Chancellor, Amity University
An alumnus of University College London and the London School of Economics, Atul Chauhan is the chancellor of Amity University and chief executive of the Amity Group (estb.1994) which comprises ten universities, 26 K-12 schools and 30 other education institutions in India and abroad. Aggregate enrolment: 175,000 students mentored by 15,000 teachers and faculty.
How has Amity University responded to the Covid-19 pandemic challenge?
In Amity University, we took the challenge posed by the national lockdown head on to ensure that our students get the education they deserve. Our campuses in Dubai were the first to close down. Within two days, we had our systems running to teach remotely. Within a few weeks, as other countries locked down, we had 120,000 students learning from the safety of their homes. In the past two months, our faculty have held over 200,000 live online classes. And to support working professionals sitting at home, we provided free-of-charge career-upgradation courses on our website amityfutureacademy.com. Over 90,000 people in 70 countries have benefited.
The Amity Youth Forum also went online and over 10,000 students from 200 universities around the world participated in over 80 competitions. The feedback from our students is amazing as all this activity has taken their minds off the stressful situation around them. Moreover during the past two months, 1,300 globally renowned intellectuals including Nobel laureates, CXOs and leading scientists have interacted with our students. Many of the lectures they delivered on our campuses are available at amity.edu/ guest lectures.
What are the major challenges confronting higher education in the new Covid-19 era?
Getting students back to campus safely will be — and should be — the first priority of universities, though in the near future, it seems classes will continue online. Moreover, challenges such as writing exams and lab/practical classes require intelligent solutions. We are working on them.
Several state governments have issued fees waiver/deferment circulars to private school and college managements. What’s your comment?
It’s a hard time and an unprecedented situation for everybody. Understanding the economic impact on the large number of people this pandemic has adversely affected, in Amity Group institutions we ourselves issued circulars to parents to come forward and inform the management in case they were experiencing fees payment difficulties. We are interacting with our parent communities on a one-on-one basis and supporting those in financial difficulties with fees reduction, deferment and instalment facilities.
What are your Top 3 proposals for reviving and reforming higher education in India?
Government should establish a transparent outcomes-based funding model for public universities; increase availability of student loans to enhance access, and reduce regulatory constraints on private universities and well-performing public universities.
Amity University has already established campuses in 12 countries around the world. We intend to become operational in 20 over the next decade. Moreover, Amity is the first university in India to be granted government approval to provide online degree programmes. With our global footprint, our goal is to provide high quality education to students around the world.