Sunday, March 2, 2014

Foreign Scholars Keen to Join Nalanda University

A large number of foreign scholars and teachers are keen to join the upcoming Nalanda University in Bihar as its faculty members, an official said Thursday. The process of appointing faculty for the varsity has begun and 500 applications have been received for the 20 posts that will initially be filled.

"Around 22 percent of the applicants for faculty posts, including professors, assistant professors, are foreign scholars and teachers," Vice Chancellor Gopa Sabharwal said. 500 applications have been received for the 20 posts: Officials The university plans to start with two schools - School of Historical Sciences and the School of Environment and Ecology - by August-September.

"The recruitment is for 20 faculty members posts - 10 in each school," she said. Sabharwal said the recruitment process will be complete by March-end or early April. The university will then advertise for student enrolments. "Initially, only 15 to 20 students will be enrolled in each school," she said.

 The university is set to come up on 446 acres in Rajgir, 10 km from the site of the ancient university in Nalanda, about 100 km southeast of Patna. The university will be fully residential, like the ancient Nalanda university. It will offer courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism and social sciences.

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Nalanda University Gets Global Status Now

The Union cabinet today agreed to provide Rs 2,727.10 crore to Nalanda University to meet its financial requirements till 2021-22 and extend tax exemptions to the institution which will ensure it enjoys international status. The decision comes within days of an interview Chancellor Amartya Sen gave to The Telegraph in which he spoke out over bureaucratic hindrances that were holding up the funds. Sen, an economics Nobel laureate, had also raised concerns over attempts by some mandarins in the finance ministry to alter the international character of the institute by questioning the privileges to be accorded to the university and its staff.

The university, coming up near the site of the ancient seat of learning in Nalanda, about 100km from Patna, is scheduled to begin classes in autumn this year.The cabinet had in June last year approved the Nalanda University (Amendment) Bill, 2013. After it was tabled in the Rajya Sabha, it was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee which submitted its report recently. The matter was again brought to the cabinet as the government wanted to accept a few suggestions of the committee.

The cabinet today approved expenditure of Rs 2,727.10 crore that would help the university meet its capital and recurring expenses till 2021-22. However, there is no clarity about the funding for the institution after 2021-22.

The university board of governors is confident the institute will become much more financially robust by 2021-22. The blueprint for Nalanda University envisages that it will fund at least 50 per cent of its expenditure itself by 2021 — through donations. This, Sen and others are arguing, shows that Nalanda will not be a permanent financial drain on the government.

Vice-chancellor Gopa Sabharwal expressed happiness over the cabinet’s decision for funding and bringing amendments to the Nalanda University Act. “The amendments approved have retained the international character of the university,” Sabharwal said.

A media statement issued by the Press Information Bureau said the preamble of the University Act would include that it is a “non-state, non-profit, self-governing international institution having academic freedom for attainment of these objectives”.

To further buttress the international stature of the institution, the cabinet also gave the go-ahead to the Headquarters Agreement, which has been signed between the ministry of external affairs and the Nalanda University for giving privileges and financial immunity like tax exemptions to the university and its staff. The agreement has been partly notified pending clearance from the cabinet.

Section 21 of the Nalanda University Act says members of all academic staff and their dependents shall enjoy privileges like exemption from taxation in respect to salaries, honoraria, allowances and other emoluments in connection with their services.

However, the central government had to enter into an agreement with Nalanda University to ensure such privileges are made available. The MEA had prepared a Headquarters Agreement in this regard which was signed in July last year.

Under this, the foreign academic staff will get appropriate visas and be exempt from foreigners’ registration.

The agreement said the foreign faculty and staff members will enjoy the freedom to maintain within India movable and immovable properties. They can purchase, hold or dispose of any currencies, securities and funds through authorized channels.

Such privileges are extended only to the personnel of other international organizations such as WHO, Unesco and Unicef.

