Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shiv Nadar University is Philanthropic, But Self-Financing

Internationally, it is rare that living legends in big business lend their names to an educational institution. There is no Bill Gates University, nor is there a Steve Jobs University even after that legend passing away a few years back. But India is a land of exceptions. 

From the days of Independence or even before it, Indian business houses like Tatas, Birlas, Bajajs, and many more had no issues with using their family names for educational institutions. But it reached a new height when IT entrepreneurs like Azim Premji and Shiv Nadar lent their full names to start universities during their lifetime itself. 

Even if all private universities get blamed for operating as firstly money-making enterprises, who can say billionaires like Azim Premji and Shiv Nadar are operating in the private university space for making money? Nadar who was instrumental in creating India’s first PC, as well as companies like HCL Infosystems, NIIT, & the now high-flying HCL Technologies is worth more than Rs. 66,600 crore in personal wealth. 

It is more likely to be a passion for them, to leave a mark in this world during their lifetimes. What best field than higher education to achieve that? 

Even at worst, they can only be blamed for running their universities as profit centres. But Shiv Nadar University as well as his other educational ventures including schools are said to be a philanthropic activity of Nadar, created on a 10% donation of his personal wealth. 

The university has been innovative, quick to follow DU in launching 4-year degrees, but now finds itself under UGC scrutiny for the same. But that is part of being in India, a land unfortunate with policy flip-flops. 

The Gautam Buddh Nagar based private university is said to follow a  ‘need-blind’ policy regarding admissions. What this means is that if the University’s board is convinced that a student is eligible to join the university it will pull out all the stops to ensure that the student is enrolled, whether he can afford it or not. This is to attract the best students and ensure diversity on campus. 

But the question is whether, even with such policies in place, will the best students consider self-financing universities like Shiv Nadar? The problem is that a conventional university has a better reputation and still costs little compared with Shiv Nadar. For example, a BTech under Delhi University costs Rs. 10,000 a year, compared with Rs. 1,60,000 a year in Shiv Nadar University. 

But things will change if this private university by a corporate leader will eventually succeed in attracting industry endowments from its own group companies as well as numerous peers who very well know Nadar’s professionalism and vision. 

Until that happens, graduates from self-financing setups like Shiv Nadar University are likely to be looked upon as inferior to graduates from India’s tier-1 institutions like IITS, IIMs, NITs, government colleges, and aided colleges.

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