O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) was declared as an “Institution of Eminence” by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India on 17th September 2019. As JGU achieved this distinction in a short span of ten years of its existence, this is a giant step forward for a young university and a leap for Indian higher education. JGU was established in 2009 as a state private university by the Government of Haryana as a result of a philanthropic initiative of the founding Chancellor and benefactor, Mr. Naveen Jindal in memory of his father, Shri O.P. Jindal. JGU is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.
The vision of JGU since its inception was to establish a world class university in India. As JGU celebrates its 10th anniversaryin 2019, it is an opportune time to identify key factors that enabled the University to become an “Institution of Eminence”. Rarely in history does an institution that was established barely a decade ago in a modest manner with only 100 students, one school and 10 faculty members progress rapidly to transcend into a multidisciplinary university with 8 schools, over 5,000 students and nearly 500 faculty members. This has been achieved while ensuring quality, diversity and promoting excellence.This has also happened at a time when the aspirations of young Indians to pursue high quality education is defining the future of institution-building and nation-building in India. Higher education institutions will play a crucial role in the progress of emerging economies such as that of India over the coming decades.
Addressing the complex challenges of higher educational processes require that we understand the underlying causes, anticipate long term trends and collaborate with a range of national and international stakeholders. It is also important to acknowledge and appreciate the complex interplay of governance, resources and knowledge systems, not just individually but the interaction of these systems with each other.
My own experience of being the founding Vice Chancellor of a private university in India has apprised me of the enormity of the challenges in the present and the potential in the future. Based on this experience and our vision, I believe there are ten key factors that have shaped JGU’s evolution. This article provides a detailed discussion of these ten points that collectively comprise an agenda to build an “Institution of Eminence” in India that connects the local needs of our time with global aspirations. The first ten years of JGU’s institutional journey can be captured by the following ten key factors that shaped its foundation and evolution,and will indeed impact its future.
- Not-for profit and philanthropic university
- Academic freedom and institutional autonomy
- Multidisciplinary university and interdisciplinary learning
- Transparent admissions process with no management quota
- Internationalisation at the heart of institution building
- Hiring of outstanding faculty as inspiring teachers and prolific researchers
- Building a culture of research and publications
- Institutionalising accreditation, rankings and benchmarking
- Promoting diversity, inclusion, accessibility and community engagement
- Developing active participation of all stakeholders for good governance
All of these factors are underpinned by the need for universities to align their goals towards the common good of seeking excellence in higher education, in order to more effectively embrace the future. There are five critical elements of the common good that are necessary for universities of the future. First, universities should be working towards the pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination through research that will improve the lives of people. Second, universities should be engaged in education in the form of teaching and learning that will enable and empower the young people towards the development of enlightened global citizenship. Third, universities should be engaged in the pursuit of speaking truth to power through intellectual rigour, objective analysis and evidence-based research that will help in building an informed citizenry and impact policy-making. Fourth, universities should be aligning the vision of contributing towards fulfilling the common good to the mission of institutional excellence so that what universities do is measured in line with this purpose and objective. Fifth, universities should provide individual and institutional leadership in recognising the importance of pursuing common good and work towards developing societal consensus among all stakeholders, including the government, private sector and the civil society.
The pursuit of the common good needs to be integrated into the vision and mission statements of universities. There has to be a deeper recognition that the demands, expectations and aspirations of societies from the universities can be better achieved by the fulfilment of the common good.
- Not-for profit and philanthropic university
World-class universities do not come cheap. Every aspect of it—the recruitment of faculty and staff, funding for research, support for research centres, creation of incubation centres, development of physical infrastructure, use of technology, provision for holistic learning and student experiences on campus and beyond, and international opportunities for students —requires significant funding. It would be naïve to think that world-class universities could be established without a radical re-examination of the funding framework that exists in India and the resources that we make available for our universities. Every year, we recognise that government expenditure on higher education is less than what it should be and that its percentage of GDP needs to be higher. The resources that are required for establishing world-class universities and nurturing them in a sustainable manner would be several-fold higher than other universities. Given this, the future of Indian universities (public and private) will significantly depend upon our ability to harness individual, institutional and corporate philanthropy for the purposes of higher education.
A major legal and policy reform to promote some form of mandatory corporate social responsibility (CSR) was initiated through the Companies Act, 2013. Path breaking, it had the potential to transform the relationship between business and society. While there is much that deserves attention under the CSR framework for contributing to the social sector, the fact remains that higher education and universities do need to receive significantly more funding. There has to be greater focus within the government to create a road map that incentivises CSR funding to be made available for universities.
Some years ago, a report by a committee constituted by the then Planning Commission and headed by the then chief mentor of Infosys, Narayana Murthy focused on the role of the corporate sector in higher education. It acknowledged the importance of stronger private initiatives and recommended steps such as free land for 999 years (sic), 300% deduction in taxable income to companies for contributions towards boosting higher education and 10-year multiple entry visas for foreign research scholars. It also recommended a ₹1,000 crore scholarship fund (with tax exemption for corporate sector contributions) to promote greater accessibility of higher education to the underprivileged. However, these recommendations were not implemented.
The issue of philanthropy in particular needs greater and urgent attention. Beyond a few examples of philanthropy in higher education in India, contemporary leadership in philanthropy in higher education is limited and almost non-existent. The historical evolution of public universities in India and their exclusive dependence on the government for all financial resources have contributed to limiting the capacity of funding that could be available for public universities. Today, public universities (central university, state public universities and other higher educational institutions) face serious financial challenges. While the Central universities and institutions of higher education are better situated, complex procedures, incessant delays, regulatory obstacles and a labyrinth of regulations for access to the funds have created many disincentives for universities to have the necessary freedom and flexibility to spend resources as per their needs and priorities.
As far as private universities/higher education institutions are concerned,the problem is even more serious. The opening up of the private sector to higher education has ended up creating many mediocre institutions. The privatisation of higher education has not been driven by philanthropy but to a large extent by commercial and for-profit interests that do not have a symbiotic relationship with the vision, values and ethos of a university. Higher education and universities (private or public) by their very nature ought to be not-for-profit and established through philanthropy.
Therefore, there is an urgent need in Indian universities to reflect upon the crisis of leadership and the inability to seek reforms relating to institution building. In this, leadership in philanthropy is central to enabling an institutional vision that will help build the future of higher education in India. There is also a need to develop a culture of philanthropy and giving to promote quality in higher education.The meaning of the term “quality”is multi-layered. In the context of higher educational outcomes, it means paying attention to the student experience and graduate outcomes that are sensitive to the aspirations of our students, expectations of our societies and the economic needs of our times. Ensuring that our students attain the economic and social goals they aspire to achieve is neither easy nor impossible. This requires that we pay close attention to processes, build institutional mechanisms and nurture organisational cultures that reflect our underlying vision and expectations.
As a young student, I was fascinated by the evolution of private universities in the USA such as Harvard University, Yale University and Stanford University, which have enjoyed substantial philanthropic contributions and have had a big global impact. In 1998, as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, it then became my dream to start a university in India.I had completed an undergraduate degree at Loyola College, Chennai, and then my law degree from the Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi – both of which are leading institutions of India. It was when I went to Oxford and later at Harvard that I experienced education in a truly inspiring and transformative manner. I began delving deep into the higher education system, meeting outstanding professors from Harvard, Yale and New York University to discuss the idea of a private, philanthropic university built on the American not-for-profit model.
The more people I met abroad, the more convinced I was about the pressing need to do more in India. I was deeply inspired by my experience of pursing fellowships at New York University and teaching at universities in Japan and Hong Kong. I had the privilege to visit and understand the vision and aspirations of universities around the world during 2002-2008, while I was in Hong Kong. In particular, I was fascinated by what I saw in universities in Japan, Hong Kong, Taipei, Mainland China, Australia, Canada, and Europe. This is when I wrote a paper that articulated some of the founding ideas of building a not-for-profit, private, multidisciplinary and global university in India.
I was very fortunate to meet Mr. Naveen Jindal in 2006 upon the introduction of the then Law Minister of India, Mr. H.R. Bharadwaj. Within a year, Mr. Jindal committed to do three things—contribute substantial financial resources, combined with a commitment to a not-for-profit institution, and academic freedom and institutional autonomy to build a world-class university in India. He kept his promise in letter and spirit as he believed in the ideals and aspirations of building a world class university in India. In that sense, he is a truly remarkable leader in higher education who had a farsighted vision and imagination to build an institution of global excellence in India.
