Imagining A New Indian University
However, this post is meant to be about whether India needs more universities, and what, if they are needed, the new universities should stand for. So, here are the three, inter-related, things that a new Indian university must do to be worthy of the name:
First, The New Indian University must reflect adequately the diversity and possibilities of India. Ramchandra Guha clearly identifies five dimensions of 'pluralism' that a new Indian university should represent: Pluralism in the student body, pluralism in academic appointments, pluralism in disciplines, pluralism in approaches within disciplines and pluralism in funding sources. This pluralist agenda adequately reflects what the key value proposition of an university is, and where it is different from a college or a training institution. The university making must start with this pluralist agenda, rather than a narrowly mandated one by the respective state governments.
Second, The New Indian University must interrogate what it means to be Indian, and how to assimilate Indian values and cultures with the disciplines and learning of modern natural and social sciences. It must be deeply grounded in the Indian ethos (which it must attempt to define) and represent an open approach to the knowledge of the world. It must use its autonomy to devolve curriculum which is suitable for a modern student and use multiple learning approaches to accommodate students' learning priorities and preferences. It must make adequate allowances for students of different age and persuasions, and embed the defining values of modern India, tolerance, openness and flexibility, at the core of its learning approach.
Third, The New Indian University must build itself to meet the demands of modern India, of its workers, citizens, leaders and entrepreneurs. It must be closely linked to the developments in the industry and on the ground, and this involvement should be deep and continuous. It must not see itself as an isolated business churning out workers, but an influencer in the affairs of its immediate region and the wider nation, because, only by doing so, an university can fulfill its responsibilities of delivering a meaningful education. It must look beyond 'employability' and mere training, and engage in the national conversation and define the agenda.
This is indeed a post in progress, as, after coming back from India, which allowed me to be a part of so many conversations about how a New Indian University should look like, defining the agenda for a new university is one of my prime obsessions. I do intend to write a long essay about the same, once I have found time to indulge in the enterprise. Therefore, this subject will keep coming back to my conversations, and I welcome any comments or ideas that one may have regarding the same.