The Act will have a provision to extend similar immunities to the university. This means the assets of the university and its income will be exempt from all direct taxes, customs duties and prohibition and restriction on imports and exports in respect of articles imported or exported by the university.
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why was the world famous Nalanda University burned ?

The Nalanda University, one of the greatest centres of learning during the ancient period, dates back to the sixth century B.C. Considered to be a monastic university of international repute, this university once sheltered both Buddha and Mahavira.

The Nalanda University, which used to be a suburb of Rajgir in ancient times, lies on the road from Rajgir to Patna. One of the most organised centres of learning, this university had students from foreign lands too. Spread over a vast area, the university of Nalanda lied south-east to Patna at a distance of 88.5 kilometers and 11.5 kilometers towards the north from Rajgir. This university once had 10,000 students studying under the guidance of 2,000 teachers.

 The excavations of Nalanda that had grown to be one of the foremost Buddhist monastery and educational centre during the reign of Ashoka, revealed that the area of the university had a large number of well-constructed temples and monasteries built within it. Supported by donations from a number of villages and liberal grants made by the kings during those times, the university provided free educational facilities to both teachers and students that stayed in the university during those times.

 Destroyed by Turkish invaders as Bakhtiar Khilji, the vast library of Nalanda was burned and the building destroyed.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Nalanda University has huge potential to Integrate Asian Countries-"United Asia" !!

No one should underestimate the potential benefits of this Nalanda University revival project to Asia, or the influence it could have on Asia’s role in the world, or the revolutionary impact it could make on global higher education.

Americans are used to thinking about the rising powers of Asia — China, India, South Korea and even some of the smaller countries — primarily as formidable economic competitors. In the case of Beijing, we also recognize the potential for superpower political and military status. But there are at least two questions that are key to Asia’s future that we do not generally ask.

First, for all the talk about the rise of Asia in the “knowledge age” that we live in, are these countries ultimately constrained in their potential to be great nations by their lack of top-flight systems of higher education?

And second, is the Asian region any more than a series of nation-states obsessed with guarding their sovereignty — and do they have the ability to interact peacefully and constructively, much as the European Union is trying to do, to pool their individual strengths for the betterment of their region and the world beyond it?

The possibility of rebuilding Nalanda University goes to the heart of both those issues. Founded in 427 in northeastern India, not far from what is today the southern border of Nepal, and surviving until 1197, Nalanda was one of the first great universities in recorded history. It was devoted to Buddhist studies, but it also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war.

The university was an architectural and environmental masterpiece. It had eight separate compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes and parks. It had a nine-story library where monks meticulously copied books and documents so that individual scholars could have their own collections. It had dormitories for students, perhaps a first for an educational institution, housing 10,000 students in the university’s heyday and providing accommodations for 2,000 professors. Nalanda was also the most global university of its time, attracting pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey.

The university died a slow death about the time that some of the great European universities, including those in Oxford, England, and Bologna, Italy, were just getting started, and more than half a millennium before Harvard or Yale were established. Its demise was a result of waning enthusiasm for Buddhism in India, declining financial support from successive Indian monarchs and corruption among university officials. The final straw was the burning of the buildings by Muslim invaders from what is now Afghanistan.

But Nalanda represents much of what Asia could use today — a great global university that reaches deep into the region’s underlying cultural heritage, restores many of the peaceful links among peoples and cultures that once existed, and gives Asia the kind of soft power of influence and attraction that it doesn’t have now. The West has a long tradition of rediscovering its ancient Greek and Roman roots, and is much stronger for that. Asia could and should do the same, using the Nalanda project as a springboard but creating a modern, future-oriented context for a new university.

At the Asian summit meeting next week, a consortium led by Singapore and including India, Japan and others will discuss raising the $500 million needed to build a new university in the vicinity of the old site and perhaps another $500 million to develop the roads and other infrastructure to make the institution work. The problem is that the key Asian officials are not thinking big enough. There is more talk about making Nalanda a cultural site or a center for philosophy than a first-rate modern university. The financial figures being thrown around are a fraction of the endowments of Harvard, Yale or Columbia today. A bolder vision is in order.

