Karnataka will soon have another private university with the Chanakya University Bill getting Assembly nod amid opposition allegations that the Basavaraj Bommai government gave land to an “RSS-backed” project at lower rate.
The opposition Congress has alleged that the land identified for the proposed university near Haralur was meant for a tech park but was now being given at “throwaway prices” to an institution backed by the RSS.
University founder MK Sridhar, however, says the institution would not come with any “culture baggage” of the existing universities. Prof Sridhar, former Economics professor and dean at Bangalore University, heads the Centre for Educational and Social Studies (CESS) which will sponsor the new institution.
The new university being a private and philanthropic endeavour, the government was approached for concessions as it serves the society, Sridhar said. “We have always been interested in education policy and advocacy. Before this university, there was CESS that conducted studies on education policies. We also had some universities with us and involved other education-related agencies,” he said.
The association with ‘Chanakya’ was chosen to showcase to the world India’s intellectual traditions and contribution in the world of knowledge, said Sridhar.
He added that with the coming of the new National Education Policy (NEP) in 2020, founders and members of CESS felt the need to enter public space as a university in higher education. The NEP created the environment for Chanakya University and “gives autonomy to centers of learning to frame their curriculum, and design a new academic architecture”, he said.
Sridhar was a key member of the committee that drafted the new NEP and is now a member of the National Curriculum Framework committee. Both committees are headed by former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K Kasturirangan.
The CESS undertakes studies funded by other agencies and offers PhD programs that are recognised by Visvesvaraya Technological University and Sastra University of Trichy, Tamil Nadu.
“We have been working on integral education with regards to Aurobindo Ghosh’s philosophy. We have worked on the best practices in government schools, also looking at the policies related to post-Covid scenario. Apart from these, our interest is in rejuvenation of undergraduate programs,” Sridhar said.
Expanding on the concept of rejuvenation, he said, “We look at universities as blocks – Commerce, Science, Arts. But what is needed is a theme-based approach under which all disciplines converge. As observed, the number of students joining the undergraduate programs is high, so academic architecture with regard to curriculum framework, extra-curricular activities, skills and competency to face the world is needed.”
Sridhar said the new university was founded after studying the existing ones in India and abroad. “What we realised is that NEP gives autonomy to the university to draw its own course and curriculum. We thought existing universities have ‘culture baggage’. With the implementation of NEP, we will be the new ones to start the policies from day one.”
Explaining what he means by ‘culture baggage’, Sridhar said, “The point is, there is already a particular culture prevalent and has its ways of working. We will look at it differently. There won’t be blocks, departments working in isolation. We will propose to remove these boundaries, have practice schools, focus on development issues. The UG programs will have arts, folk art and fine arts as components of curriculum among other things,” he said.
In an earlier interview to News18, Sridhar said the university plans to start undergraduate, master and PhD programmes from the academic year starting June 2022 in social sciences, humanities, mathematics, basic sciences, commerce and management.