The theme of the coming summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) countries here is people's partnerships and how the region could be developed through human interface. Under this guiding principle, one topic that would come up for discussion during the ministerial-level interaction is the progress made in setting up the first ‘South Asian University’.
The university, expected to be functioning within the next two years, would have its first campus in New Delhi. On May 26, External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, laid the foundation of a 100-acre plot for the campus near the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in South Delhi.
“A lot of progress has been made in setting up the university. The campus area has been designated and four experts from different countries have been appointed to oversee it's development,” Professor Gamini Samaranayake, University Grants Chairman, Sri Lanka, told HT on Wednesday. Former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) vice-chancellor GK Chadha has also been appointed the ‘chief executive officer’ (CEO) of the nascent university.
Samaranayake, who was present in New Delhi on May 26, is closely working with senior SAARC academics including India's UGC chairperson Professor S Thorat on implementing the ambitious concept.
The proposal of such a university was floated by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Dacca SAARC summit in December, 2005. The idea, soon after ratified by the rest of the SAARC nations, was to set up a university where students from all South Asian countries could be taught by an international faculty and study an array of modern and traditional disciplines.
Samaranayake said the university would offer both under graduate and post graduate courses. “Initially, we are expecting about 100 students. The number of students from each country would be decided according to the country's population,” he said, adding that while several disciplines would be on offer, focus would be on liberal arts. Samaranayake said there is enthusiasm about the university in the academic circles of Colombo. The issue has been discussed at the cabinet level here as well.