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Together they learn

This one-of-its kind university in Delhi helps students from SAARC countries learn to live together happily under one roof and build long-term bonds

education Updated: Dec 08, 2010 09:22 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

When Rahul Singh came to Delhi from Dehradun to study for an MCA in South Asian University, he was made to share a room with one student from Pakistan and another from Bangladesh. “Initially I thought there would be three distant corners in the room (but much to my delight), we now share the room like a family and use each other’s things without any hesitation,” says Singh.

The camaraderie that binds students from SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) countries is indeed heartening. They laugh together, study together, stay together but don’t play together because the university campus is too small to accommodate a playground. Currently the university is operating from a very tiny campus in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) where a total of 50 students study.

Principally, the number of Indian students can't exceed 50% but as the university couldn’t draw sufficient numbers of international students in its first year of inception (2010), the present composition is heavily skewed in favour of Indian students. Of the eight SAARC countries students have come from only six this year.

One special feature of this university is in the variety of programmes that are offered in the science and arts streams. “We do not wish to leave any knowledge holes. In the second phase (set to start after 2014), we even plan to offer programmes in engineering and medicine,” says Dr Rajiv K Saxena, officer on special duty, academics and planning.

Known for:
This is a joint initiative of all eight SAARC countries and it is a one-of-a- kind institution wherein students and faculty from all eight countries are being encouraged to learn, work together and produce cutting-edge research. This, it is believed, will solve the issues affecting SAARC countries with regard to their economies, cultures, environment and politics.

Programmes:
MA in development economics and MCA. From 2011, the university will also offer MSc in biotechnology, MA in sociology, international relations and LLM.

Extra-curricular:
Being a four-month-old university operating from an extremely small transit campus, it doesn’t offer any sports facilities at present.

Infrastructure:
The campus is very small and located in JNU. Surprisingly, all outstation students are given hostel accommodation too, with three students sharing a room.

Next year, part of the campus will shift to another transit campus (most probably in Chanakyapuri) while the permanent campus in Maidan Garhi, spread over 100 acres, will take another three-four years before it gets operational.

Found on campus:
“I came here because my country (Bangladesh) doesn't have a good university which offers a programme in development economics. Another reason is that it is an international university and is located in India, which is now known for quality in higher education,” says Kazi Sayed Anwar, a first year student of MA development economics, who wants to join the planning commission in Bangladesh after finishing his postgraduation.

Wishlist
“It is good to stay on the campus but the residential block should be located at a distance from the academic section. Our classrooms are located so close to the hostel rooms that we sometimes just get out of bed and barge into the classroom,” says Rahul Singh, a first year student of MCA.

“The professors are too intelligent to understand our level of understanding. They should try to make lessons easier for us to understand,” says a student after appearing for the semester exam

Factfile
South Asian University opened in 2010 with two programmes - one is science (MCA) and the other in humanities (development economics). Its aim was to establish a postgraduate teaching and research institution.

Plans are afoot to also establish an Institute of South Asian Studies, which will invite people to carry out collaborative research. The long-term goal of the University are to encourage research and acquire the status of a think tank of sorts and contribute to policymaking for the SAARC region