Web Exclusive: Education Special

India’s New Ivy League

The Indian education system, the third largest in the world after China’s and America’s, has approximately 700 universities, 35,000 affiliated colleges and more than 15 million students enrolled. And yet it is unable to sustain quality or address demand. Every year, some eight million students graduate from schools, of which less than 4 million opt for a higher education, 500,000 of those travelling abroad to attend college. Not only do we end up losing resources, but also suffer a brain drain. Meanwhile, the only foreign students that India can boast of are a few from Africa, Asia and the Middle-East.

According to a FICCI and an Ernst &Young report of 2012, India needs an additional seat capacity of 25 million in higher education alone and an investment of Rs 10 lakh crore to make space for its youngsters by 2020. The only way this can be done is through the private sector. Even though 80 per cent of students currently pursue higher education through the private sector, many of these universities over promise and under deliver. There is however a silver lining with some universities offering an education at home that aims for Ivy League standards. India still has a long way to go, but education could yet see a surge in quality.


USP: Education modelled on the best standards of the world and a faculty with global exposure.

This was perhaps the most anticipated university in the Indian education sector, and calls itself the country’s first liberal arts college. An initiative by the International Foundation for Research and Education (IFRE), a non-profit organisation, it is founded by a group of new generation of entrepreneurs like Ashish Dhawan, Sanjeev Bhikachandan and Vineet Gupta.

What differentiates Ashoka from other universities is that it is funded through large philanthropic grants as opposed to one individual thus allowing for greater autonomy. It has a great faculty and connections to universities abroad. For instance, the department head of Carlton University will spend a semester here for its psychology programme. Its Academic Council has the likes of Kaushik Basu, Ramachandra Guha, Devesh Kapur, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Christophe Jaffrelot. Ashoka aspires to be one of the top universities in the world. Predictably students are lining up. Ritika Jain, 18, who has applied to Ashoka says, “I was very excited that there was a university giving such a fresh take on education. Almost all my family went to Delhi University which is in a really bad shape now. So my decision had a lot to do with hope. I have visited the campus and interacted with a few people, so far it looks like a good comfortable place to study. I hope I get through because even the faculty is better than DU’s. It seems fresh, young and very modern. I really want in.”

WHERE: Rajiv Gandhi Education City, Sonepat, Haryana.

COURSES OFFERED: It offers four-year courses split into 36 course credits. In the first two years students will study foundation subjects such as literature, psychology and mathematics, among others, and will choose their areas of specialisation in the last two years. Before they graduate, all students will do a social internship known as the Ashoka Quest. It also has a range of short term courses on gender studies and research.

COST OF EDUCATION: Tuition per academic year is Rs 4.9 lakh. Hostel fees: Rs 1.1 lakh. Meals are charged separately for the semester. Scholarships are available strictly on a strictly need basis.


USP: A revival of a multicultural tradition based on cooperation with numerous countries and stressing on interdisciplinary studies.

The focus of Nalanda is pan-Asian integration. The university stresses on the study of local issues of environment, agriculture and livelihood. What makes Nalanda stand out are its courses based intellectual dialogues between different countries and people. Leaning on its historical legacy, the university has drawn funds from not only the Indian government, which sanctioned Rs 2,721 crore, but also other partner countries—Australia donating Australian $1 million for a Chair in the School of Ecology and Environment Studies; China, US $1 million to the library to add a floor; Thailand and Laos $10,000 and $50,000, respectively. Japan is also helping with the highway that leads to the university. According to Vice Chancellor Dr Gopa Sabharwal, the vision at the heart of Nalanda University is to craft an enduring model of intellectual excellence in tandem with an ethos of community value: a byword for world class scholarship that continuously breaks new ground in critical enquiry.

Learning is interdisciplinary and the university aims at initially establishing seven schools: Historical Studies, Ecology and Environment Studies, Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religions, Linguistics and Literature, International Relations and Peace Studies, Information Science and Technology, and Economics and Management. Masters, MPhil and PhD degrees are offered.

WHERE: Rajgir, Bihar.

COURSES OFFERED: Currently two schools have been inaugurated—Historical Studies and Ecology and Environment Studies. The university offers MA in these courses. More schools are expected to open in its 2015 semester.

COST OF EDUCATION: Rs 30,000 to Rs 60,000 per year depending on the courses one opts for. Scholarships are available.


USP: World class faculty, low teacher-student ratio and global exposure, thanks to the many international collaborations and exchange programs that are not limited to only business and management students. A Nielsen survey last year listed Jindal among the top 5 emerging universities in the country. It collaborates with 15 top US universities, including Harvard, Yale, Cornell and Brown. It also has European, Canadian, Asia-Pacific and African collaborations.

According to Professor C Rajkumar, Vice Chancellor, the university envisions promoting global level courses, programmes, curriculum, research, collaborations and interaction through a global faculty. JGU is research intensive with several research centres in all its schools. All faculty appointments are made both to a school as well as a research centre.

