Private liberal arts universities are taking a glocal (global and local) approach towards training students. While few believe in giving students a global exposure at the undergraduate level, others encourage students to spend time in rural India to help them connect and work with the locals there.
Ashoka University students can spend a full semester at one its eight partner institutes to pursue courses in a wide range of disciplines including economics, political science, and literature and get the credits transferred towards their major specialisation. However, it is not a compulsory part of their curriculum. “We encourage students to explore the opportunity to immerse in a different culture as well as build lasting connections with people from all over the globe,” professor Rudrangshu Mukherjee, vice chancellor, Ashoka University.
While Dr Pramath Raj Sinha, founder and trustee, Ashoka University sees the Ivy League institutions and the top 10 institutions in the USA, Oxford and Cambridge in the UK as their competition, he is quick to add “We don’t really see them as competition - more as peers and collaborators who are all on the same mission. Given that there are so, so many students who need and deserve a high-quality education we don’t have to compete.”
Azim Premji University believes in giving students a firsthand experience of rural India. So, students spend two weeks in the countryside to study the life and issues of people living there during their first semester and later on go for field projects and internships at the end of the first year or end of third semester, depending on the programme.
Students think this programme helps them to put class learning into practice and analyse real life problems. “As a part of field immersion, we (a team of four) attempted to study the on-going tussle between people living on the fringes of society like hawkers in trains and Indian Railways. The contested space between Indian railways as an institution, which is asserting its right over property and hawkers, who flout this property right every day to earn their livelihood, was our focus,” says Arun Sivaramakrishnan, an alumnus of MA development.