The Future of Liberal Arts and Science in India Conference


Liberal Arts and Sciences Education in India is taking root in a number of new institutions and initiatives, making this an opportune time to showcase some of these new ventures, and explore how Indian liberal arts can develop in its own way, building its own academic traditions that create lasting and meaningful impact for society.  Advances in online education, pedagogy, and curriculum are converging, and we hope to create a stimulating workshop where leaders in advancing Indian Higher education can discuss the future landscape of education in India.

Keynote speakers, including Ramachandra Guha (author, columnist, historian and philosopher),  Nandan Nilekani (former CEO of Infosys, and noted author and speaker) and Andre Beteille (author and professor from University of Delhi) will join a dynamic and innovative group of academic leaders and professors to discuss how India can develop its own form of liberal arts undergraduate education.

In our meeting, we will discuss the best strategy for implementing higher education in India in a way that will help solve some of the challenges that India faces in the new century. Liberal Arts and Sciences Education can help create a new generation of graduates trained to think creatively about complex issues such as the urban-rural divide, the rapidly developing nature of Indian economy. Liberal Arts and Sciences Education merges science and technology with humanities, philosophy, arts to address some of the deeper issues facing India.

Is Liberal Arts and Sciences Education the answer? Liberal Arts and Sciences Education provides “holistic” education intended to foster creative and independent thought. It is an education that can liberate people to pursue their passions, enabling them to do their best and expand their capacities in all fields. One goal of such an education is to produce graduates who will approach the world with a more balanced perspective, and who can create new jobs and programs to help others with a sense of social responsibility.

While there is a long tradition of this form of education abroad, particularly in the United States, will it work in the Indian context? What has been the experience of the few such ventures in India? How can new technologies, many of them from India, change the landscape of higher education? We use the occasion to not only assess the relevance of and need for Liberal Arts and Sciences education in India but to also meet with pioneers, thinkers and trail blazers to engage in an exchange of experiences and ideas aiming to learn and be motivated or motivate action for bettering the education of the youth of India and the world.

Across India, new initiatives are adopting a liberal arts model and implementing new styles of teaching. Some exciting new institutions include the Ashoka University , the O.P. Jindal Global University , the Indian Institute for Human Settlements in Bangalore , Tagore University in Pune,  the new Symbiosis School for liberal arts. Other initiatives that help create new NGOs and train students in constructive techniques for changing society, such as the new program in Development Practice, developed by Ambedkar University of Delhi and PRADAN.

The conference will enable these institutions to present their work, and to have a dialog about how these institutions can collaborate, can learn from each other, and can work towards common goals of improving education and empowerment within India of the next generation of India’s leaders.

The conference at the Raman Research Institute and the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) in Bangalore, will include leaders from some of these new initiatives in India and abroad, and a chance to share some of the results of these exciting new programs.

Perhaps liberal arts and sciences are resurgent because the deepest questions that all human beings need to answer never change, and perhaps students have an increasing need for wisdom and deep knowledge in a world that is awash with information.

Organizing Committee
The Conference organizers include a group from Pomona, Yale, IIHS, and RRI.

  • Bryan Penprase, Frank P. Brackett Professor of Astronomy, Pomona College
  • Lakshmi Saripalli, Astrophysicist, Raman Fellow, Raman Research Institute, Bangalore, India.
  • K. Sivaramakrishnan, Dinakar Singh Professor of India and South Asian Studies; Chair, South Asian Studies Council of Yale University; Director, Yale India Initiative
  • George Joseph, Director for International Relations and Leadership Programs, Yale University
  • Aromar Revi, Director of the Indian Institute of Human Settlements, and noted expert on sustainable development, global climate change and environmental change
  • Pramath Raj Sinha, Founder & Trustee of the Ashoka University, and Founding Dean of the Indian School of Business (ISB).
Day 1 (7 January 2014)

Venue: Raman Research Institute Auditorium. Short welcomes from RRI, Pomona and Yale

9:00 – 9:15 am Opening Remarks
9:15 – 10:15 am Keynote SpeechPluralism and University Education in India and Beyond” Ramachandra Guha, noted historian, author, and thinker. His works include frequent columns about current politics and original thinking about India’s history and future (introduced by K. Sivaramakrishnan, Yale)
10:15 – 10:30 am Short break
10:30 – 12:30 pm Session I – Introductory Talks – New Institutions, New Curriculum for India
Venue: Raman Research Institute Auditorium.

