Published On: Mon, Sep 12th, 2011

Professionals to start Ashoka University

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Ashish DhawanAshoka UniversityIFREInternational Foundation for Research and EducationNV “Tiger” TyagarajanPramath SinhaRajiv Gandhi Education CitySanjeev BikhchandaniVineet Gupta

According to a news report in Businessworld, a group of professionals, all stalwarts in their own fields have come together to start a liberal arts institution, Ashoka University under the aegis of International Foundation for Research and Education (IFRE).

The promoters inspired by their own learning in US want to offer US University experience in India. IFRE members include names like Ashish Dhawan (ChrysCapital), Sanjeev Bikhchandani (, Pramath Sinha (9.9 Mediaworx), NV “Tiger” Tyagarajan and Vineet Gupta (Jamboree).

The not for profit Private University will be located in the Rajiv Gandhi Education City in Kundli, Sonepat, across 25 acres. The land has been purchased for Rs 50 crore and the first phase is expected to cost about Rs 200 crore. The university is expected to start functioning in two years time.The seed capital for University has been put up by the trustees, apart from individual donations.

Dhawan, senior managing director, ChrysCapital — who recently announced he was stepping down — plans to get into school education in a big way. However, with Ashoka University, the “idea is to offer a greater focus on languages, humanities and social sciences and to offer breadth rather than just depth as in the British system. Instead of studying one subject in depth for 3-4 years, the idea is to study many subjects across disciplines,” says Dhawan. He says it will offer courses and areas of study on the lines of universities such as Yale, Princeton and Amherst.

Already, the trust has launched the Young India Fellowship, under which 58 students have been selected for a one-year  programme (similar to a Rhodes scholarship) in coordination with the University of Pennsylvania. There were 1,500 applicants.

Pramath Sinha, founder of 9.9 Mediaworx, brings his experience of the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, to the new venture. Some of the IFRE founders were keen to set up a quality engineering institute, while others wanted “more holistic” liberal arts courses. “We decided to marry the two and brought everyone together to set up a more ambitious project,” Sinha says.


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