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Plans being formalised for international university at Nalanda

Malaysia Sun (IANS), March 18, 2007

Bihar, India -- The long-awaited dream of setting up an international university at Nalanda, the famous Buddhist centre of learning in Bihar, is about to come true.

The detailed project report (DPR) is ready, land acquisition is going on and a bill on the university will be tabled in the ongoing budget session of the Bihar assembly.

The proposed university will be fully residential like the ancient Nalanda seat of learning. In the first phase it will have seven different schools with 46 foreign faculty members and over 400 Indian academics, states the final DPR, which was submitted to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in February.

The university will impart courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects. An internationally known scholar will be the chancellor of the university.

Bihar Human Resources Development Commissioner M. Jha said the idea of the university was first mooted in the late 1990s but it was President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's initiative in early 2006 that gave shape to the project.

The excavated remains at Nalanda are protected as a site of national importance. The university, a 5th century architectural marvel, was home to over 10,000 students and nearly 2,000 teachers.

Nalanda is the Sanskrit name for 'giver of knowledge'. Nalanda University, which existed until 1197 AD, attracted students and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, besides being a pedestal of higher education in India.

Though it was devoted to Buddhist studies, it also trained students in subjects like fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war.

The DPR states that in its first phase the university will offer only post-graduate, research, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees. However, the DPR is also in favour of offering undergraduate courses in specific areas.

Some 1,137 students from both India and abroad will be enrolled in the first year. By the fifth year the number will go up to 4,530. In the second phase, the enrolment of students will increase to 5,812.

The university on a sprawling 500 acre campus will have a 1:10 faculty-student ratio. The 46 international faculty members will receive an estimated $36,000 per annum as salaries.

The Bihar government plans to take the advice of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen for setting up the university.

Japan and Singapore have shown interest in investing about Rs.4.5 billion (about $100 million) for the varsity.

The state cabinet approved the University of Nalanda Bill, 2007, Friday. The bill will be introduced in the state assembly next week. The draft of the bill stated that the international university would strive to create a world free of war, terror and violence.

Educational Consultants of India, a consulting company under the union ministry of human resource development, has prepared the DPR of the International Nalanda University. 'The government has received a DPR of the university and will hand it over to the Overseas Development Agency (ODA) of Japan for developing it,' officials told IANS.

Jha said the chief minister was taking keen interest in completing the project.


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