The rebuilt university should strive to be a great intellectual center, as the original Nalanda once was. This will be exceedingly difficult to achieve; even today, Asia’s best universities have a long way to go to be in the top tier. In a recent ranking of universities worldwide, Newsweek included only one Asian institution, the University of Tokyo, in the world’s top 25. In a similar tally by The Times of London, there are only three non-Western universities in the top 25.

The original Nalanda might have been the first to conduct rigorous entrance exams. The old university had world-class professors who did groundbreaking work in mathematical theorems and astronomy. It produced pre-eminent interpreters and translators of religious scriptures in many languages.

The new Nalanda should try to recapture the global connectedness of the old one. All of today’s great institutions of higher learning are straining to become more international in terms of their student body, their professors, their research and their course content. But Asian universities are way behind. A new Nalanda, starting as it will from scratch, could set a benchmark for mixing nationalities and cultures, for injecting energy and direction into global subjects and for developing true international leaders.

In the old days, Nalanda was a Buddhist university, but it was remarkably open to many interpretations of that religion. Today it could perform a vital role consistent with its original ethos — to be an institution devoted to religious reconciliation on a global scale.

Today, Nalanda’s opportunity is to exploit what is lacking in so many institutions of higher education. That includes great medical schools that focus on delivering health care to the poor, law schools that emphasize international law, business schools that focus on the billions of people who live on two dollars a day but who have the potential to become tomorrow’s middle class, and schools that focus intensely on global environmental issues. Can Asia pull this off? Financially, it should be easy. China’s foreign exchange reserves just broke all global records and reached $1 trillion. And Japan’s mountain of cash isn’t that far behind.

But the bigger issue is imagination and willpower. It is not clear that the Asian nations are prepared to unite behind anything concrete except trade agreements, either for their benefit or the world’s. It appears doubtful that with all their economic prowess, and their large armies, they understand that real power also comes from great ideas and from people who generate them, and that truly great universities are some of their strongest potential assets. I would like to be proved wrong in these judgments. How Asia approaches the resurrection of Nalanda will be a good test.
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A 21st century plan for ancient Nalanda University !!

An ancient Buddhist centre of study in India founded in the fifth century is looking forward to a new lease of life.The Nalanda University near Patna, the capital of Bihar state, was hailed "one of the first great universities in recorded history". It provided training in fine arts, science, medicine and other disciplines during its heyday before it was destroyed in 1197.

NUS is part of an international consortium headed by Singapore to revive the university. A group of architecture undergraduates have drafted a masterplan for the old learning centre earmarked for rebuilding in the next few years.

The team met with researchers, academics and diplomats at the Nalanda-Siriwijaya Centre in NUS recently to present and discuss "The Nalanda University: A Mother Plan for the 21st Century Campus". Their design concept of the 180-hectare site is a balance between the old and the new, based on self-sustainability. It focuses on farming for food while embracing the contribution of the neighbouring community, as what existed in the old campus.

The project group comprises 14 participants in their second and fourth year, including two exchange students from the Nanjing Southeast University of China. Their mentor, Adjunct Professor Tay Kheng Soon, is an internationally renowned Singapore architect involved in educational and community projects throughout Southeast Asia.

Team representative Quek See Hong said they joined the Nalanda studio because the brief stood out as "an unprecedented opportunity to study, debate and design for many of the real and current issues that challenge Asia and the world today."

The project is being driven by concerted efforts from the Indian and global community, which injected the students with a sense of purpose to uncover Nalanda University's ancient wisdom and shape new perspectives for its restoration. They went on a study trip to India early this year before starting their assignment. (See video clip.)

"We met the planning committee members of the Nalanda University in Bihar, various scholars and academics in Santiniketan and Kolkata, as well as interested Indian students and professionals that came forward to be a part of the process," said See Hong. With the regular exchange, the students are opened up to fresh perspectives and contemporary concerns of the new Nalanda that they incorporated into their design.
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