I NDIA’ S BEST UNI­VER­SI­TIES

India Today - - EDUCATION -

Jan­uary 2012 be­tween JNU and Trin­ity Long Room Hub, Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin, al­lows schol­ars from one univer­sity to visit and un­der­take re­search at the other. Re­turn econ­omy class fare, a monthly stipend, fur­nished apart­ment and stan­dard pro­vi­sions of the univer­sity will be al­lo­cated to the schol­ars. Two se­lected fel­lows will be free to pur­sue their own line of re­search as well as get the op­por­tu­nity to make a few aca­demic pre­sen­ta­tions.

Not all MOUS signed en­tail only stu­dent ex­changes. The agree­ments signed in 2011 with the Univer­sity of Ed­in­burgh in Scot­land, Univer­sity of Dhaka in Bangladesh and Ge­org Au­gust Univer­sity of Goet­tin­gen, Ger­many, sup­port ex­change of fac­ulty, swap­ping of aca­demic ma­te­ri­als, joint cul­tural pro­grammes and ex­change of ad­min­is­tra­tive man­agers.

Stu­dents are the lifeblood of the 1,000- acre cam­pus. On- cam­pus ini­tia­tives, de­bates, talks, sem­i­nars, cul­tural fes­ti­vals and so­cial move­ments are ad­vo­cated and ex­e­cuted by stu­dents. One such re­cent ini­tia­tive is the ‘ Eco Club’, which was for­malised in 2011. Ded­i­cated to free­ing the cam­pus of waste and rub­bish, the club sug­gests green ini­tia­tives and ways to clean the cam­pus. The club also ad­vo­cates us­ing bi­cy­cles in­stead of cars in­side the cam­pus. This com­ing to­gether of stu­dents of dif­fer­ent back­grounds for one pur­pose is also ev­i­dent in the in­for­mal ‘ Un­no­ticed Club’. Started this year, the club pro­vides ed­u­ca­tion to chil­dren of labour­ers. They have al­ready be­gun train­ing ses­sions on pho­tog­ra­phy and cam­era use. Moun­taineer­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy, book clubs, taek­wondo and yoga clubs are some of the other clubs started and run by the stu­dent com­mu­nity at JNU.

Stu­dents also pay close at­ten­tion to the ef­forts of peo­ple who work for a so­cial cause but go un­no­ticed. JNU in­vited Ja­dav Payeng to be the guest of hon­our at its Earth Day cel­e­bra­tions this year. A vil­lager from As­sam, Payeng is cred­ited with sin­gle- hand­edly grow­ing a for­est of over 550 hectares on the banks of the Brahma­pu­tra. The for­est, which is now big­ger than the JNU cam­pus, is cur­rently home to the en­dan­gered In­dian vul­ture, one- horned rhino and the Royal Ben­gal Tiger.

It is this feel­ing of brother­hood and ex­po­sure to peo­ple from dif­fer­ent walks of life that makes study­ing at JNU a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence. Ab­hi­jit Vi­nayak Ban­er­jee, 51, a Ford Foun­da­tion pro­fes­sor at MIT, US, calls his time at JNU an ‘ eye- opener’. “The ad­mis­sions pol­icy at the time was de­signed to en­sure that a broad cross- sec­tion of In­dia, and not just the met­ro­pol­i­tan elites, could get in. For some­one like me, born and brought up in the hot­house world of the Kolkata up­per mid­dle classes, it was an op­por­tu­nity to make friends that I would have never made oth­er­wise,” re­flects Ban­er­jee. He joined JNU in 1983 and com­pleted a mas­ter’s in eco­nom­ics.

So­pory em­pha­sises that fa­cil­i­tat­ing a whole­some ed­u­ca­tion is his pri­or­ity. “Ed­u­ca­tion is more than just gear­ing up for a job. It is about mak­ing an ac­tual dif­fer­ence in so­ci­ety. We en­cour­age talks, ex­changes and de­bates so that stu­dents can gain wider per­spec­tives on sub­jects,” he says. That is why teach­ing at JNU goes be­yond the class into life it­self.

ACLASS IN PROGRESS ATTHE LAN­GUAGE CEN­TRE

One unique as­pect of life in JNU is that ev­ery stu­dent de­vel­ops a de­gree of po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness.

Ab­hi­nan­dan Basu Physics pro­fes­sor, DU; MSC Physics, 2008

It was a truly di­verse place. It was an op­por­tu­nity to make friends that I wouldn’t have made oth­er­wise.

Ab­hi­jit Vi­nayak Ban­er­jee Ford Foun­da­tion Pro­fes­sor, MIT; Mae­co­nomics, 1983

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