By Ronita Torcato
In response to the chronic shortage of land, the Maharashtra state government has cleared the establishment of the first Vertical University Campuses (VUCs) in Mumbai and Thane.
The decision was taken at a state cabinet meeting last week and it makes Maharashtra the first state in India to adopt this innovative mode of university infrastructure.
Instead of sprawling across large land areas as in Kalina, Santa Cruz in Mumbai the new campuses will rise vertically, similar to high-rises in the UK, US, Australia and Israel not to speak of residential and corporate towers across metros and suburbs.
Abroad, mixed-use vertical campuses with green credentials are gaining popularity as new developments strive to deliver “higher learning”.
Universities and schools, typically horizontal organisations of purpose-built structures connected by quadrangles and courtyards, are increasingly difficult to develop as cities become denser,Australian experts say.
The new universities in Mumbai and Thane will require only a minimum built-up area of 15,000 square metres in contrast to earlier requirements of
25-acre in rural areas, 15-acre in district headquarters and 10-acre in regional headquarters, Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and Pune Metropolitan Region (PMR) often unattainable in densely populated cities.
The new vertical university campus policy stipulates independent buildings dedicated exclusively to academic and educational activities adhering to the guidelines of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
Only institutions with NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council) grade points of 3.25 and inclusion in the list of the top 200 institutions maintained by NBA or NIRF will be eligible to apply for a vertical university campus.
The introduction of VUCs was decided upon in accordance with the recommendations of two committees established over a five-year period. The first, the Arun Bongirwar Committee set up on August 25, 2015 recommended looking into the possibility of vertical campuses to address Mumbai’s space issues. The second, the Jayant Banthia committee established on February 27, 2020 had Vijay Khole and Rajan Welukar, both former Mumbai University V-Cs, as members and, was tasked with formulating rules for the construction and operation of vertical university campuses.
Vikas Rastogi, principal secretary, Higher and technical education department and
the principal secretary, Higher Education Maharashtra took note of “ demands from many colleges to come up with an alternative considering which the state government cleared the new policy for vertical university campus.”
” The new VUCs will need at least 15,000 square meters drawn from their own and additional floor space index (FSI) and will have to follow UDCPR and DCPR regulations”, he said.
Former AICTE chairman S S Mantha said, “In the US, there are vertical universities in space starved cities. In India too, they can be started for certain disciplines that do not require large infrastructural requirements and machinery. Most important, there must be quality assurance and not just accreditation, the trust must own the facility so that student interests are protected.”
Will the new universities merely be teaching-learning spaces or will they offer what other varsities have like a sports grounds and facilities , canteens, and hostels?
A student who preferred anonymity said, ” Current capacity utilisation of existing schools and colleges should be assessed and these institutions could even be permitted to run extra shifts. The needy who want to take up part time or even full employment will surely be open to attending early morning classes or night schools.”News, States