The convergence of new models of higher education, a new sector of philanthropy in education, technological advances, and an increasing awareness within the country of a need for reform in government and education is producing an historic moment within India that could dramatically improve and transform higher education in the coming years. This site describes both established liberal arts programs within India, and entirely new universities that have opened within the past few years. Many of these materials are compiled from our “Future of Liberal Arts in India’ site, which was based on our January 2014 meeting in Bangalore at the RRI and IIHS. You can see this site at:

Established University and Colleges with Liberal Arts:

India has a long tradition with liberal arts colleges. Some have been established for over 130 years, and have been educating many of India’s leaders with a curriculum that includes arts, humanities and sciences. Some of these long-established institutions include:

St. Stephen’s Delhi –

St. Xavier’s College Mumbai –

Visva-Bharati College –

Some of the Universities in India have begun new programs in liberal arts or reformed their curriculum to include more liberal arts.

Such institutions include

Presidency University, Kolkata –

IIT, Gandhinagar –

IIT, New Delhi –

University of Delhi –

In addition to these long-established institutions, India is also establishing many new universities and colleges that represent a new sector of higher education within the country. Many of these institutions are privately funded by philanthropists from India who feel an obligation to enable new models of undergraduate education to thrive within India. In many cases these new institutions include liberal arts, or missions that promote environmental sustainability (IIHS) or to promote development of India through broader access to higher education (Azim Premji). Among these institutions also are many that aspire to open up an entirely new type of private elite education within India, patterned after similar institutions in the US like Harvard, Yale and Stanford. Below is a listing of several of the new institutions within India.

Notable New Institutions and Programs in India:

Summary from website: “Undergraduate education in India has traditionally been of a specialized manner with students being given little room to explore. While this narrow focus has led to the development of high quality experts in several fields, Indian undergraduates are increasingly falling behind their counterparts from around the world in terms of the width of their perspectives and critical thinking skills… In order to shift the paradigm of higher education in India and introduce some of these innovative measures in how our educational programmes are run, a group of eminent entrepreneurs and professionals from different lines of industry have come together to setup Ashoka University.”

The Ashoka University has been founded by a group known as IFRE, which is an independent, not-for-profit entity “with a stated aim and vision to significantly alter the paradigm in Indian higher education.” The group has created the Indian School of Business, and includes a group of high level executives and entrepreneurs from a variety of sectors of the new Indian economy. The IFRE group want to catalyze action and innovation in higher education, with liberal arts as “a centerpiece of higher learning in India” to help “develop a more holistic educational experience for students that will broaden intellectual perspectives.”  WIthin the group of IFRE founders is Ashish Dhawan, who is a Yale alumnus, and CEO of Central Square Foundation.

The Ashoka University has a collaboration with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, and will include visiting faculty from UPenn, student and faculty exchange programs, and curriculum development and training of Ashoka faculty in concert with UPenn. They also are partnering with Carleton College for the design and delivery of courses.

The campus will be on 25 acres in the Rajive Gandhi Educational City (RGEC) in Rai, near Sonepat, Haryana. This location is about 25 km from New Delhi. The foundation stone has been laid on June 10, 2012, and they hope to open their university in August 2014.

Summary from website: “Nalanda University was established in November 2010. The University came into being by a special Act of the Indian Parliament – a testimony to the important status that Nalanda University occupies in the Indian intellectual landscape. Nalanda is a stand alone international university unlike any other established in the country. Located in the town of Rajgir, in the northern Indian state of Bihar, Nalanda University is mandated to be “an international institution for the pursuit of intellectual, philosophical, historical and spiritual studies”. This new university contains within it a memory of the ancient Nalanda University and is premised on the shared desire of member States of the East Asia Summit countries to re-discover and re-strengthen “educational co-operation by tapping the East Asia Regions centres of excellence in education…[and] to improve regional understanding and the appreciation of one another’s heritage and history”(The Nalanda University Act).”

This university is attempting to revive the legacy of the Nalanda University, which was the first great university in the world, over 600 years old when the University of Bolgna was founded in 1088, and hosting nearly 2000 scholars and 10,000 students from across the world – China, Greece, and Persia – in the period from 400-1200 AD.  Its history is described in an essay by its chairman, Amartya Sen. The new university will “recreate the universalism of Nalanda as a center of knowledge.” The founders of this university include Amartya Sen, nobel laureate from Harvard, George Yeo, ex foreign minister from Singapore, Prof. Wang Gungwu from NUS, and many more distinguished intellectuals from a wide range of countries and disciplines. The university is being built in a collaboration between the nations of the East Asian Summit, with active participation from India, China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Thailand.

The site for the university is 200 acres of land at the site of the ancient university in Bihar. The planning and site surveys for the construction of the university is underway, and the initial bids are being taken for the preparation for the site and design of the campus.