The story of JGU’s establishment could serve as an example of how philanthropy can help create and sustain institutions that aspire to achieve institutional excellence in all its forms. JGU was established by the Government of Haryana in 2009 as a philanthropic initiative of its Founding Chancellor and benefactor, Mr. Naveen Jindal in memory of his father, Mr. O.P. Jindal. This marked a new chapter in the history of Indian philanthropy and Indian higher education. The University’s vision, mission, and core values emerged out of the founders’ belief in creating an institution anchored in sound principles, practices, and traditions that promote public service and make meaningful contributions to the State of Haryana, India as a whole, and the world. This has enabled the students of JGU to receive generous scholarships to enable them to study at the university when they are not able to afford education. This has been a significant philanthropic contribution of Mr. Jindal to promote democratisation of access to higher education.
Through his generous benefaction, Mr. Jindal thus paved the way for enabling the kind of educational transformation in India that we could otherwise possibly have witnessed only in the most developed economies of the world. Mr. Jindal also recognised that institution building is central to nation building. This is the key to creating an ecosystem in India in which the creation and sustenance of world-class higher education institutions is seen as a key enabler of national development and progress.
- Academic freedom and institutional autonomy
Higher education in India is in the process of transition in the face of globalisation. Some of the important organisations involved in responding to the challenges of developing a knowledge economy and seeking this transition in higher education are the University Grants Commission (UGC), the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, and the NITI Aayog. Each of them has its own perspective on what ought to be the future of higher education.While there is need for consensus-building and closer interaction among these bodies, the importance of promoting academic freedom and institutional autonomy should also be recognised.
Given the challenges of mediocrity in higher education, there is an urgent need foremphasising academic freedom as a core component of ensuring higher academic standards and the development of acurriculum that will meet the needs of the future. The state and the private sector need to recognise that the creationof knowledge and development of the higher education sector cannot take place without recognising academicfreedom and institutional autonomy.
Some key ideas relating to academic freedom need to be considered
Understanding academic freedom: The concept of academic freedom should be further examined in the light of globalisation and new challenges posed to higher education. There is need for greater public debate on the inherently difficult issue of how academic freedom in Indian universities can be balanced with the equally important value of ensuring transparency and accountability within public and private institutions. The question of accountability becomes critical in the context of growing commercialisation of education which has also undermined academic freedom. Promoting greater understanding of academic freedom has a significant bearing on the purpose of higher education. It will also have an impact on determining all policies relating to higher education, including curriculum development, programme administration, recruitment of faculty members, teaching pedagogy, assessment regimes and professional engagement of educational institutions.
In all these matters, there is a need for evolution of policies that recognises the changes in the landscape of higher education. While the legal and institutional frameworks for protecting the freedom of speech and expression in India are sound along with an independent judiciary that can enforce the fundamental rights, there are certain aspects of political culture, religious intolerance and cultural dogmatism that pose challenges to the protection of academic freedom.
Academic freedom as social responsibility: Protecting academic freedom ought to be part of the social responsibility of both individuals and institutions. There are a variety of issues relating to educational policy and governance of educational institutions in which the state and its instrumentalities need to play a legitimate role. But this role should be judiciously balanced with the equally important responsibility of the state to protect the academic freedom of educational institutions.
The state’s role and responsibility in protecting academic freedom should not be limited to being discrete and exercising self-restraint in its possible interventions. It should also ensure that other actors, including the media,political parties and the citizenry do not by their actions undermine academic freedom. Intolerance of views and expression of opinions by academics and other members of society leads to a culture of self-censorship that undermines free and independent thinking. The ability of universities and other educational institutions to challenge views and established opinions and to be a place for creating knowledge and developing new thinking should be steadfastly protected by all stakeholders in the university governance system.
Academic freedom as a human right: The importance of protecting academic freedom inevitably makes a case for recognising that it is indeed part of the national and international human rights framework. However,constitutional guarantees cannot ensure that academic freedom is protected, unless they succeed in engaging the democratic processes, an empowering function that should be the goal of constitutionalism. There is need for independent democratic institutions in India to ensure that due regard is paid to the protection of academic freedom. This is particularly demonstrated in the fact that many countries, in their efforts to counter terrorism, have also undermined academic freedom by invoking provisions of national security or anti-terrorism legislation.
Further, the formal mechanisms for protecting academic freedom through the constitutional apparatus,institutional guarantees and their enforcement by the judiciary can fail, particularly when these institutions operate under limitations. There should be further space provided for democratic dissent and resistance to intrusions into academic freedom. This space is also typically addressed by liberal constitutions in both rights guarantees and democratic commitments. There should be an autonomous space for academics and others to take upon themselves the task of promoting debates as public intellectuals.
Resistance from academics can actually serve as a check on the different branches of the government to ensure that rights are duly protected and that there is a greater sense of transparency and accountability in governance. There is also need for the relevant official bodies to address many of these challenges in a systematic, analytical,dispassionate, and an easily understandable manner.
International initiatives to protect academic freedom: In the United States, academic freedom is generally taken as the notion defined by the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, jointly authored by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Colleges (AAC), now known as the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
One of the earliest initiatives to protect academic freedom was the International Conference convened by UNESCO in 1950, in Nice, where the universities of the world articulated three interdependent principles for which every university should stand. First, the right to pursue knowledge for its own sake and to follow wherever the search for truth may lead; second, the tolerance of divergent opinion and freedom from political interference; and third, the obligation as social institutions to promote, through teaching and research, the principles of freedom and justice, of human dignity and solidarity, and to develop mutually material and moral aid on an international level.
More recently, as a response to the United Nations Secretary-General’s request for greater involvement of the global academic community in exploring international public policy concerns, in January 2005, the First Global Colloquium of University Presidents met at Columbia University, New York. The inaugural meeting gathered more than 40 university leaders and professors. The main theme of discussion among university presidents was academic freedom.Noting the importance of academic freedom, the report of the colloquium said: “Academic freedom benefits society in two fundamental ways. It benefits society directly, and usually immediately, through the impacts and benefits of applied knowledge, the training of skilled professionals, and the education of future leaders and citizens. It benefits society indirectly and usually over longer periods of time, through the creation, preservation, and transmission of knowledge and understanding for its own sake, irrespective of immediate applications.”
Education should not conform to short-term indicators or metrics, like in the case of other social goods. Its true purpose is to fulfill an obligation to propagate and propel a social, cultural, economic, political and intellectual vision of a nation.
The pursuit of public good requires institutional autonomy. This alone can empower individuals within the institution to assume responsibility.Autonomy within the sphere of education includes both the substantive and procedural kind. There has been a renewed push for autonomy within the substantive context involving curriculum re-conceptualisation, academic research policies, entrance standards, academic staff appointments and institution of degrees. However, there continues to be systematic involvement of external forces on the procedural side that involves finance, appointments of administrative staff, contract formulation, etc.
While autonomy is profoundly critical to realising an institution’s vision, it is also important to be sensitive about the role of stakeholders — including government bodies, funding organisations, accrediting agencies and regulatory bodies.Autonomy resonates with academic freedom. At the same time, it is critical for autonomous educational institutions to not skew their academic cohort without any form of accountability.
The negative impact of unregulated growth of private sector education is well-established. The “graded autonomy”scheme that was implemented by the University Grants Commission in 2018 should be understood as an incentive for institutions to remain true to their guiding principles of institution-building, and not as a conduit for widening inequity in higher education.
In 2017, the European University Association (EUA), in its annual conference on “Autonomy and Freedom”, renewed its resolve to address some of the influential barriers that European universities face in exercising autonomy.Public sector funding mechanisms, the political climate and the overall economic landscape of the region were thought to exert their influences on institutional autonomy. Higher education institutions in the US fare exceptionally well in world rankings because of institutional autonomy. Academic freedom there is enshrined within the institutional policy, as well as the contractual obligation between academic institutions as well as with scholars.The need for Indian universities to have autonomy is based on the recognition that they need to seek excellence. The pursuit of excellence in university settings requires an ecosystem that will promote innovation, creativity, research and reflection. But it must be emphasised that accountability and responsibility go hand in hand with autonomy.
