08 May 2022 07:42:10 IST

Nayanta University all set for academic year in 2024  

The new varsity will come up over 25 acres in Hyderabad at an educational hub near the GMR airport. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Nayanta University, a liberal arts full-service institution, promoted by members of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which is helping give shape to this university project, conceived four years ago, is expected to kick off its first academic year in 2024.  

Set up under the Telangana State Universities Act, the new university will come up over 25 acres in Hyderabad at an educational hub near the GMR airport. The full-service university will begin by offering public policy as a field of study, then humanities, social sciences and physical sciences, and then move onto professional fields in phase II.  

This will be the latest addition to the growing list of privately funded liberal arts universities springing up around the country.

Collaborative efforts

In an interview with  BL on Campus, Naushad Forbes, Co-Chairman, Forbes Marshall, and a former CII President, says, “This project got going when a group of CII members got together and decided to set up something ambitious, large scale and world-class. So, this was a collective effort to start a university, which over time will become a full-service world-class one.

The idea is to start with a master’s programme in public policy next year. And, we want to start a four-year undergraduate programme in 2024. The thought is to start with humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences. We plan to add technical fields later as we feel engineering and management fields are already quite well-served in the country.” 

Naushad Forbes, Co-Chairman, Forbes Marshall, and a former CII President

Forbes says the CII University will differentiate itself from other major private universities such as Ashoka, Krea, Ahmedabad University, and others of the ilk, through a strong industry connect, internships, and by building practical knowledge into the coursework.  

A number of industrialists have collaborated on this project, apart from Forbes’ company, Forbes Marshall. Among the industrial groups are Godrej and Thermax. Other supporters of the project are Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys;  Bharat Puri from Pidilite; Raj Dugar from Fidelity Private Equity; MM Venkatachalam of the Murugappa Group; Banmali Agrawala from Tata Sons; and Satish Reddy from Dr Reddy’s.

Apart from industrialists, others guiding the project are Ashok Mishra, erstwhile director, IIT Bombay; Pankaj Chandra, who was IIMB director and now heads Ahmedabad University; and Ramesh Mangaleswaran of McKinsey.  

“The idea is to have about 20 industrial groups and add more later but also ensure that no one group ends up controlling the venture. This will ensure the university’s autonomy and independence. Founders will have more responsibility but equal authority with other supporters.” says Forbes. 

The core team is in contact with several more industry groups, but as Forbes says, they will talk about those as their funding materialises. 

In phase one of the project the budget is ₹1,000 crore. “We would like to have clear commitments in place of ₹500 crore now; we need ₹300 crore in the first three years,” says Forbes. 

Industry academia partnership

While CII itself won’t invest directly in this university project, the industry body is helping greatly in getting the project underway.

“We will have an ongoing collaboration with CII on affirmative action. CII members work with around 30,000 schools in the country, which are largely located in disadvantaged areas. We were clear about not wanting to start a university for the rich. We wanted to tap into the talent of India and identify talented children in the 12-13 age group and provide them with the requisite facilities, so that they can get into top universities on merit,” explains Forbes.  

The university when it comes up will provide some form of financial aid to half the students. “Maybe a quarter of them will need full financial aid, another quarter, partial aid and the rest will be self-financed,” he adds.  

The hunt for top management is on. “We think we will start with a dean and COO and the VC would follow as it is so important to get the right calibre of leadership, and it’s easier to attract someone when there is something on the ground,” explains Forbes.

Getting faculty too will be a challenge, he says. “Indeed so, for every university in the country. But we feel our governance principles and ambition will be an attraction, though.” Explaining how the industry interface with the humanities discipline will play out, Forbes says there is a growing realisation that even in the most technical companies, one needs contextual skills.

“You, of course, need the depth of domain knowledge. But you also need breadth and the ability to connect different domains to really advance and to come up with good solutions. We already have good engineering institutes graduating good quality engineers, who give you that depth in domain knowledge. So, what we now need is to provide context. One of the things we have planned is that in the first year all students will take courses in both cultural and technical literacy. Both are needed to be engaged and productive citizens,” explains Forbes.