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Enjoy the taste of freedom

A combination of fierce intellectualism and openness gives JNU its unique identity

education Updated: May 16, 2011 14:35 IST
Suzanne Hughe

A stint at the 40-day summer school at this university’s School of Life Sciences, in 2007, helped Abhilash Gangadharan decide that he wanted to pursue an MTech degree here.

There was something about Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) – the ethos, the people – that made him come back. Having met several JNU students at the time and being impressed, he joined the MTech programme in computational and systems biology. The university lived up to his expectations. “Both students and teachers are very grounded. Since the atmosphere is non-repressive and promotes free thinking, interactions are friendly and devoid of egos,” he says.

Neha Rohatgi, a trainee in bioinformatics at JNU, agrees. “JNU is reputed for its open culture, I am enjoying it here.”

The vibrant cultural scene at JNU makes it a centre of attraction. “Festivals range from regional ones organised by associations for states, to food or film festivals,” says Debjani Dutta, an MPhil student at the School of Arts and Aesthetics.

Nahid Morshedlu, an exchange student working on her MPhil in Persian studies, says, “We are allowed to celebrate our own national festivals, and being from Iran, it is important to me to celebrate certain significant annual festivals.”

JNU has several schools of study on a 1000-acre campus. The University Grants Commission has declared numerous JNU units as Centres of Excellence. The university also boasts of a large number of prominent alumni in various fields.

The faculty is said to personify approachability and openness to personal interaction.

There are 10 schools in total, each with centres that cater to large fields of study and specialisations. The School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies is the only one to offer undergraduate courses. Other schools offer masters’ programmes, and cover computational and systems biology, aesthetics, environmental biosciences, biotechnology, international trade and development, international politics, life sciences, philosophy, social medicine and community health, and regional development. An additional four separate, special centres teach law and governance, molecular medicine, Sanskrit studies and nano-sciences.

IT quotient:
The library has 200 computers and internal connectivity through LAN. It provides access to 36 international online databases and more than 14,000 text journals. All schools and centres are connected to the library server. A separate Helen Keller unit is equipped with 24 computers and scanners for the visually challenged. A full-fledged and regularly updated website can be accessed through www.jnu.ac.in.

Each school is located in a separate building – the newest one for arts and aesthetics featuring two big air conditioned classrooms equipped for audio-visual activity. Resident students are housed in 15 hostels and the nine-storey library has a prized collection of books, scholarly material, printed journals, newspapers, etc. Auditoria include an open air amphitheatre.

Clubs and societies:
There are several societies for diverse activities. Sports clubs include taekwondo, cricket, volleyball, badminton soccer, weightlifting and body building. A Yoga Kendra is open to all and even offers certificate courses.

JNU was established in 1969 by an Act of Parliament. The founders of the university aimed at the principles of justice and secularism, a pursuit of democratic life with a view of the social needs of the country. Today the university has about 550 teachers and 5,500 students, a 1:10 ratio.

“Wi-fi connectivity on campus,” says Debjani Dutta, first-year M Phil student of arts and aesthetics. Sometimes the library intranet server is down and the cyber café usually closes by about 8 pm. To access the internet in these situations, one would have to go to nearby outlets in Ber Sarai