12 Feb 2021 18:04 IST

‘Organisations want social scientists to solve community challenges’

OP Jindal Global University’s VC, C Raj Kumar, says there’s a demand for talent from the humanities sphere

The recent QS World University Rankings 2021, which ranks the top 1,000 universities from around the world, recognises OP Jindal Global University (JGU) as India’s number one university dedicated to Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities. Established in 2009 in Sonipat, the university has over 6,600 students from 21 nationalities and every part of the country enrolled into its ten schools that offer multiple disciplines ranging from law, public policy, liberal arts and humanities to environmental science.

Prof (Dr) C Raj Kumar, founding Vice-Chancellor of JGU, talks to BusinessLine on Campus about the relevance of social sciences in creating social impact, new age career prospects for liberal arts, and the challenges private universities need to overcome in order to be truly global spaces of learning.

Excerpts from an interview:

How would you describe the impact of OP Jindal global university in the education sector in the past decade?

In a country dominated by STEM institutions, we wanted to create a multidisciplinary institution with focus on social sciences, liberal arts and humanities, to nurture socially responsible global leaders. JGU has evolved into an internationally recognised multidisciplinary and research-intensive university, allowing Indian students access world-class education. To grow into a university of over 6,600 students and nearly 4,000 alumni , and be recognised as an institution of eminence by the government of India has been a validation of our efforts.

Humanities and social sciences were earlier the forte of public universities. It is no longer so. How is the learning experience at JGU comparable to public liberal arts education? What career aspirations are you catering to?

JGU is home to students who aspire to study social sciences, liberal arts, and humanities and engage with local, regional, national and international communities to create social impact. With nearly 50 per cent of our students on scholarship, we ensure equity in access to quality higher education for any aspiring students who have the potential to impact our communities positively.

The diversity at JGU makes the learning experience rich and socially relevant. Our 275+ international collaborations, 200+ faculty and student exchange programmes, and with 45 per cent of our faculty being alumni of the top 200 global universities make the learning experience truly international at JGU. With ten schools ranging from law to public policy to liberal arts and humanities to environmental science, JGU allows its academic community the freedom to evolve in a multidisciplinary environment.

Since 2019, what sort of career shifts have you seen take place?

When we started, there were very few Indian universities of repute in liberal arts, social sciences and humanities. Over the last few years, Indian students and parents have become increasingly aware of the opportunities to not just study but work in India. Organisations now seek the presence of social scientists to address the challenges of our community. From tech firms to policy think tanks, marketing roles to consulting jobs, there is an increase in demand. Today, you see students who continue their education to have a deeper knowledge of their disciplines, and pursue masters’ and doctoral programmes.

Students who seek employment post their undergraduate studies find job opportunities in top-tier law firms, corporates, non-profits, governmental organisations among others. The highest salaries are comparable with the best in the industry, and our office of career services helps students in their career pursuits.

A mindset change towards becoming independent has awakened an entrepreneurial spirit in youth. At JGU, students explore new ideas with the help of Startup JGU, a dedicated centre which supports students with their entrepreneurial aspirations.

What will it take for an Indian private university to earn high global rankings? What are some of our pressing challenges at this point?

Indian private universities will need to create a world-class ecosystem by fostering meaningful collaborations with leading international institutions, reorient themselves to be research-driven, develop infrastructure which focuses on academic, as well as, extra-curricular platforms for students, and create a safe space for a diverse set of students to flourish. Empowering ‘institutions of eminence’ and those that have attained graded autonomy will be instrumental to achieve higher positions in the global rankings.

Lack of infrastructure, incentives to boost philanthropy, and investment in the education sector, and the regulatory boundaries limiting the academic autonomy of institutions, and the lack of a system that attracts bright talent into pursuing a career in teaching are some of the many pressing challenges. However, the effective implementation of NEP2020, and building a culture of trust, respect, and collegiality between the government agencies, the regulatory bodies, and the higher education institutions will enable India to achieve greater heights.