Speakers will introduce themselves and the vision of their institutions toward liberal arts. They will discuss their curriculum and programs, and their particular concerns and questions they hope to address. These speakers will be given 30 minutes each, including time for 5-10 minutes of questions and discussion with the audience.

10:30 – 11:00 am O.P. Jindal Global University
Global affairs curriculum, and vision for the future (Raj Kumar, founding Vice Chancellor)
11:00 – 11:30 am Ashoka University
Liberal arts curriculum, and vision for the future (Pramath Sinha, Founder & Trustee, Ashoka University)
11:30 – 12:00 noon Azim Premji University
Access and equity in higher education and future plans (Anurag Behar, founding Vice Chancellor)
12:00 – 12:45 pm Plenary Panel Discussion I
What is the right balance between broad access to higher education – scalability and affordability – and building excellence and selectivity?

Panelists: Dileep Ranjekar* (Azim Premji), Radhika Herzberger (Rishi Valley), Pramath Sinha (Ashoka), Pawan Agarwal (Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development)

12:45 – 1:45 pm Working Lunch; Raman Research Institute
1:45 – 2:45 pm Plenary Panel Discussion II
How can Indian higher education better reflect the full richness of India’s culture – its diverse heritage and array of religious and spiritual traditions, and its deep literature? And what impacts would such a new form of higher education have on the future of India?

Panelists: Vasudha Dalmia (Yale), Rajan Chandy (Rishi Valley), Tara Kini (Shristi School)*, Nita Kumar (CMC)*.

Introductory Talks (continued) – New Institutions and New Curriculum for India
2:45 – 3:15 pm Shiv Nadar University
Plans and progress (Nikhil Sinha, founding Vice Chancellor)
3:15 – 3:45 pm Yale-NUS College (Singapore)
Common curriculum and liberal arts in East Asia (Pericles Lewis, inaugural President)
3:45 – 4:15 pm Presidency University
Liberal Arts education in a State University Curriculum: the GenEd programme at Presidency University Kolkata” (Somak Raychaudhury, Dean of Faculty, Natural and Mathematical Sciences)
4:15 – 4:30 pm Tea Break
4:30 – 5:00 pm Liberal thinking in India: Ancient model for contemporary practice (Dr. Laurie Patton, Dean of Arts and Sciences, Duke University)
5:00 – 5:45pm Innovative Foundations providing education for India’s marginalized populations: Panelists: Rashmi Misra (Vidya Foundation), Madan Padaki (Head Held High Foundation), Shukla Bose (Parikrma Humanity Foundation), Sriram Aiyer (NalandaWay), Maya Menon (The Teacher Foundation).
5:45 – 6:45 pm Indian Higher Education and Liberal Arts – A Dialogue
Andre Beteille (Emeritus, University of Delhi) and Rudrangshu Mukherjee (Opinions Editor, Telegraph). Moderator: Sharada Srinivasan (NIAS)
7:15 – 9:30 pm Conference Dinner with Cultural Program + Dinner.

Venue: Raman Research Institute

Day 2 (8 January 2014)

The second day will be located to the Bangalore City Campus of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, just a short distance (less than 1 km) south of the Raman Research Institute.

This session will feature a series of panel discussions focused on the details of the curriculum and institution: how does your institution teach or present science? Online learning? Humanities? What balance is best for common curriculum vs. electives? What expertise will your institution develop and what niche are you working toward?

Session II – Liberal Arts Education in the US and India
Some of the US host institutions will describe some of their approaches to liberal arts education. In this session panels of five presenters will pose and answer some difficult questions facing India and its higher education sector, and how new institutions and new liberal arts and sciences curriculum can address these problems. The session will create a dialogue among a mixed group of presenters and with the audience. 

9:00-9:20 am Opening Remarks
C B Bhave (Chairperson, IIHS): welcomes attendees to IIHS
Lakshmi Saripalli (RRI): Introduces the day’s proceedings
9:20-9:50 am Pomona College and its liberal arts mission (David Oxtoby, President, Pomona College)
9:50-10:00 am Liberal and International Education at Yale (K. Sivaramakrishnan, Director, South Asian Studies and India Initiative, Yale University)
10:00-10:15 am Research and Institutional Culture at Liberal Arts College

What does it mean to be a teacher/scholar at a liberal arts college? (Bryan Penprase, