “The focus will be on less theory and more on practical work in the form of real-world training.”

All three institutions will have multi-campus components, and have major plans to scale up. Manipal University, for instance, has planned five such campuses — in Jaipur, Bhubaneswar, and two other cities in central and western India.

Source: The Indian Express, July 7, 2011
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