Hence, academic freedom and institutional autonomy are central to the future of India’s higher education system in its efforts to develop a knowledge economy based on the need for promoting intellectual capital and to develop institutions of excellence comparable to the best anywhere in the world.
At JGU, academic freedom, institutional autonomy and financial independence have comprised the three key enablers of the university’s strategic vision. In 2018, the university’s first Strategic Vision 2029 was released which in addition to outlining the strategic direction for the next decade of JGU, also laid out ten guiding principles to achieve this vision. One principle related directly to the embedded nature of academic freedom and institutional autonomy in JGU’s founding vision and mission: “Continue to maintain our academic,administrative and financial autonomy complemented by a transparent and well-functioning governance structure.”
Since our founding in 2009, JGU has been mindful of the need for nationally conscious educational processes that recognise India’s particularities, yet seek to transcend them. Our institution building experience over the past decade has further intensified our original commitment to creating an institution that is among other key goals, pluralistic in institutional and academic orientation. This can only be enabled by a steadfast commitment to academic freedom, institutional autonomy and financial independence.Our status as a private higher education institution allows us to commit to these objectives.
3. Multidisciplinary university and interdisciplinary learning
The leading universities of the world have demonstrated a deep, persistent and sustained commitment to interdisciplinarity. The importance of crossing disciplinary boundaries in teaching, learning and research is yet to be fully realised within the Indian higher education system. Institutional mechanisms need to be established within universities to promote several key aspects. First, enable students to learn across schools, departments and programmes across the entire university. This includes cross-listing of courses across schools and programmes; opportunities to undertake research in interdisciplinary settings such as research centres and institutes; and exposure to a diverse range of cross-disciplinary contents and dialogues. Second, the need to provide adequate resources for faculty to undertake cross-disciplinary research. This includes physical infrastructure, library resources, and an overall university environment that is responsive to the needs of conducting interdisciplinary academic work. Third, there is a critical need to allow researchers to push disciplinary boundaries in order to promote innovative, interdisciplinary and socially-relevant research that serves the needs of the country in particular.
In order to navigate the complexities of life in the 21st century world, our students need to develop deep interest in not only the substantive aspects of their profession, but also wider aspects of their practices. Our students would in one way or another go into a practice of some kind. This means that they will deal with problems that are by definition truly interdisciplinary – problems that cannot be solved by knowledge from one discipline alone. Thus, students need to know how to synthesise from a range of perspectives, reduce ambiguities without necessarily oversimplifying, and hold meaningful conversations with individuals and groups from other disciplines. All of this would require reasonable facility for key disciplinary vocabularies and the particular orientations of those disciplines and practices.
At JGU, we have been investing, encouraging and enlarging the possibilities for interdisciplinary conversations through courses that are cross-listed across our eight constituent schools for any student to choose from. This has enabled cross-disciplinary interactions through adaptations in processes and infrastructure, and institutionalising interdisciplinary engagement in the student community and faculty groups. Further, in the JGU schools that are focused on particular practices, there has been a focus on designing courses that draw from multiple disciplines, while not necessarily diluting core disciplinary requirements. We should view interdisciplinary engagement as not merely an exercise in doing what is most fashionable for today’s times, but as a compelling and necessary element to distinguish ourselves as an institution. This mechanism not only prepares our students to become creative and entrepreneurial but also helps them imbibe ethos and values that will define them when they graduate from JGU.
The challenge of interdisciplinarity is a concern that has received inadequate public policy attention. In a world of complexity, the practical problems relating to social, economic, political, legal, scientific, cultural and security issues cannot be addressed from any one disciplinary base. The issues facing human societies and professional practices arise out of complex interactions between the above forces, demanding that we face them from multiple perspectives and using different methodologies. Universities seeking to serve their respective societies will have to emerge as spaces that promote useful research that generates new forms of knowledge, innovative ideas and socially relevant technological developments. This is only possible if we fully recognise the immense potentialities of real interdisciplinarity that is inherent in the advances in natural as well as social sciences. Institutional practices should develop adequate capacities and capabilities to facilitate necessary dialogues that are often difficult among faculties, societal stakeholders and students.
The need for advancing multidisciplinary education is certainly profoundly felt in India, given our strong commitment to democracy and pluralism. Thus, any discussion on the future of higher education and building world class universities in India would also be incomplete without emphasising the importance of liberal arts education.
My own experience suggests that promoting high-quality interdisciplinary research is not easy, but I am increasingly convinced about the need to continually invest, facilitate and incentivise its potentialities. I believe it to be both necessary, urgent and attainable, if we focus our attention and persist with our vision to serve the larger good.
The importance of liberal arts education
One of the consequences of the crisis in the higher education has been increased emphasis on employability as the sole objective of education. In recent times, there has been a systematic attack on academic streams like liberal arts and humanities not only in India, but also in other countries, including the United States, where there has been an established tradition that has promoted liberal arts education. A meaningful employment is one of the important goals of higher education,but it will be a mistake to consider this as the only goal of any educational experience.
A liberal arts and humanities education foregrounds and fosters critical thinking capacities in students—a behavioural aspect that is more and more in demand today, across industries.We no longer live in a day and age where technical skills and specialisation per se are sufficient for growth in the working world.In today’s competitive world, an individual may have technical skills of a certain kind, but if s/he doesn’t have the requisite analytical acumen to communicate and articulate views or weigh the pros and cons of complex issues, they are not going to be fully useful in the working world. This is where a full rounded education in the liberal arts makes an individual a complete personality, with the ability to bring in a broad range of knowledge and insights to any task at hand.
Knowledge Acquisition: Liberal arts education promotes intellectual curiosity, which is critical for the growth and development of any individual in a society. It helps in the process of creating knowledge and sharing perspectives about some of the most fundamental issues of our society. It helps people come to terms with the past, develop an understanding of the present and prepares them to charter ideas and perspectives for the future.The need for acquiring knowledge in a range of subjects including philosophy, history, literature, sociology, anthropology, psychology while pursuing interests in music, theatre, performing arts and fine arts is the hallmark of a liberal education.
Skill Formation: Universities should focus on raising the skills of the population and generating new knowledge. There is no question of prioritizing one over the other.All countries, including developing countries, need to create knowledge and contribute to research, but also need to develop significant capacities to promote vocational education, and develop various types of skill sets,which will enable and empower its populace to undertake a range of job opportunities. There ought to be greater diversity in our higher education sector. In fact, when we examine a developed country like the United States or a developing country like China, there is a very strong emphasis on maintaining rigorous standards and research excellence in universities while providing strong impetus to promoting vocational education and skills development. It will be a huge mistake if we start making poor and mediocre choices. Public policy needs to recognise that knowledge creation and excellence in research can and should go hand in hand for the development of skills and promotion of vocational education.
Liberal arts education provides opportunities for students to develop a range of skills that are essential to become lifelong learners. In fact, the skills relating to reflective reading, critical thinking,effective writing, and verbal communications are central for professional advancement. Liberal arts education gives due emphasis to inculcate these skills in students as these are relevant not only for the next job that the graduate of a college will aspire, but for a long time to come. The future of education will depend upon how effectively we are able to impart knowledge, skills and perspectives that will make promote versatility and be able to empower them in a variety of professional endeavours.
Understanding Heritage: One of the important goals of education is to work towards achieving enlightened citizenship. Education needs to promote a greater degree of civilizational understanding. India has a rich and long tradition of promoting civilizational understanding through education. The inspiring institutions of higher education in ancient India—Takshashila University and Nalanda University promoted liberal arts and humanities education long before any other institutions in the world. Takshashila University established over 2,700 years ago had over 10,000 students from around the world and studied subjects as diversified as the Vedas, philosophy,grammar, politics, astronomy, future, music, Ayurveda, agriculture,surgery, and commerce. Takshashila University is probably the oldest liberal arts college of the world.
India needs to revive this rich and inspiring cultural and educational history of promoting transnational humanities education. Citizenship is about people taking responsibility and enlightened citizenship cannot be achieved unless people receive a sound and rigorous education in liberal arts and humanities.The critical study of these values will inevitably mean a stronger focus on humanities education. It is not possible to deepen democracy without students being given an opportunity to understand these values through a serious study of humanities.It is also important to change attitudes of all stakeholders in education,including primary and secondary education, leading to higher education. The obsession to make choices of study and careers purely on the basis of employability and immediate financial gains and nothing else has led neither to employability, nor enlightenment.
