“Our aim is to build a global ecosystem for students and faculty,” founder-chancellor K.V. Ramani said
Sai University, one of the two private universities for which the Tamil Nadu government had granted permission in 2018, will start functioning from August, according to its founder-chancellor K. V. Ramani. To begin with around 250 to 300 students will be admitted in three undergraduate programmes in liberal arts, science and technology, and one postgraduate programme in law.
A telecom software entrepreneur, philanthropist and ardent devotee of Shirdi Saibaba, 70-year-old Mr Ramani told The Hindu: “It is perhaps my last project given my age. I intend to see it as a full-fledged university before my 80th birthday.”
Genesis of University
Mr Ramani said he conceived of the university when he found that no education institute figured among the top 200 global institutions.
He approached the State government in January 2018 to set up the university, and in July that year, the government introduced a Private Universities Act. Tamil Nadu, in the past, had only one private university – Annamalai University, which was taken over by the State Government a few years ago.
The Act stipulated that it should be a greenfield university and so, Mr. Ramani had to purchase 105 acres of contiguous land, which he managed in Payyanur, about eight kilometres from Mamallapuram. Construction is on in full swing, with one building already completed.
“We now have 40 scholars, half of whom are international faculty,” he said.
‘Repeat IT sector, healthcare success’
“Sai University is going to be a service-oriented institution. We will make a surplus that will go towards expanding, building and developing the university. It is not for personal gain of any one family,” Mr. Ramani insisted.
“Nearly half the students abroad are from India and China and nearly half of the faculty are from India and China. The key differentiator for a university is the government policy, besides infrastructure for research and academic development, freedom for faculty to do what they like, to conduct research. So, Sai University will be the first to provide a global ecosystem in India,” he claimed.
The ₹750 crore project will be partly funded from own sources and the rest from institutions.
Mr Ramani believesthat the concept of a global university is doable, pointing to the growth of software services and the private healthcare sector, both of which had developed in the past 30 years.
“In the IT sector we created an industry from zero. Today, when we go to fund a software company [in Western countries] they first ask us what is your India plan? If you don’t have an India plan you get a tie-up done and then come to us,” he remarked.
Similarly, 35 years ago Indians went abroad for a bypass surgery. Today, India is sought by foreigners for healthcare. “We want to repeat the same magic in the education sector,” he said.
Admission to the university will be through class 12 marks or the score from competitive exams such as SAT or the Pearson’s test the students may have taken on their own. There will be a faculty interaction session and group discussion (GD) from next year. The GD has been shelved this year considering the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students will be given a year of foundational courses that will include exposure to critical and analytical thinking, data analysis, presentation and communication skills and tech skills. They will then be exposed to subjects across various disciplines and can chose a bouquet of courses for their degree course.
The university’s governing council includes five Padma awardees. The university will later on offer engineering, technology, management and eventually medicine courses.
“The fee structure would be a fourth or a fifth of what students spend on going for an undergraduate education abroad,” Mr. Ramani said.
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