Gains in Tran­si­tion


India Today - - EDUCATION - By Olina Ban­erji

In the sear­ing mid- May heat of the plains, Ba­naras Hindu Univer­sity ( BHU) is an oa­sis of calm, an an­tithe­sis to the chaos that lies right out­side its arched gate­way. Its tree- lined av­enues and pale- yel­low tem­ple ar­chi­tec­ture is a re­lief from the con­stant hu­man traf­fic that crowds the an­cient streets of Varanasi. The univer­sity, a brain­child of free­dom fighter and so­cial re­former Madan Mo­han Malviya, was es­tab­lished in 1916. It is con­sid­ered to be the per­fect synthesis of the teach­ings of Hindu cul­ture and mod­ern tech­nol­ogy and in­dus­try, a ro­man­tic no­tion of syn­chronic­ity be­tween the East and the West.

Spread over 1,350 acres, BHU is also Asia’s largest res­i­den­tial cam­pus and in­cor­po­rates within its sphere cour­ses as di­verse as lin­guis­tics, mu­si­col­ogy, bio- tech­nol­ogy and man­age­ment. The goal at BHU, as ev­ery in­tro­duc­tory leaflet, vi­sion plan and prospec­tus about the place states, is “the syn­ergy of teach­ing and re­search”. Thus the first task that Lalji Singh, 64, an alum­nus of BHU and its cur­rent vice- chan­cel­lor ( VC), un­der­took was to en­cour­age re­search by let­ting stu­dents work round the clock. Singh, who has made a name for him­self in the field of ge­net­ics and DNA finger­print­ing, took over in Au­gust 2011. Hav­ing taught in the In­sti­tute of An­i­mal Ge­net­ics at the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh for 13 years, he is now keen on fos­ter­ing a spirit of in­de­pen­dent re­search at BHU. “I made sure fa­cil­i­ties were kept open for en­thu­si­asts who wanted to keep work­ing by ap­point­ing night watch­men,” he says. It may seem like a small step but it’s all part of his mega- plan to make BHU one of the best re­search fa­cil­i­ties in the world. In this re­gard, BHU pre­sented its case to the Univer­sity Grants Com­mis­sion in Jan­uary 2012 and won the sta­tus of ‘ Univer­sity with the Po­ten­tial of Ex­cel­lence’, a grant that will give them Rs 50 crore over five years.

“My dream is to set up an in­sti­tute of trans­la­tional re­search that trans­forms knowl­edge into tech­nol­ogy that aids so­ci­ety. We have pe­ti­tioned for a Rs 1,000- crore in­vest­ment from the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion for trans­la­tional re­search that will bring to­gether IT ex­perts, biotech­nol­o­gists, agri­cul­tur­al­ists and so­cial sci­en­tists. The idea is to let ev­ery sec­tor con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ment of an­other,” says Singh.

What sets BHU apart from other uni­ver­si­ties is its def­i­nite slant to­wards em­pow­er­ing the dis­en­fran­chised. They call it their Malviyan prin­ci­ple of pro­vid­ing world- class ameni­ties to the eco­nom­i­cally back­ward at lower cost. In ad­di­tion to be­ing less ex­pen­sive than other Cen­tral uni­ver­si­ties in the coun­try, it pays a monthly stipend of Rs 5,000 to its re­search schol­ars. Then there’s also an an­nual schol­ar­ship of Rs 2,000 for 100 eco­nom­i­cally back­ward stu­dents.

“It’s a good mix of the lo­cal and the global,” says Shruti Singh, 21, a fi­na­lyear stu­dent of So­cial Sci­ence at the Mahila Maha Vidyalaya, one of the five

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