Promoting Employability: Liberal arts education creates opportunities for students to develop knowledge and critical thinking abilities that is the hallmark of good education.Unfortunately, India does not have a number of liberal arts colleges. Even the colleges that do have a few degree options in liberal arts and humanities do not fully understand and appreciate the pedagogical foundations of liberal education. There has been far too much emphasis on specialized education with a view to focusing on specific area of interest and not to challenge the boundaries of knowledge and thought processes. Employers are not only looking for people with knowledge, but would expect graduates to be problem solvers; who can read and reflect effectively; who can write and communicate persuasively; and who can be sensitive and appreciate the complexities of the society and humanity that we have today. A liberal arts and humanities education equips students with the analytical inventiveness and versatility of mind, which makes many careers possible, whether in business, consulting, academia, government, NGOs, journalism, creative industries and numerous other professions including civil service.
We cannot build democratic and inclusive societies without having a foundational understanding of liberal ideas in our higher education system. Regardless of the discipline or programme of study, universities have a duty and responsibility to foster the study of humanities to all its students. Critical thinking and the pursuit of interdisciplinary education in all programmes is a sine qua non of higher education reforms. It is important for countries around the world to invest in the pursuit of liberal and broad based education for developing and inculcating among its young populace shared ideals of global citizenship and cosmopolitanism.It is time that the Indian universities placed a much greater emphasis on interdisciplinary education, recognising the symbiotic relationship between the natural sciences, humanities, and other disciplines.
At JGU, our vision has been to create a multidisciplinary,an interdisciplinary and a global university space where cross-disciplinary collaborations lead to innovation, creativity, and the creation of greater problem-solving capacities for local, regional and national issues. From a single programme housed within a single school in 2009, JGU has grown over a decade to be a multidisciplinary university offering programmes in law, management, international affairs, public policy, liberal arts & humanities, journalism, art & architecture, and banking & finance. Since its founding, the vision for JGU has been to offer programmes in diverse disciplines. The choice of disciplines has been based on several factors, in particular, offering of professional programmes in law, management and architecture that offer high employability rates for graduates; programmes in the social sciences and humanities that are key to addressing the strategic needs and socio-economic challenges of India; and programmes in emerging and niche areas that are not widely offered in the country, but will play a significant role in attaining world-class status.
Interdisciplinarity has been the central basis for the establishment of all the schools, designing of programmes, and recruitment of faculty at JGU. The university’s commitment to interdisciplinarity has been based on the fact that the leading universities of the world have been deeply interdisciplinary in their academic outlook and research identities.
Interdisciplinary research has been significantly enabled by JGU’s research centres. Since 2009, over 55 interdisciplinary research centres have been established across the various Schools. Housed within and affiliated to one of JGU’s schools, the research centres draw on faculty members and students from across the University on issues ranging from health law, human rights, and climate change, to area studies, development issues, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability. JGU also has three research and capacity building institutes that enhance opportunities for cross-filtering of knowledge that can be integrated into training programmes, capacity building, community engagement and other public service activities undertaken by JGU.
All the schools at JGU also function as interdisciplinary hubs within themselves. Electives are offered across schools and most have interdisciplinary relevance. For instance, elective courses offered during recent academic semesters have included legal aesthetics and visual culture, public health policy, water and food security, history, political psychology, sports law, migration and refugee studies, films and international relations, globalisation of education, sustainability, archaeology, economics of innovation, and music.
In order to sustain our commitment to interdisciplinarity, JGU established the Office of Academic Planning, Co-ordination and Interdisciplinarity (APCI) to promote and strengthen interdisciplinary learning and research. The Office is one of the most innovative and path breaking initiatives that JGU has constituted since the University’s founding in 2009. Universities around the world recognise, at a conceptual level, the need for promoting interdisciplinarity and cross-registration of courses across different schools and programmes. But at a practical level, this rarely happens even in the world’s leading universities. There are several reasons for this, including the need for forward thinking among the faculty and administration; geography and location of different schools within the university campus; scheduling of courses and the planning of teaching arrangements; credit systems and transfer of credits policies and different ways of recognising credits in schools and programmes; and the organisation of administrative apparatus and the lack of inter-school coordination mechanisms.
The key considerations for the APCI are threefold: (a) Planning: This includes optimisation of resources such as classrooms and faculty, to ensure that course information is readily available to faculty and students, and to formulate curriculum brochures for each of the schools. (b) Co-ordination: The Office serves as a repository for academic data across all schools, in conjunction with the JGU IT team. This academic data includes admission, course enrolment and examination data. The APCI will also work towards harmonising school-level policies and practices and compliance of the same. (c) Interdisciplinarity: The Office reports on cross registration, engages with Deans/ Academic Deans to identify courses that are relevant to be cross-registered and drive a vision of interdisciplinarity for the university.
JGU has been fortunate to have had the opportunity to offer rich and diverse sets of programmes that tap into our interdisciplinary resources. For instance, our business school students learn not only core business topics but also enrol in courses offered by other schools. Similarly, students of law, international affairs, public policy, liberal arts, or journalism could enrol themselves in courses that are listed in the business school to study leadership, human resource management, quantitative research methods etc. Our liberal arts school by definition offers wide ranging opportunities in interdisciplinary education. Our international affairs school offers degrees that combine international relations with business and our law school offers a business and law programme.
In addition, the eight schools of JGU are all located in the same academic block facilitating free and frequent interaction between faculty members from across schools. This arrangement has also facilitated interdisciplinary research among faculty members from varying academic and research backgrounds and interests. As an institutional policy, faculty members from different schools share offices, thus encouraging discourse between disciplines. The proposed introduction of new schools and programmes in various disciplines over the coming years will deepen the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary identity of JGU.
- Transparent admissions process with no management quota
A transparent admissions system is an essential component of building a long-term, credible institutional reputation. Given the complex nature of India’s higher education system, private higher education institutions in particular face the challenge of poor perceptions of credibility, transparency, accountability and institutional repute. The existence of the “management quota” (which allows students who do not meet merit criteria to secure admissions to higher education institutions through payment of additional and usually, exorbitant, fees)has exacerbated the credibility issue.
There are several ways to address the challenge. Transparency in the admissions system can be ensured through making comprehensive information related to programmes, fees, application procedures and scholarship information available on university websites and other portals; defining clear criteria for scholarship awards; and encouraging applications from meritorious students from diverse geographical and socio-economic backgrounds.Further, a need-blind admission system will ensure that talented and meritorious students are not excluded on the basis of financial ability. Given India’s current demographic profile, the country’s developing context and the demands for high-quality education within the country, such a system will ensure that equity and access are prioritised and institutionalised within Indian higher education institutions.
At JGU, institutionalising processes that enable transparency, credibility and accountability within the student admissions function has been a central objective since the first batch of around 100 students was admitted to the university in 2009. Over the ten years since, our institutional capacity to enable this has been strengthened substantially. JGU’s Admissions and Outreach Office functions as the central department that leads and coordinates all efforts relating to admitting domestic and foreign students. The admissions criteria for various programmes are clearly defined and institutional processes at the schools and other coordinating departments are geared towards ensuring that the admissions process remains transparent and adheres to university policies. Outreach efforts for student recruitment have taken place at both national and international levels, in order that JGU can admit the best students from leading schools and meritorious students from across India. This is a work in progress and more efforts are needed in the future but the reputation of a university is built around the principles of transparency and integrity in the admissions process. In particularly, private universities are even more vulnerable as there are historical biases and prejudices against private higher education in India, largely due to the lack of a transparency admissions process.
- Internationalisation at the heart of institution building
Developing international networks and collaborations with leading foreign universities carries utility for not simply a one-way stream of knowledge from the developed to the developing, but enables dialogical interactions on new areas of research, pedagogical innovations, enhancements to student learning, advances in educational technology and intercultural sensitisation.
The view of international education as a means to greater cross-national understandings that has been a powerful political and socio-cultural rationale in American higher education, for example, is now a prevalent rationale in higher education in other regions of the world, including China. International education programmes such as study abroad, exchange, summer/winter schools, dual-degrees, and joint projects serve as an important way for students and participants to expand their understanding and overcome prejudices of other cultures, gain access to diverse views, and learn in new contexts. Another important means to nurturing partnerships with foreign HEIs is working with alumni in overseas institutions. In addition to being familiar with both partnering institutions, cultivating an alumni base can also provide guides and mentors for younger and current students seeking short or long-term opportunities abroad.
