Nalanda, one of the world’s oldest universities, is being revived by the Bihar government. The state has acquired the land required for the Rs 1,000-crore project and the university could have functioning schools as early as next year, more than eight centuries after Bakhtiar Khilji destroyed it.
Though it taught science, mathematics and logic, ancient Nalanda’s pre-eminence in Buddhist studies has got the governments of Japan, China and Singapore interested in the project. "The university would not belong to Bihar, it would belong to the world," Dr Madan Jha, Bihar’s principal secretary (education), told Sunday HT.
Among the seven schools planned in the five-year first phase — at the end of which it would have 4,530 students and 453 faculty members — would be those that offer integrated post-graduate and research programmes in information technology, bioinformatics, developmental studies, and applied sciences.
The Department of Natural Resource Management would supply agricultural technology to 300 villages around the 500 acres bought by the state for the project.
President APJ Abdul Kalam played guardian angel when, 16 months ago, he listed Nalanda’s reconstruction as one of Bihar’s 10 priorities.
Since then, apart from buying the land, the Nitish Kumar government has enacted the legislation necessary for setting up the university.
According to the project report prepared by the Educational Consultants India, the international character of the university would partly flow from the 46 faculty members that would be hired from abroad (there would be 582 faculty members at the end of the 10-year project).
The report mentions an annual salary of $36,000 (Rs 14.4 lakh) for each of them. The plan for the university buildings, too, would be open to bidding by international consultants.
The way ahead is to be decided by a ‘mentor group’ chaired Professor Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate. The first meeting of the group — which would include Harvard historian Sugata Bose, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeoh and scholars from Japan and China — is scheduled in Singapore in July. The group would later meet in Tokyo, Beijing and India before submitting its recommendations by the end of the year.
Shigeyuki Shimamori, counsellor in charge of cultural affairs at the Japanese embassy in Delhi, said: "We hope this group is not yet closed. The more members, the better. We would think of funding the project only after the mentor group’s recommendations."