Billionaire Proposes New Research University

British billionaire Anil Agarwal, the chairman of Vedanta Resources, has announced a $1 billion grant towards setting up the first privately-owned research university in his native India.

The Anil Agarwal Foundation made the announcement earlier last year but finalized the eastern state of Orissa as the location for the multi-disciplinary Vedanta University last week in a memorandum of understanding with the local government. 

“India has the potential to be a global leader in business, technology, science, performing arts and sports,” Agarwal said in a statement. “The Vedanta University will make global standards of educational excellence more accessible to the future generations of our country, thereby creating tomorrow’s Nobel laureates, Olympic champions and heads of government and state. It is my honor and privilege to dedicate the Vedanta University to the people of India.”

He added that although the state-owned Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) are comparable with the world’s best, they are only focused on single disciplines and cater to less than 75,000-100,000 students annually — not even 2 percent of the total high school output.

“There is an urgent need for universities providing quality education through a multi-disciplinary curriculum, along with a clear research focus — to further India’s potential as an [research and development] hub,” he said.

The nonprofit university has been envisioned as a sprawling research township, along the lines of Stanford University’s Research Park. According to the Foundation, the objective is to produce cutting-edge research and “generations of students who will come from around the world to earn laurels in their chosen fields.”

The university would offer graduate, postgraduate and doctoral programs to a diverse student body, comprising an equal mix of Indian and international students. The university expects to begin enrolling students in 2008.

Baltimore-based firm Ayers Saint Gross, the campus planners who have worked on such institutions as Carnegie-Mellon University, Case Western University and Emory University, are on board to prepare the master plan for Vedanta University as well.

Born in eastern India, Agarwal started out as a scrap metal merchant in Mumbai before moving to London 30 years ago. His fortunes soared as his company rode the telecom boom, but his recent investments in mining activities in Armenia have brought him into conflict with the local government there.

Diverse staff reports

 

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