For universities, internationalisation has to go beyond the creation of international networks thatenable collaborative activities and international education opportunities. In the increasingly interconnected and complex spaces that will define the work and lives of university graduates over the coming decades, it is essential that higher education institutions provide enabling environments that foster creativity, encourage innovation, promote interdisciplinary thinking, and prepare students with collaborative skills. Exposure to non-local cultures, traditions and environments through internationalisation of university functions is a strong approach to complement existing mechanisms to spur the holistic development of programmes and delivery methods in universities.
Given this context, Indian universities have to carefully consider their policies for establishing global collaborations and activities that promote global interaction and provide for a global student experience. It is not useful to sign numerous memoranda of understanding that do not translate into concrete forms of collaboration among universities leading to implementation of programmes for students and scholars. Universities, as a part of their internal governance mechanisms, need to evolve policies that will guide them in establishing collaborations with other institutions.
We need to innovate on programmes that enable direct interaction between foreign teachers and Indian students, and a true collaboration that provides for a rich student experience as opposed to collaborations that remain only on paper. One important area in which global collaboration can revolutionise student experience relates to teaching and learning. Today’s technologically advanced world provides scope for innovation in terms of promoting e-learning and virtual global classrooms based on meaningful international collaborations. Such methods can provide students the benefit of interacting with academics and experts from around the world and gain from their knowledge and pedagogical methodology.
If India is to create world-class universities, our focus needs to be on providing an experience of transnational education to the students.This will expose them to new and emerging frontiers of knowledge and perspectives. It will also introduce them to new cultures and people and help them to appreciate diversity in an increasingly cosmopolitan and interdependent world. Transnational education is no longer the luxury of a few, but a necessary aspect of educational and learning experiences around the world.
We also need to adopt a more outward-looking approach. One of the strongest critiques of Indian higher education institutions is that they tend to get complacent with little success. Unique socio-political contexts cannot be used to justify the lack of sustained global competitiveness. There is a need for a renaissance in our attitude toward higher education. There is also a need to understand and contextualise global best practices for Indian conditions, for instance, in course design and pedagogy.Indeed, international collaborations in the form of student exchanges,faculty exchanges, joint teaching, joint research, joint conferences, joint publications, joint executive education programmes, summer and winter schools, and study-abroad programmes are ways to promote the global engagement of Indian higher education institutions.
It is important that we focus on internationalisation of faculty members and students within Indian universities. This is one of the major challenges facing Indian universities. The majority of Indian universities have faculty members who are only Indian nationals. Universities in India,unlike most parts of the developed world and increasingly, among the countries in the emerging economies, which are hiring faculty members from around the world.
Indian universities have to create an enabling environment that will create favourable conditions for the recruitment of faculty and students from around the world. In a world that is globalised, knowledge creation and sharing of knowledge cannot be limited by nationality and place of origin. World-class universities have always attracted faculty and students from around the world. Indian universities need to learn from the experiences of other countries in the BRICS and emerging economies.There has to be a new imagination of Indian universities. It has to draw its inspiration from the past, but will also have to look to the future. Transformational change needs to take place at every level of policy making,regulation and governance in higher education, if Indian universities are serious about seeking global excellence and through that achieving higher rankings.
JGU throughout its short history has aspired to the kind of internationalism that has characterised exceptional institutions of higher learning. The university’s mission is centred on adopting a global approach to our vision, specifically to promote a global perspective through a global faculty, global courses, global programmes, global curriculum, global research, and global collaborations in a research-intensive environment, ensuring academic freedom and functional autonomy. This vision has been consciously integrated into JGU’s core functions since the University’s founding in 2009. International support networks of scholars, academics and practitioners played an important role in the establishment of the University and its growth. Since 2009, this support has grown, consolidated and formalised into collaborative agreements with leading universities and higher education institutions across the world.
The central objective of JGU’s international collaborations has been to create opportunities to fulfil the aspirations of the students and faculty. JGU has pursued and succeeded in developing the broadest possible framework of international collaborations that has enabled the University to partner and work with over 250 universities and higher education institutions spread across over 50 countries in the world. These collaborations span all regions of the world, including South and South East Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, United Kingdom, Europe, United States, Canada and Australia. Over 80 of JGU’s collaborating partner universities are ranked in the top 500 of one of the renowned global rankings such as the Times Higher Education rankings, the QS University Rankings, and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Academic Ranking of World Universities.
JGU has developed 10 different forms of international collaborations with partner institutions: faculty exchange programmes, student exchange programmes, joint teaching arrangements, joint research projects and initiatives, joint conferences, joint publications, short term study abroad programmes, inbound immersion programmes, dual degree programmes, and joint executive education programmes. In addition, a large number of JGU’s faculty members have at least one degree from the leading universities of the world in addition to having qualifications from the leading universities in India. This has ensured that teaching and research at JGU are of the highest quality and benchmark against the best national practices and international standards in renowned universities in India and the world.
- Hiring of outstanding faculty as inspiring teachers and prolific researchers
Of all the significant inputs that go into the making a world-class university, it is necessary to recognise that the faculty is the most important and indeed the most significant. Outstanding faculty members who can make great substantive contributions to teaching and research create world – class universities. It is only by hiring and retaining inspiring teachers and rigorous researchers that we can hope to establish world-class universities in India.At best, most Indian universities are largely teaching institutions. The focus of the academic agenda is to be engaged in teaching and the faculty members tend to teach a disproportionately higher number of hours in a week. This has undermined any possibility for the faculty members to be engaged in research and publication.
Indian aspirations to build world-class universities ought to centre on the hiring of faculty from India and overseas. Globalisation has created new opportunities for Indian academics to be able to move around the world and India is not their only option to pursue serious academic careers.In fact, many graduates from universities in India seek higher education opportunities around the world and even if some of them choose to come into academia, they rarely decide to work in India. There are a number of reasons why Indian universities are not in a position to attract very bright graduates across disciplines to come into academia in India, but this situation is changing with new opportunities.
There is also an urgent need for Indian universities to diversify their faculty composition to include academics and scholars from across the world. The leading universities of the world have recognised and acted on the benefits of building an international faculty. The world renowned ranking frameworks rank top universities to a benchmark of at least 25 per cent international faculty, making this a crucial feature to attain for young and aspiring universities.
Since its founding in 2009, JGU has consistently focused on building a global faculty. This is reflected in the fact that 55% of JGU’s current faculty members have received their educational qualifications from the top 200 universities of the world. This includes Rhodes Scholars who received at least one degree from the University of Oxford, and recipients of Commonwealth Scholarships, Erasmus Scholarships, Commonwealth Scholarships, Gates Cambridge Scholarship and other prestigious international fellowships and scholarships. A large number of JGU’s qualified faculty members of Indian citizenship have also obtained graduate and postgraduate degrees from the best Indian institutions that include reputed Central and State universities, National Law Schools across India, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs).
Further, 16% of JGU’s faculty members are drawn from 30 different countries and regions of the world. This includes faculty members of Indian origin and non-Indian citizenship. Countries of origin and nationality include Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Egypt,France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, Syria, United Kingdom, Ukraine, and the United States of America.
- Building a culture of research and publications
Research in every discipline, in the arts, humanities, sciences and social sciences, can have a profound impact on our society and beyond. Indifference and complacency to research has led to the inability of universities in India to produce knowledge that can impact policy, produce innovation,or provide solutions to social, economic and political problems that affect India as a nation.
Indian universities ought to become fertile avenues for generation of ideas through research and publications. Rigorous research in all fields is critical to India, as it will be expected to respond to new problems for which old solutions and perspectives may not be helpful.Research produces knowledge that gives clarity on the basis of an informed and deeper understanding of the issues involved. The creation of enabling research platforms help scholars and researchers reflect upon issues in a critical and coherent manner. Only by giving credit to the history of ideas will we be able to challenge existing patterns of thought.
For this to happen, the recruitment and retention of talented and accomplished faculty members is essential. Most Indian universities have not fully understood and appreciated the central role played by outstanding faculty members in leading their research agendas. Faculty and research are the fulcrum on which world-class universities are built. The need for recruiting the top-most faculty members and providing attractive compensation and benefits is a norm in all world-class universities. There cannot be a standardised system of faculty salaries in which all members, regardless of their qualification, academic performance, academic standing, research work and publication record need to be given same salaries because of their years of work experience, or for that matter seniority. It will be a futile exercise to promote research and scholarship in universities and encourage faculty members to take research seriously without an equally important public policy commitment to have a better faculty-student ratio. This can help in reducing the teaching responsibilities so that they engage in research and knowledge creation.
