'Four-year undergrad programmes need of the hour'
Ashoka University, a philanthropic higher-education initiative of a group of entrepreneurs and business leaders, is set to open its doors in August with four-year undergraduate programmes in the liberal arts. Similar term courses in Delhi University have led to widespread resentment and criticism.
According to founders of the new institution, the undergraduate programmes of Ashoka University are broadly based on the US liberal education system and would be of the same standard as the top global universities like Harvard, Oxford, Yale and Cornell.
A founder and trustee of Ashoka University and founding dean of the Indian School of Business (ISB), Pramath Raj Sinha, said a four-year programme in liberal arts is the "need of the hour" as students are not able to get the required breadth and depth of the subject under the current three-year system prelevant in most Indian universities.
"Thousands of students go to the US and other universities to get four-year Bachelor's degree. Why can't we offer it here," asked Sinha while speaking to IANS, emphasising the need for reforms in the Indian education system.
The four-year undergraduate programmes introduced in Delhi University are mired in controversy with teachers and sections of students opposing it. In its Delhi manifesto for the general election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has promised to scrap the new programme, terming it "unnecessary" and a complete waste of a precious year of study.
The university's campus, spread over 25 acres, is located at Rajiv Gandhi Education City, on the outskirts of Delhi in Kundli, Haryana, on the Delhi-Chandigarh national highway. It has been set up as an independent non-profit private university under the Haryana Private Universities Act.
The four-year degree course will cost over Rs.20 lakh ($33,300). This will be among the costliest undergraduate programmes in the liberal arts in India.
"Yes, it will be among the costliest. To maintain the standard we have to keep the fee at a reasonable level," said Vineet Gupta, a founding member of the university.
Gupta, who is also managing director of Jamboree Education, said scholarships would be liberally provided to ensure that the deserving candidates are not left out.
"We will be providing scholarships liberally. More than half the students will be on scholarships ranging from 25 percent to 100 percent," he said.
The admission process is already underway and the first batch will start from Aug 1, with 350 students.
According to Ashish Dhawan, senior MD of ChrysCapital Investment Advisors and one of the founding members of the university, a substantial number students at Ashoka University would be those who could not make it to universities like Harvard and Oxford.
"We are committed to keep the standards high. We have partnered with top global universities and I can assure you that standards will be at par with any top institutions in the world," Dhawan said.
Ashoka University has partnered with the University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan and Carleton College and Sciences Po and is in talks with other global institutions for collaboration.
On costs, Dhawan said the students would be getting global-standard education at just a fraction of cost at foreign universities.
Four-year undergraduate programmes at top global universities cost around Rs.1.5 crore ($250,000). The annual tuition fee at Harvard is Rs.24 lakh; at Oxford Rs.17.5 lakh; Cornell Rs.26.4 lakh; Stanford Rs.26.6 lakh; Columbia Rs.28.8 lakh and Yale Rs.22 lakh. Cost of living comes at around Rs.8-10 lakh.
Annual tuition fee at Ashoka University will be Rs.3.9 lakh and hostel fee will be Rs.95,000.
Prominent members of founding team of Ashoka University include Arjun Bhagat, chairman of Calibrated Group; Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder of naukri.com; Puneet Dalmia, managing director of Dalmia Cements; Atul Nishar, founder of Aptech, besides Sinha, Dhawan and Gupta.
(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 17-04-2014)