Anil Agarwal, an Indian businessman, who heads the London based Vedanta Resources corporation and Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Orissa state in eastern India, have signed a memorandum of understanding to create a world class, multidisciplinary university, Vedanta University. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, has also expressed full support for this large philanthropic undertaking. The university, which would be entirely a not-for-profit venture, will be endowed with US $1 billion from Agarwal's personal funds. According to the institution's consultant A. T. Kearney, this is the biggest single person contribution ever made towards the endowment for any educational institution worldwide. The entire outlay to set up the dream university is estimated to be around 150 billion rupees (approximately US $3.2 billion). M. Siddiqi is the present Project Director of Vedanta University. Other senior officials for the project are currently being recruited internationally. The first academic opening, that of Provost and Chief Academic Officer (CAO) has also recently been announced.
The three goals of Vedanta University are in the following directions:
* Education: To provide meritorious Indian students access to world class education within India.
* Research: To conduct cutting edge research on globally relevant topics from an Asian-centric perspective.
* Society: To produce tomorrow's leaders, and to promote economic growth in the region.
According to the Anil Agarwal Foundation, the university is being modeled most closely on Stanford, Harvard and Oxford universities and aims to be a peer institution to them in terms of world class research and education. Unlike other smaller prominent institutions in India which are focussed entirely on technical education, the planned university would be multidisciplinary in nature, encompassing all domains of human endeavor. It will provide the "finest quality of education" in liberal arts, law, medicine, business, humanities, basic sciences and engineering. The university will house nine interdisciplinary centers of excellence in areas such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, and information technology. It will support approximately 100,000 undergraduate, masters and doctoral students enrolled in 95 disciplines, and employ a few thousand internationally renowned faculty members, making it one of the largest universities in the world, says Agarwal. Vedanta University will have a roughly equal mix of Indian and foreign students. The admission of students would be need-blind and based on merit.
The university will be governed by a board of trustees drawn from industry and society. It will be headed by a provost & chief academic officer. The various schools and colleges within Vedanta University will be led by a few deans who would be recruited locally within India as well as internationally. In order to stimulate cutting-edge research, each center of excellence will include five to eight professors of international caliber. At the present time, the university authorities are scouting for faculty of the highest caliber, including Nobel laureates. The government of Orissa will pass legislation specifically to provide complete administrative and fiscal autonomy to the new university.
According to newspaper reports, Vedanta University will be developed in several phases until its planned completion in 2025. However, the university is expected to start admitting its first batch of around 3,500 students as early as 2009, into its engineering, liberal arts, and basic science programs. Most academic schools, including those of law and performing arts, as well as a few centers of excellence would be in place by 2016. Eventually, the Anil Agarwal Foundation hopes that Vedanta University would stem the annual exodus of Indian students seeking higher education abroad, out of which about 80,000 head for the USA alone.
As part of Agarwal's vision, Vedanta University would nurture future Nobel laureates, Olympic champions and heads of states and governments for India and the world.
The campus layout is being designed by Ayers Saint Gross Architects and Planners, a Baltimore based firm. Ayers Saint Gross has 90 years of experience developing some of the best university campuses in the USA such as Duke, Carnegie-Mellon and Johns Hopkins. Additionally, India based STUP Consultants have been hired for construction work during the phase-I of the project which is expected to be completed in 2011. The master plan of Vedanta university was one of the designs selected for a 2007 AIA Baltimore design award in Baltimore.
Keeping in view a variety of factors based on Agarwal's desire, such as a scenic location, proximity to a major city, and accessibility, and based upon Ayers/Saint/Gross's recommendation, the foundation has identified 8,000 acres (32 km²) of land near the Puri-Konark marine drive between Nuanai and Balighai for the proposed Vedanta University. The Orissa government has begun connecting the site of the university to the swanky new international airport being constructed near Bhubaneswar, 70 km away, by means of a four lane expressway. Furthermore, a railway station will be located in the campus. It will also provide all necessary infrastructure to support this massive undertaking. The area would be developed into a large university township with a permanent population of 500,000 in addition to the large body of students. The township would include primary and secondary schools, apartment complexes and private residences, theaters, cinema, parks and recreation areas, restaurants and shopping complexes.
The township will also allocate land for a research & development park. This park would serve as an incubator for other research laboratories, centers of excellence, and research oriented private companies as Vedanta University spin-offs. It will serve to channel venture capital funds into research and education. The entire area is expected to eventually evolve into a large research-cum-education complex, similar to the economic hub around Stanford with a combined market capitalization of $300 billion, only an hour away from Orissa's state capital, Bhubaneswar.
A railway station is planned to be built in an area within the campus that will be called the Train Station Plaza. It will be at one end of what will be called the University Greens - the main university promenade. The palm tree laced University Greens will lead to the University Quadrangle area. Classroom buildings will be centered around stylish lawns called Academic Courtyards. The entire campus would be dotted with fountains, both small and large. There will be an Olympic quality sports complex on campus, the Vedanta Stadium, and a 250,000 ft² library. Lastly, the foundation has also announced plans to include a large super-specialty hospital with treatment facilities for cancer, diabetes, and coronary diseases, as well as a research institute. In all, the Vedanta University campus would have over 100 academic and residential buildings.
The sprawling Vedanta University campus will follow a Mandala layout, with the buildings arranged in the form of two overlapping circles. Its idyllic surroundings will include a picturesque lake in its immediate vicinity and rolling hills at a distance. The gentle, flowing waters of the Nuanai river meeting the crashing waves of the Casuarina tree-lined beach at Balighai would complete the scenic backdrop. The well-known ruins of the Sun Temple at Konark would be a few minutes away.
Scholarships are grant-in-aid to a student who wants to pursue education at Vedanta University, Konark