Here solving the big problems confronting India and the world will prevail over jurisdictional boundaries of academic departments and programmes. Creating an environment where interdisciplinary academic pursuits and cutting-edge research can reimagine and reshape the world of the future within a framework of human values is a cherished goal with which foundation of the science and technology university Plaksha, touted as a next generation university, was laid at the IT city in Mohali, on Sunday, by Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh.
To be spread over 50 acres of land, made available by the Punjab government right next to the Chandigarh International Airport, the university, promoted by a group of 40-plus Indian origin technology entrepreneurs, industry leaders and professionals from across five countries, will reflect its academic vision across three pillars – reimagining engineering education, enabling a research innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem and addressing grand challenges in India and the world.
Photos By : Life In Chandigarh
The university will also establish research centres to address some of the big challenges that India faces in urban mobility, sustainability, digital agriculture, factories of the future, health and education.
Collectively the partners, who are expected to grow in strength as the university takes shape, will be generating an investment of Rs 2,000 crore over 15 years.
The design of the state-of-the-art university campus, being undertaken by American architect Aaron Schwarz, is nearly ready and construction is expected to start in a month or two. The first academic session is slated to begin in August 2021 with 500 students and 40-odd faculty on board. The entire project is expected to be completed by the year 2035, when the campus will have a capacity to enrol 8,000 students, to be trained by an army of 500 faculty members.
Plaksha has already entered into a MoU with SRI International (erstwhile Stanford Research Institute) to facilitate joint research with industry, and has entered into a Master Alliance Agreement with Purdue University. It is also in talks to partner with University of California, Berkley to help design and deliver the Plaksha Tech Leaders Fellowship 2019, details of which are expected to be announced shortly.
Articulating the vision of all co-founders of the university, one of the founders, and a former Executive Vice Chairman of Tech Mahindra, Vineet Nayyar, who spent his formative years in Chandigarh as an IAS officer, said, “As technology continues to deepen its impact on business and society, at Plaksha, we aim to create a playbook for 21st century technology education in India, a paradigm shift to an interdisciplinary education that reimagines the pedagogy, curriculum, faculty, culture and process of learning. In Mohali, we found the ideal destination for Plaksha and thank the Hon’ble Chief Minister for his support and encouragement.”
The academic advisory board of the university comprises eminent academic leaders from MIT, Princeton University, UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, Purdue University, Harvard Business School and IIT Delhi.
One of the founding academic advisory board members Dr. S. Shankar Sastry, former Dean of Engineering, UC Berkeley, in a recorded interview run on the occasion, said, “It is a time of change in higher education and this effort cannot come at a better time. Plaksha is truly reimagining higher education. In successful institutions globally, it is very hard to make big changes. Having a clean slate opportunity is an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Highlighting a crucial aspect of the university, Manas Fuloria, co-founder Plaksha and CEO of software firm Nagarro, said, “New-age industries are relying on digital technologies to attain non-linear growth and gain competitive advantage. At Plaksha, we intend to foster an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship, where graduates will be nurtured by industry leaders and incubation sessions to innovate at the bottom of the stack to address real world challenges, transforming obligations to opportunities.”
Another founding group member Mohit Thukral, who is also co-founder and Managing Partner of Vivtera, while emphasising the commitment of the founders, said, “we are fully committed to the success of Plaksha and recognise our responsibility in nurturing graduates who aspire to leverage technology to lead organisations, create trailblazing ventures, undertake research and innovation to impact the world at scale and become role models of possibility, for India and the world.”
Expressing his views, Jamboree Education Managing Director Vineet Gupta, who is also co-founder of Ashoka University in Gurgaon, said the network of higher education in India is bigger than in any other country, but only one in four students go to college here as compared to 9 in 10 in South Korea. So if we are to even double the number of students going to college, that is 1 in every 2, then we will have to double or triple the higher education infrastructure. The private sector has to take the bulk of responsibility in this expansion drive, as is has already been doing with a 69% share in higher education, he added.
Singapore based Mission Holdings Chairman Saurabh Mittal expressed confidence that the university would go on to become even more innovative and bigger than the IITs, and would help lay the path for India to become a pioneering technology-driven economy. “If we can be instrumental in generating a thousand start-ups in the next decade we would have fulfilled our dreams,” he affirmed.
Chandigarh-based co-founder Sunny Singh, who is also CEO of RoundGlass, expressed confidence that the university would provide a huge impetus to Mohali and its emerging technology eco-system. He invited wider participation in the venture from Chandigarh-based business leaders.
The founding members of the university comprise business leaders from India, US, UK, Singapore and Hong Kong, and include Boston Consulting Group Asia Chairman Neeraj Aggarwal, Genpact Founder Pramod Bhasin, Warburg Pincus Special Limited Partner Dalip Pathak, Jamboree Education Managing Director Vineet Gupta, former Evalueserve COO Ashish Gupta, InfoEdge (naukri.com) Co-Founder and CEO Hitesh Oberoi, Royal Bank of Scotland Human Resources MD Anuranjita Kumar, Singapore based Mission Holdings Chairman Saurabh Mittal, Vivtera Co-founder and Managing Partner Mohit Thukral, Nagarro CEO Manas Fuloria, Memphis CEO Nitin Rakesh and Clix Capital Director Anil Chawla. The founders also include Chandigarh-based entrepreneurs Pranav Gupta, Karan Gilhotra and RoundGlass CEO Sunny Singh.
Why The Name Plaksha
According To Indian scriptures, the River Saraswati, synonymous with learning, originated from a ‘world tree’ called Plaksha.