Summary from website: The vision of IIT, New Delhi is to: “contribute to India and the World through excellence in scientific and technical education and research; to serve as a valuable resource for industry and society; and remain a source of pride for all Indians.” Their mission is to: “generate new knowledge by engaging in cutting-edge research and to promote academic growth by offering state-of-the-art undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral programmes. To identify, based on an informed perception of Indian, regional and global needs, areas of specialization upon which the institute can concentrate. To undertake collaborative projects which offer opportunities for long-term interaction with academia and industry. To develop human potential to its fullest extent so that intellectually capable and imaginatively gifted leaders can emerge in a range of professions.” 

While IIT is hardly a new institution, it has begun some new programs in liberal arts, and is expanding the number of courses outside of its usual technical curriculum. The IIT system began when several campuses were linked together by the Institutes of Technology Act of 1961. The system has since expanded to 16 institutions, and has an acceptance rate of less than 1 in 50 with nearly 500,000 candidates competing for its 9,618 places. The humanities and social science department describes itself as: “Interdisciplinary in orientation” and “conscious of our especial obligations to address the social needs of India” and offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Economics, English Literature, Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and Policy Studies. A newly introduced “Core Introductory, practice-based course in the Humanities and Social Sciences” has been added to the requirements for the IIT science and engineering students, greatly expanding the impact of liberal arts within the IIT community.

Summary from website: “The Apeejay Stya University is a seat of global learning that offers rich opportunities for innovative teaching-learning, creativity and research across disciplines. It aims to bring about transformation of society through value-based education, man-making and nation-building, by blending together the dual identities of a technology and research based university with a liberal arts institution.Established by the Apeejay Stya Education Foundation in the state of Haryana [under Act No. 10 of the Haryana Private Universities (Amendment) Act 2010], the ASU provides students not only ‘education for living and livelihood’ but also ‘education for life’, and empower learners with a fundamental foundation in leadership and professional skills to face the challenges of the new liberalized global economy.Situated amidst a sprawling, picturesque campus with state-of-the-art infrastructure on the Sohna-Palwal Road in Gurgaon district of Haryana, the ASU offers a wide range of innovative graduate, postgraduate and doctoral programmes across a plethora of disciplines that are based on the best education practices of some of the leading universities of the world. These are greatly facilitated by the strong industry-academia linkages, already established by the existing Apeejay institutions of higher learning in all disciplines being offered by the University.”

Founded by industrialist Dr. Stya Paul, and its present chancellor, Sushma Berlia, this university claims to be “India’s First Liberal Arts and Meta University focused on Research and Technology. Dr. Paul was chairman of the Apeejay Stya group, and “was one of the earliest industrialists in the country who recognized the great role that industry could play in providing quality education and to contribute towards nation-building.” He began with a small school in 1967, which has grown into 13 K-12 schools and 16 colleges over the last 40 years. The Apeejay Stya University was founded in 2010, and was created to help “bring about transformation of society through value-based education, man-making and nation-building, by blending together the dual identities of a technology and research based University with a liberal arts institution.”

The university is located on a site  on the Sohna-Palwal Road in district Gurgaon of Haryana, south of New Delhi.

Summary from website: “Shiv Nadar University is an international, multi-disciplinary research-led university. The University’s mission is to develop and educate the leaders of tomorrow; to support research, scholarly, and creative endeavors that contribute to the creation of new knowledge; and to create research and teaching programs that tackle the most pressing problems of India and the global community. Located on a 286-acre campus in India’s National Capital Region, the University offers undergraduate, post-graduate, and doctoral programs in a range of disciplines in engineering, humanities and social sciences, natural sciences, communication, business, and education. SNU is a private philanthropic institution established by the Shiv Nadar Foundation in 2011 through an act of the State of Uttar Pradesh.”

SNU was founded by Shiv Nadar, and industrialist from the IT sector who founded the company HCL and created the Shiv Nadar Foundation. The Shiv Nadar University was founded in 2011 by his foundation, and offers a core curriculum of 8 courses from a wide range of subjects, a set of 16 courses for a major, and then university wide electives, and a set of courses within the category of Research, Experiential and Applied Learning (REAL). The curriculum requirements include courses in Indian and World History, Communication, Physical and Biological Science, Cognition, Technology, Environment, and Quantitative Reasoning, while the REAL courses include service learning, research, internships, cultural immersion, and other forms of experiential learning.

The university is located on a 286-acre campus new New Delhi, and offers “undergraduate, post-graduate, and doctoral programs in a range of disciplines in engineering, humanities and social sciences, natural sciences, communication, business, and education.”

Summary from website: “JGU is a non-profit global university established by the Haryana Private Universities (Second Amendment) Act, 2009. JGU is established in memory of Mr. O.P. Jindal as a philanthropic initiative of Mr. Naveen Jindal, the Founding Chancellor. The University Grants Commission has accorded its recognition to O.P. Jindal Global University. The vision of JGU is to promote global courses, global programmes, global curriculum, global research, global collaborations, and global interaction through a global faculty. JGU is situated on a 70-acre state-of-the art residential campus in the National Capital Region of Delhi. JGU is one of the few universities in Asia that maintains a 1:15 faculty-student ratio and appoints faculty members from different parts of the world with outstanding academic qualifications and experience. JGU has established four schools: Jindal Global Law School, Jindal Global Business School, Jindal School of International Affairs, and Jindal School of Government and Public Policy.”

