Private Universities in India Embrace the Liberal Arts Model of Higher Education
Our world has witnessed an unprecedented rise in the fields of science and technology in the past century. This wave of technological innovation in turn has fueled a global emphasis on and pursuit of knowledge. As knowledge and intellectual development grow as a priority for all nations, the value of higher education has been undeniably elevated.
In fact, in many countries higher education has become million-, even billion-dollar industries, with various institutions drawing crops of intellectually gifted individuals from all continents. Even so, as with most industries, there is a spectrum ranging from leaders within the field to those who have aspirations to follow suit.
One country seeking to emulate the traditional higher education powerhouses is India. Traditionally, the task of educating India’s youth has long been that of the federal government. However, in recent years, the private sector has realized the shortcomings of a federal education system, particularly on the university level. In view of this, a crop of exceptional and accomplished Indian businessmen has risen to the task of increasing the opportunities for and quality of education in India. Fueled by a vigorous sense of patriotism, and well-funded by their years of industrial efforts, these Indian businessmen are setting up universities all over the nation with hopes of raising the current Indian college-going rate of 12% – a rate that is shockingly low compared to most other developing nations.
What is truly amazing about these business executives is their willingness to “put their money where their mouth is.” Most of them are paying to establish these institutions of higher education out of their own pockets. Pawan Agarwal, a senior civil servant and author of Indian Higher Education: Envisioning the Future, comments, “For these guys, education is not a business, and they would continue to support it even if operating expenses aren’t covered”. Such is the commitment of these businessmen to the cause of educating their fellow countrymen that they would willingly make sacrifices to fund these universities. For example, Rajendra Pawar and Vijay Thandani, the owners of the multinational computer-training and consulting company NIIT have said that they will absorb nearly all the expenses during the first few years of running NIIT university – this project is no small venture seeing that they estimate the cost of completing the university within a decade to stand at an astronomical $44-million.
These industrialists see their efforts in developing the private higher education sector as offering “an alternative” to the current public higher education system that they believe is misguided. Graduates from the public universities in India are often encouraged to “think narrowly” and “learn passively”. As a result of this, only 10% of them are employable. To add insult to injury, so to speak, even the better students don’t have a well-rounded university experience. Using the liberal arts model of education, these “university planters” seek to remedy the “maladies” of the public higher education system by offering the students of their universities a holistic education. Mr. Pawar intends to develop a wide range of programs at his NIIT University in order to provide its students with a broad base of knowledge, he says, “A mechanical-engineering student will also study some literature and social sciences. And a psychology student will also study some mathematics and economics because it is important.” He adds, “We believe that in the 21st century, the distinction between science and the arts has to go”.
As more of our world begins to realize what Mr. Pawar and his associates believe about the importance of gaining a holistic education, ELI 360 is pleased to have championed the cause of liberal arts education throughout the past few years. Our partner universities are some of the most exceptional institutes of higher education, offering an education experience that is founded on a wide-base of knowledge – with a rigorous emphasis on intellectual, professional, psychological and spiritual development. Students that enroll in these universities can count on the fact that they will receive more than a diploma upon graduation, and that they will truly be equipped to face the world, regardless of whatever field they may enter.