Nalanda University dream set to turn real next year

August 13th, 2008 - 10:17 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Aug 13 (IANS) The dream of a global university, which will epitomize the rise of Asia on the world stage, will move closer to reality at the forthcoming East Asia Summit in December when 16 Asian nations are set to approve a report for setting up the Nalanda University in India. “We have drafted a proposal. The report of the Mentor Group will be finalized by the time EA Summit will be held in Bangkok in December,” Amartya Sen, Nobel-winning economist and the head of the 10-member Nalanda Mentor Group, told reporters here after the fourth meeting of the group.

“It will be followed by an act of the Indian parliament that will formalize the establishment of the university,” Sen said.

“The foundation stone for the university will be laid sometime in February next year,” he said. The university will, however, get into the business of teaching by 2010, he said.

The Nalanda University will be located in the Indian state of Bihar at the site of the ancient centre of Buddhist learning that acted as a magnet for scholars and intellectuals from all over Asia.

In its heyday, the ancient Nalanda University, one of the world’s first residential universities founded some 1,500 years ago, boasted of over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers coming from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey.

The university, in its modern incarnation, will have six schools dealing with Buddhist studies, comparative religion and philosophy; language and literature; development and management; international studies and relations; ecology and environment and historical studies.

The mentor group met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and discussed with them issues relating to the proposed university.

“The prime minister was very supportive. Kalam has agreed to be a visitor to the university and play the role of advisor,” Sen said.

The group discussed the legal and financial framework for setting up the university and agreed that funds would be invited from various countries.

While India as a host country would provide a large endowment in the form of a grant till the university becomes sustainable on its own, it will also encourage public-private partnership.

The mentor group discussed the appointment of the inaugural rector for an initial period of five years to oversee the project.

Singapore, China and Japan are expected to fund the university.

A team of experts and an executive council will be appointed to work with the inaugural rector and advise on academic and administrative aspects of the university.

Linking the idea of the Nalanda University with the rise of Asia on the world stage, Sen waxed eloquent about the university marking the high point of an Asian renaissance that is unfolding.

“It’s a global university and it’s also an Asian university. It’s a reflection of the rise of Asia in the world and goes back to days when Asia was dominant,” he said while underlining the unique nature of the proposed university, the first project of its kind that will involves collaboration between 16 Asian nations who are part of the East Asia summit.

“The destruction of the Nalanda University in the 12th century coincided with the establishment of Oxford University,” he said.

“Nalanda is the only educational establishment where the Chinese went for higher education,” he said.

The Bihar government has already acquired the land and is planning to expand infrastructure in and around Nalanda, said N.K. Singh, a former member of the Planning Commission and member of the mentor group.

”A six-lane highway is being constructed and there are plans to forge direct air links between Nalanda and key capitals in East Asia,” he said.

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