11 Jun 2018 17:57 IST

‘Looking for those who want to go beyond academics’

Founder of Ashoka University Vineet Gupta says liberal arts produces aware, empowered students

A number of people believe that liberal arts is only about ‘arts’. But Vineet Gupta, founder and trustee of Ashoka University categorically says that liberal arts is a vast subject that encompasses humanities and applied sciences. It gives rise to aware, empowered citizens who understand society.

Vineet Gupta, founder and trustee of Ashoka University

Gupta talks to BusinessLine on Campus about the importance of liberal arts, the idea behind setting up Ashoka University and tips for those who wish to seek admission into the institute. Excerpts:

What is the role of Liberal Arts education in India and why is it important?

Contrary to popular notion, liberal arts is not an education only in ‘arts’. It is a broad subject encompassing humanities, social sciences and applied sciences. The classical definition of liberal arts is that it provides an education that prepares students as citizens of good democracy, citizens who understand society, can engage in debate, who are ethical and committed to public service.

It is important because in today’s world, where technology is becoming so prevalent, students should have a deep understanding of the society and its environment. Liberal arts education prepares them for it. In a certain manner, it prepares them for life, not just a particular discipline.

What was the idea behind setting up Ashoka University?

India can do a lot better in terms of higher education. However, the main challenges are access and quality. To look at it another way, it gives new, high calibre colleges and universities an opportunity to come up. In that sense, Ashoka was an opportunity to build a quality university.

Our aim is to transform excellence in higher education — one, to influence liberal arts education, and second, to influence higher education in India itself.

Set up only in 2014, Ashoka has earned quite a name for itself in these four years...

There are a number of reasons for that. First, quality of faculty. Ashoka has attracted a great talent pool, which makes it quite distinctive. Second, innovation in pedagogy and curriculum. The breadth and the depth of courses we offer make the curriculum extremely innovative and engaging. And that’s the kind of education every student should have. Last, classrooms at Ashoka are very discussion-based, not a one-way lecturing kind.

The way we teach, the structure of the curriculum and the way we conduct exams, there is innovation all around.

Any message that you would want to give to those who plan to apply to Ashoka University?

Students who want to experience world-class interdisciplinary education experience should come to the University. When applying, just be honest and write your story. We are looking for those students who are intellectually curious and have made some impact outside the classroom. We are looking for those who have a desire to go beyond academics.

Can you also tell about your scholarship programmes?

Admission into Ashoka University is merit-based. Once a student is admitted, they can apply for scholarships which are offered based on family income. This year, the university has announced up to 200 full scholarships for deserving candidates. Currently, more than 50 per cent of students are on some form of scholarship and about 20 per cent are on full scholarship.