Challenging one-size-fits-all funding
The question of funding for research in Indian universities is inevitably connected to the role of State and regulatory bodies.Major reforms ought to address the acute shortage of funds and availability of resources for pursuing research. The Indian university landscape has a range of actors: state government-funded public universities, central government-funded public universities; state private universities, deemed universities and many other colleges in the form of degree awarding institutions. The current system of a one-size-fits-all policy for funding and resource allocation needs examination. Different university settings, including disciplines of knowledge require different forms of support to enable the faculty to pursue research.
Inculcating culture of research and knowledge creation
Generally, the Indian universities do not provide sufficient opportunities,both in terms of time and space for pursuing research; there is also a serious lack of funds and other forms of resources to pursue research and writing. This has to change. So long as we do not provide for research to be the central focus of higher education, at least in some of our premier universities, we will not be able to build world-class universities. Universities are expected to be knowledge creating institutions. Knowledge cannot be created in the absence of scholars who are prepared to read, think, reflect and write. The essence of a great university is its ability to influence change through research and the process of the discovery of truth leading to a rigorous analysis that creates knowledge and promotes innovation. This is true in the case of hard sciences, social sciences and humanities. Indian universities need to recognize this aspect of university education for them to develop higher standards in their pursuit of excellence.
Given that India is developing at an accelerated pace and undergoing multiple levels of transformation, a sustained growth effort will require that the national university ecosystem produces relevant knowledge that will complement the national development agenda and also support innovation ecosystems.Rankings is also an important aspect here. For Indian universities to be competitive and enter the global top 500 rankings of leading indices will require sustained investments in attracting talent from across the world. It is also imperative that we not only create research infrastructure but also a culture of research. This means that it is not simply good enough that any one institution does well because an institution’s ability to be globally competitive would depend on a national ecosystem that is geared to promoting innovative research. The combination of internal university level resources, complemented by a supportive national research ecosystem will enhance the chances of Indian universities breaking into the top global rankings.
Research has been a key pillar of JGU’s strategic vision. In particular, since our founding, JGU has insisted on research that is scientifically cutting-edge and socially relevant to the communities in which we are located, as well as larger concerns of the national developmental agenda. JGU has also recognised the clear need to build a diverse, interdisciplinary and enabling research environment. This is premised on recruiting high-quality faculty and researchers; creation of a diversified institutional architecture for research; incentivising rigorous and relevant research work; creating platforms for peer-group feedback on ongoing research; cultivating a community of researchers involved in socially relevant and participatory research work; synchronisation of JGU’s research and pedagogy; expanding opportunities for research publications; and industry-academia interface resulting in mutually beneficial research outcomes.
The need to design relevant pedagogies, to develop classroom practices and to integrate technologies in delivery are increasingly gaining attention. There is a growing concern that our pedagogical practices have not evolved to match advancements in theories of higher education in particular and social sciences & humanities in general. It is also widely recognised that the complexities of our world place huge demands on the youth to acquire skills that are practice-oriented, conceptually-strong and culturally-grounded. While we may be doing reasonably well in delivering traditionally stylized content, the dominant pedagogical practices are increasingly seen as inadequate in copying with new challenges of everyday life and in professional practice. They are also seen as falling short in terms of inculcating practices of being a good global citizen who is socially responsible, creative and ethical in conduct. Our collective future will depend on our ability to cultivate attitudes of respect, empathy, responsibility and service. Our pedagogical designs should reflect, embody and express these objectives.
JGU’s aim is not only to contribute to ongoing disciplinary debates, but also to lead and shape debates on important national and global issues, including vulnerable subject areas that may not be prioritised for governmental and larger public attention. Our researchers have explored issues relating to the LGBT community in India, the right to contraceptive services and information for women in the state of Haryana, the effectiveness of the death penalty, and ethics in business, among many others. JGU’s research interests are pluralistic in nature and our faculty members have pursued research relating to public policy, urban planning, intellectual property rights, humanitarian intervention, and several other themes that have significant interdisciplinary relevance.
The university’s research framework is designed to prioritise, incentivise and promote research engagement among faculty members. Several policies that we have formulated including rewards for research contributions and publications in Scopus-indexed journals, sabbatical leave policy, research professorships, staff development policies for conference grants and a very generous research grants policy have been aimed at promoting a culture of research. These efforts will continue to be consolidated over the coming years.
- Institutionalising accreditation, rankings and benchmarking
While quality in higher education cannot be contained in a definition,global rankings of universities have emerged as a dominant way of measuring their performance. There is today a serious debate on the need for Indian universities to be in the top 200 universities of the world and the urgency of seeking reforms that will the pave way for promoting excellence in higher education and research. It is important that Indian universities embrace the international rankings framework as well as international accreditation processes which will benchmark Indian universities with the world class universities in many countries. Today, the Times Higher Education World Universities Rankings, QS World University Rankings,and the Shanghai Jiatong Rankings have become part of the institutional aspirations for many universities and higher education institutions in India.
The Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies Rankings released over the past few years has given many new insights into the performance and contribution of universities in BRICS and emerging economies. It demonstrates the need for stronger and sharper attention to issues of quality and excellence to be paid by India. Indian universities are yet to break into the top ranks of these ranking lists.
While the poor performance of Indian universities in the global rankings is a matter of grave concern, it is worth noting the criterion based upon which these ranking agencies rank universities.The Times Higher Education World University Rankings has underscored the importance of research and publications for rankings. The rankings assess the universities on the basis of the following criteria:teaching (30 per cent); research (30 per cent); citations (30 per cent);international outlook (7.5 per cent); and industry income (2.5 per cent). The QS World University Ranking’s methodology has further reinforced the importance of research and publications for universities to be globally recognized as institutions of excellence. The weightage for the six indicators used for these rankings are as follows: academic reputation – 40 percent; citation per faculty – 20 per cent; faculty–student ratio – 20 per cent;employer reputation – 10 per cent; international faculty ratio – 5 per cent; and international student ratio – 5 per cent.
Academic reputation, the most significant indicator, is based on the views and perspectives of fellow academics around the world, which are producing the best research in their field of expertise. This essentially means that 60 per cent of the weightage for these rankings are based on research contribution of universities.The issue of deterioration in the academic standards in most Indian universities is indeed a matter of concern. These rankings have demonstrated the fact that our higher education system needs to be over hauled for India to compete in the world of university education where academic innovation, intellectual freedom, and research excellence are constantly promoted. The challenges related to higher education in India deserve urgent attention and require determined responses.
The top ranked universities of the world have invested in achieving excellence on the key rankings criteria. In addition, internationalisation is an important criterion for breaking into the global rankings. This includes measures on the number and influence of international students, international faculty, global engagements and partnerships on research, teaching, and faculty and student exchange. The global ranking frameworks have increasingly become an indicator of the institutional quality of higher education institutions and are a powerful measure of real-world impact of universities and their role as knowledge creators.
Since its founding, JGU has emphasised the need to become a model of excellence in higher education both in India and among the leading universities of the world. In 2010, only a year following the establishment of JGU, the university’s first school, Jindal Global Law School was recognised as a “Premium Higher Education Institute” by Ernst & Young and FICCI in the 2010 report “New Realities, New Possibilities: The Changing Face of Indian Higher Education”. Further, in 2016, in a testament to JGU’s commitment to high-quality teaching, research and institutional excellence, the University was awarded the highest ‘A’ grade in the first cycle of accreditation by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC). JGU’s oldest school, the Jindal Global Law School has been ranked as the best private law school in India for three consecutive years in 2015, 2016 and 2017 by the prestigious Careers360 Law School Rankings. In 2017, JGU become the first and only private university in Haryana to receive the UGC 12B status. JGU was also ranked first on the all-India Swachhta Rankings of higher education institutions in 2017 and second in 2018.
