06 Sep 2016 21:21 IST

We’re grooming talent with 21st century skills, says Ashoka Univ founder

Students in a class at Ashoka University

Vineet Gupta speaks about how the university is creating fully-rounded generalists


Almost like an island of liberal arts education in India, Haryana-based multidisciplinary private institution Ashoka University has successfully seen five batches of its popular course, the Young India Fellowship (YIF), graduate with plum job placements, signalling the industry’s absorption of such talent.

Vineet Gupta, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Founder at Ashoka University, says, “If you look at the data for the batch of Fellows that just graduated, the average student had 1.6 offers. Most organisations have a large category of roles which, for the lack of a better term, are fairly generalist in nature. You can call the role that of a a programme manager, a project manager or even a consultant. All companies seem to need these roles and our Fellows are fitting into these profiles very well.”

Gupta says the course is structured in a manner that students are groomed with 21st century skills such as writing, communication, analytical and problem-solving skills and the ability to work across disciplines and departments, to name a few. Some of the subjects taught during their year at YIF are literature, statistics, math, art appreciation, valuation, sociology, history and psychology.

Return on investment

The fifth batch of YIF saw 211 job offers made by 134 participating companies to 149 Fellows. Of a total 193 Fellows, few students opted out of placements for reasons such as higher education and entrepreneurship. The average salary offered was ₹11.8 lakh in the for-profit sector and ₹7.3 lakh in the not-for-profit sector.


The average cost of the YIF programme per fellow includes a tuition fee of ₹6,00,000, a hostel fee of ₹1,70,000 and an additional ₹80,000 for food costs.

“Almost 60 per cent of the students are on scholarships worth ₹2-2.5 lakh. Comparing that to the jobs offered, in terms of return on investment, we might be one of the highest… better than IITs and IIMs,” Gupta said.

In 2014-15, the fourth batch of fellows saw 90 companies recruit from the institute, and 141 fellows received job offers.

“While 20 per cent of the class is opting for social sector organisations, 60 per cent opt for corporate roles and 20 per cent are all across,” he added. Some of the companies that recruited YIF graduates this year were Citi Bank, Genpact, Dr Reddy’s, Cipla, Ratnakar Bank and Star TV, among others.

Liberal arts education in India

While the broad idea of a liberal arts education has been around for centuries, it had taken a backseat in India, especially with the advent of professional courses in the last 30-40 years. The space has been largely neglected by both the private sector and the government, with little capacity addition. Now, institutions such as BML Munjal University, Shiv Nadar University, BR Ambedkar University and OP Jindal University offer liberal arts as an option.

Apart from the YIF, Ashoka also offers an undergraduate programme, which was initially marketed as a four-year programme, but was later restructured as a three-year course. This was around the time Delhi University’s four-year undergraduate programme was scrapped and the varsity moved back to a three-year course. The undergraduates at Askoka are now studying a three-year programme with an option to continue for the fourth year, for which a diploma will be awarded.

“Our sense is that 60 per cent students would want to stay on for the fourth year,” he said.

The demand for liberal arts too has seen an upswing. “We get 10 applications per seat for our undergraduate course and as many as 200 applications per seat for our YIF programme,” he added.

Expansion plans

On whether such demand would lead to an expansion by Ashoka, Gupta said, “Ideally we would like to. India can do with many more Ashoka universities. We are also very conscious of the challenge we have. Right now, for the next five to seven years, we are focussed on making this campus successful, before thinking of expanding further. ”


But Ashoka has a short-term goal at the moment. In order to set up 20 world-class institutes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proposed that ten public and ten private institutions would be freed from the clutches of the University Grants Commission and given flexibility in operations.

“What the PM has come up with is very exciting, and if that proposal takes off, we will definitely make a case for making Ashoka one of those ten private universities. That will set us free and give us the ability to construct the degree we want, among other things,” he added.

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