The Jindal Global University was founded by private philanthropy by the Jindal Group, and is governed by a council headed by Naveen Jindal, son of the steel magnate O.P. Jindal, and himself a successful leader in the steel and power industries. Mr. Jindal is also the chancellor of the university, and they have pursued some international collaborations with Yale University – co-sponsoring a Yale-Jindal conference on globalization and law, entitled ‘Globalisation in India and the USA: Law, Governance and Business,” and hosting some Yale professors and teaching fellows as visitors. Many other international collaborations are listed, and a central part of their mission is to be intensely connected with the international community.

Summary from website: “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.”

The Young India Fellowship was founded by the IFRE, who also founded Ashoka University. This program brings together 100 students for an immersion in liberal arts courses, with emphasis too on team-building, communication, and leadership , and includes a year-long experiential project of the student’s own design. More information on the details of the program give specific topics for the courses and instructors.

The program is 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.”  The current facility at SACAC is 5 in South New Delhi.

  • Rabindranath Tagore University, Pune, India – described in a “concept note” submitted to the HRD

New articles (e.g. Telegraph of India, March 2013), have provided descriptions of a new Indian Liberal Arts University, named after Rabindranath Tagore. One of the authors of the concept note, Dr. Chaudhuri, states, “We have tried to imagine a ‘university of the future’ but without losing touch with the ground realities of Indian higher education,” …“We have proposed a single-campus, non-affiliating unitary university admitting students from all over India and abroad, fulfilling Tagore’s internationalist vision in the composition both of its student body and faculty,” says Chaudhuri. “The university will be a secular, democratic, and open space, promoting artistic creativity, scientific discovery, innovation, and critical thinking.”

Summary from website: “Azim Premji University has a clear social purpose – to make significant contributions towards a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society. The University aspires to do this through the development of talent and the creation of knowledge which can facilitate systemic change in education and allied development areas. This is an explicit commitment to the idea that knowledge and learning have human and social consequences and that their pursuit cannot be separated from these consequences. The roots of Azim Premji University lie in the learning and experience of a decade of work in elementary education by Azim Premji Foundation. The University is one of the key responses to the constraints and challenges confronting the education and development sectors in India. It is also the direct result of a purposeful philanthropic initiative and which by definition is not-for-profit in its orientation.

Summary from website: “Inspired by the ideals of ‘Vishwa Bharati’ of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and ‘Antar Bharati’ of Sane Guruji and with a deep desire to help foreign students, an idea of ‘Symbiosis’ was conceived by Dr. S.B. Mujumdar in the year 1971. The motto of Symbiosis is ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ and truly for the foreign students at Pune it is a ‘Home away from Home’. Symbiosis today comprises of 43 institutes imparting training in diverse disciplines. It has students who hail from all states of India and 75 different countries. Symbiosis is known to be a Multicultural, Multi lingual and Multinational institution. An institution, where academic democracy prevails. Where law is the religion and freedom of thought and expression is the spirit. Where equality is not preached but practiced. Where Innovation, Passion and Compassion is nurtured.

Summary from website: “The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) is a national education institution committed to the equitable, sustainable and efficient transformation of Indian settlements. IIHS is India’s first prospective independently funded and managed inter-disciplinary National University for Research and Innovation that focuses on its ongoing urban and development transformation. It is a first-of-its-kind, practice and innovation-oriented knowledge institution that seeks to bridge the conventional excellence, scale and inclusion divide.

Summary from website: “Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology was founded in 1996 by the Ujwal Trust with the objective of providing art and design education in an environment of creativity to maximize the individual’s potential.The Ujwal Trust also manages Srishti’s sister institution, the prestigious Mallya Aditi International School… Srishti’s mission is facilitated by its organizational structure – a “community of learners” comprising industry-experienced faculty and energetic students who continually explore and experiment with art and design pedagogies, aesthetics, values and innovative practices… We believe that education is beyond instruction and skill; that knowledge is inherently integrated and complex and, hence, learning must be embedded in real-world problems and situations.”

Summary from website: “The FLAME School of Liberal Education is the first institution in India that nurtures talent through liberal education. It allows you to get involved in your education from day one. We don’t tell you what courses to take. Here, education isn’t compartmentalized. Here, you can blend varied passions. You can have a passion for philosophy, but still be drawn to journalism. You may find music and math equally invigorating and pursue both with equal vigor. The FLAME School of Liberal Education encourages you, to build your own course of study by choosing courses that appeal to you. It lets you be, it lets you explore and gives you time to understand which career path best meets your goals and objectives.”



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