To fulfil our commitment to institutionalising accreditation and international ranking effort, JGU established the Office of Rankings, Benchmarking and Institutional Transformation (ORBIT) to analyse the metrics and methodologies of ranking systems and to understand how we can do better year after year. JGU actively participated in summits organised by leading ranking agencies, such as THE and QS, where we learnt best practices from the leading universities in the USA, Europe, India, Africa and East Asia. As a result, we realigned some of our own practices and policies to reflect our aspirations to build a world-class university. We also determined the manner in which JGU ought to report information about itself to these ranking agencies. We immediately set about collecting and curating information to be provided to them and for our own internal analytics.
In a demonstration of these substantial milestones, in June 2019, the QS World University Rankings 2020 were released worldwide. Out of more than 28,000 universities in the world, less than 4% were ranked by QS in terms of their performance criteria. JGU broke into the QSWorld University Rankings 2020 for the first time ever becoming the youngest university in the world to enter the latest rankings.Out of roughly 28,000+ universities and higher education institutions in the world, only 1,001 were ranked by QS in terms of their performance criteria. 50 universities were new entrants in the world university rankings.JGU was the only new entrant from India and the youngest globally to enter the QS World University Rankings 2020, being ranked between 751-800 globally. JGU now ranks amongst the top 2.67% of 28,000 universities globally.
JGU is also now ranked by QS in the global top 150 amongst all young universities that are under 50 years of age.This makes JGU the only private university, the youngest, and the only university to focus solely on social sciences, arts and humanities from India to be featured in the QS Young University Rankings 2020. JGU is the youngest of the top 150 universities around the world under 50 years of age that have been ranked. This is significant because in the QS World University Ranking, universities of all age groups compete with each other and the younger universities face a comparative disadvantage. This means that the University of Oxford, which was established over 800 years ago and JGU, which is just 10 years old are assessed for their performance in the same manner. Age does play a critical role in reputation, both amongst academics and the industry, which are key parameters in the QS World University Rankings. With this new milestone, JGU joined the likes of other reputed universities and our international partners such as Sorbonne University, University of Wollongong, Griffith University, Deakin University, Murdoch University, City University of Hong Kong, and Singapore Management University who also featured in the QS Young University Rankings 2020.
This is a significant achievement for a university that is just 10 years old. Even within the young university rankings, JGU competes with universities which have been in existence since 1969 in India and around the world. Even so, JGU has been mindful to remain a university focused only on the social sciences, arts and humanities and professional studies such as law and architecture. As a university that does not have pure and natural sciences, engineering and medicine, this achievement has been even more significant.
In one of the most significant achievements, in September 2019, JGU was selected as an ‘Institution of Eminence’ (IOE) by the Government of India. JGU thus became one of only eight private universities in India to be awarded this status.
Over the coming decade, building on our current global rankings, JGU will undertake several initiatives to consistently improve our position in the world rankings. These initiatives will include:
- Building strong institutional mechanisms to enhance institutional reputation using research and collaborations.
- Encouraging international exposure of faculty to academic conferences and other national and international research engagements.
- Driving JGU’s research agenda to promote co-authored papers with international scholars and academics outside JGU.
- Improving citation index and Google search results to augment JGU’s publications using simple techniques in use by leading and top ranked universities around the world.
- Ensuring faculty-student ratio of 1:10.
- Building robust doctoral programmes, and enhancing JGU’s reputation to attract the best minds.
- Securing consulting and advisory projects using JGU’s intellectual capital from government and private corporations.
- Increasing internal research funding.
- Facilitating faculty applications for research grants from external agencies.
- Expanding JGU’s foreign student body by venturing into new geographies and underrepresented demographic regions.
- Further investing institutional efforts in building international collaborations, with targets that have direct research focus.
- Promoting diversity, inclusion and accessibility
Diversity is identified as a congregation of varying identities,perspectives, experiences, backgrounds,ideas, approaches and orientations. In the increasingly multicultural, plural environments that we now inhabit, the concept of diversity will be varyingly defined based on culture, society and individuals. In all cases however,diversity is a consideration of a wide range of perspectives and human individualities within spaces that foster and encourage openness to differences in ideas and orientations. From an organisational perspective, a commitment to diversity will allow acceptance of and respect for distinctive,unique and individual approaches to speech and action. These approaches may emerge from aspects that include race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age,physical and mental abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and other ideologies. At its core, a sustained preservation of diversity can be said to preserve human survival itself, help prevent radical segregation and fundamentalism and create greater agency for inclusion. For organisations that seek to succeed in the contemporary times then, institutionalising the ideas of diversity and inclusion represents an opportunity to advance the possibilities for dialogue,mutual understanding, and more sustainable solutions to social, political,economic and environmental challenges.
For higher education institutions across the world, contemporary challenges pose an existential question: how must we approach the process of educating students for the 21st century world? In addressing this, the transformative influence of education is central. An academic, learning and residential environment that consciously promotes openness to differences in ideas and orientations is essential. A working environment that disincentivises antagonistic responses to differences and variations is also important. In the 21st century organisation, diversity and inclusion are not expected to need active reinforcement, as work forces and student bodies become increasingly and naturally plural. The ability of students to cope in the complex environments into which they graduate will necessarily depend on the commitment of universities to becoming more inclusive,diverse, plural and equitable learning spaces.
A core element of JGU’s objectives and priorities for the coming years is to drive inclusive institutional development. The need for building a diverse and inclusive university was implicated in our founding vision that emphasised both the imperatives of modelling ourselves on the best global universities and also our commitment to be part of a larger public service mission by serving as a model of excellence in higher education in India. From the very beginning, we understood that to build a university that aspires to meet global standards, diversification in all its multidimensionality has to acquire a preeminent role in what we do at JGU.
Diversity and inclusion are multidimensional paradigms. They have some elements that can be measured and others that may be more consequential, and yet intangible. We report with satisfaction that in a short span of nine years, we have been fortunate to make significant progress on some of the key dimensions such as gender parity, diversified regional representation in both our student body and staff positions, faculty educational backgrounds, representation of women in academic leadership positions, range and diversity of our international collaborations,choice of course offerings and pedagogical styles, and research programmes.
There remain challenges on other dimensions that we see as crucial to our responsibility as a higher education institution based in a developing context. These include attracting students from marginalised communities in India and scaling up international student participation. In that direction, we are making focussed and institutionalised efforts, including consistently seeking opportunities to secure resources that could help us reach out to marginalised communities. We also want to pay closer attention to improving inclusion on other indicators such as gender identity and sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity and caste. There 16 key indicators of diversity and inclusion that JGU has identified for sustained focus. These are: national origin, state origin, gender parity,age, religion & caste, educational &professional background, disability,academic offerings & interdisciplinarity, pedagogy, research & disciplinary diversity, international collaborations &partnerships, governance & leadership,student financial inclusion, inclusive teaching & learning, gender identity &sexual orientation, and community outreach & engagement.
A key focus for JGU in terms of increasing accessibility to our programmes and academic offerings has been student scholarships. JGU’s scholarship programmes have been aimed at enabling meritorious students who are constrained by financial ability to pursue graduate and postgraduate programmes. These include the O. P. Jindal Outstanding Merit Scholarships, Naveen Jindal Young Global Scholarships, Shallu Jindal Outstanding Women Scholarships, Savitri Jindal Studentships/ Graduate Assistantships, Programme based Scholarships, special Chancellor/Vice Chancellor’s Scholarships, Jindal Africa Scholarships, and the Jindal Afghanistan Scholarship and Empowerment Programme. At least 50% of our students are scholarship awardees under various categories. In addition, students who face exceptional financial circumstances during the course of their study at JGU are supported through studentships and deferred fee payment programmes to complete their academic study.
In order to achieve our pedagogical needs and objectives of diversity and inclusion, it is very important that we create an environment – both across the University and within our classrooms – that exemplifies an ethos of dialogue. Dialogue is a substantially important skill for our students to learn and embody, given that they would experience a range of differences and diversities in their everyday life. Respectful dialogue is the means through which they could negotiate the social, economic and technological complexities that they would encounter in their daily lives. In more ways than one, our classrooms should become safe havens of dialogical forms of engagement where everyone feels that they are active and equal participants in an exchange of ideas, knowledge and perspectives. Respectful dialogue will continue to be one of our key modes of functioning and engagement with one another at JGU. That alone will enable us to create an environment where our students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders feel that they are part of a project that is worthy of their support and commitment.
As JGU expands, we will be focused on creating a broader scholarship base, strong endowment and funding networks, and improved support systems for students who may be faced with financial exigencies, in order that more students can benefit from the high-quality education that JGU will provide.
