Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nalanda – World’s oldest university recreated

It is the world’s oldest university and after centuries, is now set to be recreated. Nalanda in Bihar, a renowned seat of learning and excellence 800 years ago, will soon stand tall again – this time as a truly international university.

The Nalanda International University, a pet project of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, hopes to revive the lost glory of the 4th century university that drew students and scholars from across Asia. The new avatar is also being designed to serve as India’s very own centre for conflict resolution, on the lines of the one at Geneva.

A first of its kind in Asia, the university is being funded by India, China, Japan, Singapore and Thailand. The university will have seven schools comprising faculty from India and abroad who will impart teaching in courses like science, philosophy, spiritualism and international relations.

Nobel laureate Prof. Amartya Sen, who was appointed as the Chancellor of the university last week, has already announced that the first two of the seven proposed post-graduate schools will start functioning from next year. Each of the two schools – School of Historical Studies and School of Ecology and Environmental Studies – will have 100 students enrolled for the programme.

The Rs. 2000-crore international project, though, has been plagued by a string of controversies. A tussle between Prof. Sen and former president APJ Abdul Kalam – two of the country’s most celebrated brains – saw the project hitting a major roadblock. Dr Kalam walked out of the project last year, apparently over differences with Prof. Sen, who is also the chairman of the Nalanda governing board. He was reportedly upset over the appointment of Gopa Sabharwal – a close aide of Prof. Sen – as the Vice Chancellor of the university.

The proposed university was also mired in financial troubles with funds trickling in slowly from the Centre. The ambitious project, though, finally has a roadmap in place drawn by the Planning Commission as part of the 12th five year plan.