Its faculty to student ratio (1:15) is very low and the 70 acre campus has five schools—Jindal Global Law School, Jindal Global Business School, Jindal School of International Affairs, Jindal School of Government and Public Policy and Jindal School of Liberal Arts & Humanities. There are also four centres—Institute of Behavioral Sciences, Institute of Global Studies Abroad, Institute of Leadership Development and Executive Education and Institute of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Shipra Singhla, 17, who is going to apply to Jindal Law School, says her decision was based on students there winning a national moot court competition last year. “If they have the best class in the country right now, that is where I want to be. Why should I go to foreign colleges or anywhere else for that matter when I have a college near my home that is potentially great? I really want to crack Jindal this year,” she says.

WHERE: Rajiv Gandhi Education City, Sonepat, Haryana.

COURSES OFFERED: Four-year graduate programmes as well as MA, MPhil and PhDs. Short-term courses are also available. The Jindal School of Government and Public Policy offers India’s first Master’s Programme in Public Policy.

COST OF EDUCATION: Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh per year depending on the course (including residence). Fee might vary for day scholars. Scholarships are available on a merit and need basis.


USP: One of the main institutions that will churn out a corpus of professionals who will participate in the social sector of India.

If you want to change the world, this might just be a place to start from. Sixty per cent of the graduates of this university are working in the social sector at the grass roots level. The university came into being when the Azim Premji Foundation (APF) entered the elementary education sector and realised the dearth of universities for quality education in India. The university offers students and faculty members the opportunity to work in the field. It stresses on liberal and humanistic values in education. Students can choose from a variety of graduate and undergraduate programs.

Abhilasha NS, who is studying for an MA in Development at the university says, “My internship with Eco Femme, a social enterprise based in Auroville that works on healthy menstrual practices and makes cloth washable pads, was a way to answer several ideological questions that had arisen after the completion of the first year of MA Development. In the six weeks, I realised the essentiality of private production for income generation, the need to be conscious of ethical practices in every step and the unconditional priority to be given to the quality of product and services. I can now appreciate the importance of private commercial enterprises for development. An equally important learning is the indispensability of connecting social goals with commercial activities.”

WHERE: Bangalore, Karnataka.

COURSES OFFERED: It offers three-year Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in Physics, Biology and Economics. There is also a Combined Humanities (history, language, literature and philosophy) course. An honors degree can be opted for through their advanced research projects. There are also post graduate courses that offer Masters degrees in Education, Development and the newly introduced Public Policy and Governance.

COST OF EDUCATION: Rs 2.5 lakh per year including residence. The fee structure may vary for day scholars and scholarships are available on merit basis.


USP: At par with IIMs when it comes to difficulty of getting in, quality of faculty and teaching, and lucrative value of placements. But just a one-year course as against two for IIMs

Since its conceptualisation 10 years ago, the Indian School of Business remains the only management institute that matches the stature of Indian Institutes of Management in management studies. The Financial Times global B-school rankings placed ISB at number 12. Ajit Rangnekar who is the Dean of the Indian School of Business believes that educational institutions have the responsibility to meet the needs of government, business and society. He envisions ISB playing its part in this transformation, not just in India, but all over the world.

The university developed its curriculum with the help of Wharton and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, both leading global universities. Getting in is as tough as an admission to the best IIMs, but the university has a global faculty and a tough curriculum (crunched into a year), that makes its students the most sought after by the corporate world. Students also build lasting professional networks through their peers. Rajiv Shukla, an alumnus, says about ISB, “Great faculty, excellent campus and the best placements. It is like an elite club. You work towards getting in because you know that once you’re in, life is going to only get better from there.”

WHERE: Hyderabad.

COURSES OFFERED: Besides the management programme there are short term courses available for executives looking to improve their skills but specially designed programs for those looking to take forward their family business.

COST OF EDUCATION: Around Rs 34 lakh in all.


USP: One of the oldest and best private universities in the country which keeps innovating by bringing in modern and niche courses that address the needs of the times.

Symbiosis has been around since 1971 but it relentlessly innovates to be abreast of education trends. As one of the first private, global universities in India, it has high standards of education. Altogether, there are 43 institutes in the university, offering multi-disciplinary education in fields such as Liberal Arts, Science, Law and Management. The Symbiosis Centre for Research & Innovation (SCRI) promotes high quality research. Its Law and Management Schools are ranked among the best the country. According to Dr Rajini Gupte, vice-Chancellor of the university, “The teaching-learning processes are positively forward-looking and centred on the student. Our students avail the most advanced infrastructure both within and outside the classroom.”

Sharda Thakur, an alumni of Symbiosis Institute of Business Management, says there is a lot of emphasis on academics. “You go through a whole lot of rigor in the first year but it prepares you for what is to come later. My education here is irreplaceable,” he says.

WHERE: It has 5 campuses in Pune, Bangalore, Noida, Hyderabad and Nasik.

COURSES OFFERED: Symbiosis has 107 programmes at Diploma, Undergraduate, Post-graduate and Doctoral levels under the faculties of Law, Management, Computer Studies, Health and Biomedical Sciences, Media, Communication and Design, Humanities and Social Sciences and Engineering. It also has unique courses like Geo Informatics, Energy & Environment, Bio-Medical Sciences, and others based on emerging societal trends.

COST OF EDUCATION: Varies as per course, but averages out at about Rs 3 lakh per year, including residential costs.