In recent years, there has been a growing concern that values imbibed through educational processes have tended to focus on technocratic, managerial and instrumental purposes, thus undermining our capacity to lead fuller and more meaningful lives. An ethical imagination as well as imagination of what is ethical are increasingly being seen as central to educating the mind for self-actualisation, both through career advancement as well as participation in larger societal processes. We have to see ethics as an integral part of all our programmes, courses and activities, and not as a distinct or specialised field. We have to view and undergird the ethical imagination in our classrooms and larger institutional practices. This is not merely a vision for an idealistic life, but also has practical consequences for building trust, cooperation and mutual respect amongst us.
Apart from promoting diversity and inclusion within the institution, JGU has ensured active and meaningful engagement and participation with the local community at large. It was born out of a commitment at JGU to motivate its students, faculty and non-teaching staff to actively interact, understand the complexities and relate with the underprivileged sections of the society, outside and beyond the campus. This include initiatives such as starting legal aid clinics, conducting socio-cultural events for local communities and involving them in capacity building programmes.
- Developing active participation of all stakeholders for good governance
World-class universities can be developed and nurtured only when all the stakeholders of a university – students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni – in addition to relevant government agencies and departments, institutional partners and collaborators,potential donors and partners, neighbouring communities and other stakeholders become active participants in the university’s evolution, enabling the institution to take decisions about the university in an independent and transparent manner.
At JGU, our core values, framed at our founding, explicitly refer to transparency and accountability to all stakeholders. One of the key ways in which we have strived to achieve this has been through setting out public documents such as JGU’s Strategic Vision 2029 through which key institutional commitments are communicated to all our stakeholders.
Strengthening the role of our students as stakeholders
In our role as educators, our primary responsibility to our students is that we adequately equip them to navigate a complex world, develop a sense of belonging with their communities and the larger world, and shape them as responsible and active citizens. In their daily life as part of the JGU community,we want our students to feel a sense of ownership and belonging, allowing them to participate more effectively and constructively in achieving our institutional goals. An essential element in accomplishing this is listening to our students. We have made sincere efforts over the past nine years to put in place systems to collect student feedback and resolve grievances in a time-bound manner. As we expand our student body over the coming years, we will focus on increasing student participation in decision-making, strengthening our feedback and redressal systems, and creating more avenues for student voices to be expressed. But this is an ongoing effort and continues to remain a challenge in all universities including ours. We have to do more to engage with the student community and make them feel an even more stronger part of being an institutional stakeholder.
Special emphasis was given on developing a vibrant student life on campus. This involved nurturing active, student led initiatives in academic as well as cultural persuasions. While the enabling governance structure and generous financial support ensured that students can engage in a variety of activities out-side the classroom, however, JGU takes the pride in acknowledging that the success of these activities relies largely on sheer motivation of the students and their hard-work. There is more to be done as residential university campuses such as JGU and other universities in India and around the world are trying to find ways and means to connecting with the students beyond the academic and intellectual imagination of their lives. One substantive initiative that was promoted in JGU recently was the establishment of the Office of Student Life and Cultural Engagement. But there is more that needs to be done towards building a vibrant community at JGU in which students are able to experience holistic development of themselves as a part of their campus life experience.
The Way Forward
A contemporary challenge of our times is the expansion of global interconnectedness in the absence of educational opportunities to match it. While global economic and technological interactions are intensifying, this is not adequately reflected in the demographic and cultural profiles of educational institutions across the world. While more and more young people are gaining opportunities to work together in multi-national spaces, the opportunities to immerse in cross-cultural educational spaces appears to be minimal. This is particularly acute in developing societies given the shortage of resources, historical experience, fragile policy frameworks and weak institutional capacities. There is a need to diversify our student and faculty demographics to adequately reflect the demands of both the market place and socio-cultural trends in most societies.
The role of pedagogy will be especially crucial to achieving these goals. There is a larger conversation around the world on whether educational institutions are cultivating the right kind of orientation for life, both within and outside academia, given broader developments in technology, society, law, economy and other central spheres of life. Amidst this, there are concerns that current models of education are far too focused on reinforcing existing structures, paradigms and inequities, and largely do not serve as enablers of creativity and ethical practices.
In this context, what could we do to address these concerns in our daily teaching practices? How do we create a paradigm that provides better chances of enabling teaching practices that could unleash and enhance students’ potential for creative expression, ethical practices and committed participation in larger social processes?
Moving forward, I believe that there are a set of skills that our current and future students are expected to develop through educational processes and that are seen as most suited for the uncertain world that is perpetually in transition. These skills are at the foundation of the ten factors explained above. They include building strong character and courage, inculcating an ability to live with uncertainty, embracing interdisciplinary orientation, ensuring that dialogues are always respectful, and boundless imagination but within the ethical contours of our society.
In a world that is uncertain and where our existing knowledge is inadequate for the tasks we are required to perform, character, determination and courage drive our ability to cope effectively, creatively and ethically. If our education system has to fully realise its vision of developing holistic capacities to thrive in a changing world, it is necessary that our educational processes not only invest in intellectual development, but also the development of character, courage and personal orientations. This is perhaps what Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had in mind when he wrote:
“Genius is not ‘talent plus character’, but character manifesting itself in the form of a special talent … One might say: “Genius is talent exercised with courage.’ … Courage is always original”
At JGU, we want to ensure that such an orientation towards building character and courage is emphasised in the opportunities we provide for academic development, non-curricular engagement, and most importantly, how teachers imbibe and embody this spirit. Of particular importance is the manner in which we provide safe spaces for our students to learn from their own mistakes, experiment, undertake imaginative projects and express themselves creatively without fear of failure. This is of course, a work in progress and all of us as educators need to be mindful of the enormous challenges to inspire young people to overcome the fear of failure.
Our contemporary times are marked by complexity, uncertainty and volatility. Traditional paradigms of knowledge production and dissemination have been found to be largely inadequate for the purposes of effective professional practice and democratic conduct. Our students are expected to acquire a range of skills that will allow them to navigate the social, political, organisational, technological and economic complexities that they will invariably encounter in their personal life and professional careers. It is also important that we emphasise the skills of learning as much as providing substantive knowledge in specialised areas. These skills should not be restricted to how best to complete their academic programmes but also to enable them to make learning a lifelong endeavour.
Higher education systems across the world are in transition. The intensification of globalisation, technological changes, shifts in demographic profiles, ease of mobility of human and financial capital, and changes in perceptions have made it imperative that we reimagine the role of universities and higher education to align them with the trends of our time. Rethinking the role of higher education and more specifically the role of universities requires us to ask a series of questions. Most important among them is the question of access, particularly in the contexts of developing societies that have large sections of underprivileged individuals who are at the periphery of the formal economy.
Ensuring that we have resources and capacities that translate into opportunities for our youth is a necessary but not a sufficient condition. For a higher education system to fulfill its socioeconomic purpose,it must focus on creating institutional processes, pedagogical resources and social bases to make higher education meaningful, enriching and economically viable for students. This would mean focusing as much on the quality of our institutional processes, quality of student experiences and the social impact of our outcomes. This demands holistic, inclusive and value-based approaches that prepare our young people to face the demanding challenges of an increasingly globalised and inter-connected world. These goals have to be attained by institutions of higher education in complex social, legal, political, cultural, economic, regulatory and institutional contexts particularly in developing societies.
In the emerging world, creativity of students, teachers and the larger society will be enhanced by increasing the diversity profile of our universities. Bringing together students and faculties drawn to and from a range of disciplines, educational backgrounds, demographic profiles, political leanings and ideological orientations is a basic building block for developing educated minds and nurturing creativity and innovativeness for the future. Cross-cultural educational experiences have become necessary for preparing our young generation for future work and life. Educational institutions have an opportunity to emerge as microcosms of the real worlds that our graduates will inhabit.
To the extent that the lived experience in the University represents that reality, our students will be adequately prepared for the complex nature of cultural and creative life that we expect them to participate in while pursuing their university education. The opportunities for diversification of our educational processes are immense. The interest in participating in educational processes outside of home universities is growing and we are in the midst of dramatic changes in our educational landscapes. This trend will only intensify in the coming years. The success of educational institutions will be measured by their ability to create institutional spaces where culture, experiences and ideas come together to fertilise with ideas, imagination and innovations.Campus, News