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Want to study at a Meta University?

The government proposes to set up a varsity to ensure cross-disciplinary learning that produces well-rounded intellectuals and triggers innovation.

education Updated: Nov 30, 2011 12:50 IST
Rahat Bano

If you are a geek in a tech-school with a burning passion for the arts, you won’t at the moment be able to explore the technological and creative worlds together.

However, there’s a chance that in about a year’s time you could be taking up diametrically-opposite academic streams at the same time. The government proposes to create a Meta University (MU) to enable cross-disciplinary learning that produces more rounded intellectuals and triggers innovation.

In many Western universities, students have the freedom to graduate in diverse disciplines together – physics and international relations, for example. If all goes well in implementing the proposal, MU will facilitate something similar yet quite different.

The proposed university has been so named (Meta is Greek for “going beyond”) as it will “go beyond the conventional boundaries”. There will be a network of institutions to allow a student at, say, a scientific institution in Bangalore to enroll for a history course at a liberal arts institution in New Delhi. The arrangement is expected to include face-to-face interaction and involve mentors for students.

“It’s all about enlarging the choices of the student,” says R Gopalakrishnan, member secretary, National Innovation Council (NInC), which has piloted the move. The government has declared 2010-2020 as India’s decade of innovation.

The intent behind MU is to train “people who combine the left brain attributes (analytical and logical) with right brain attributes (thoughtful and subjective) because these minds are most conducive to innovation,” elaborates Gopalakrishnan.

Students will be able to take full degrees from the university as long as they fulfil all credit requirements.

Would working people and those who are not regular students be able to benefit from it? No, there are open and distance learning courses available to them, says the official.
The first session is slated for a June 2012 launch. At least 1,000 professionals are expected to graduate from MU by 2014.

While the ministry of human resource development is to take the proposal forward by calling a meeting with universities representatives, admission and other details will have to be worked out by the academia.

The multi-disciplinary, trans-institutional model could materialise by using the National Knowledge Network, which has so far connected 440 out of a targeted 1500 universities through a high speed (multi gigabit) fibre-based, broadband network.

“Though the internet and technology are fundamental to this conception of the Meta University, at the crux is not a new technology but a ‘new pedagogy’ that is more in tune with the requirements of the knowledge society of the twenty-first century,” says NInC’s Report to the People 2011. “In such an environment there is a greater focus on moving from the chalk and talk model with the teacher at the centre, to a learner-centric, collaborative model that allows continuous learning from the environment. The web/ internet, therefore, provides both a platform for communication and collaborations as well as a source of content.”

Changing Paradigms
* The first session is slated for a June 2012 launch. At least 1,000 professionals are expected to graduate from MU by 2014
* The arrangement is expected to include face-to-face interaction and involve mentors for students.
* The intent behind MU is to train people who combine the left brain attributes (analytical and logical) with right brain attributes (thoughtful and subjective) because these minds
are most conducive to innovation