Nalanda varsity to be founded in 2009


New York : Nalanda University, the proposed centre of academic excellence reflecting the collective Asian heritage, is likely to be founded in 2009 in Bihar and the first batch of students will start enrolling a couple of years later, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said here.

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Concluding the Nalanda Mentor Group’s meeting here, Sen said Saturday the group will meet next in New Delhi in August to finalise its report for presenting in December to the East Asia summit. Nalanda University is being set up as a non-state, non-profit self-governing autonomous institution with the participation of the East Asia summit countries.

Sen said the ambitious project was no one person’s brainchild, “it has been more like a relay race”. It was proposed by the state of Bihar and found support from 16 nations, notably Singapore, China and Japan. It will advance the concept of an Asian community by bringing together future generations in a common objective of discovering old relationships and to achieve unity of minds globally.

The varsity will come up 70 km from Patna, next to the site of the original Nalanda university, which flourished over a millennium ago.

While the university’s legal, institutional, substantive and academic frameworks needed to be formulated, the mentor group has decided to pursue the interim appointment of a rector or registrar, with an initial appointment period of five years. The group also welcomed the proposal of the Bihar government to appoint former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as a visitor to the university.

The two-day meeting of the mentor group was attended by Lord Meghnad Desai, professor Emeritus, London School of Economics, Sugata Bose from Harvard University, Bihar Planning Commission deputy chairman N.K. Singh and representatives from China, Japan and Singapore.

While the funding aspect of the project would be decided later this year, Sen said the university would have six departments: Buddhist studies, philosophy and comparative religions, historical studies, international relations and peace studies, business management and development studies, languages and literature, and ecology and environmental studies.

On the vision for the Nalanda University, Sen said: “Maintaining and respecting past heritage is important, but we will do it by setting high academic standards and international enrolment, which Nalanda was known for in its time. It had 10,000 students, and that is the number we also target.” Nalanda existed till about 1200 AD when Oxford University was being founded in England and Cambridge University was yet to be born.

Bihar government has already spent about $18 million on acquiring land for the university.