I NDIA’ S BEST UNIVERSITIES
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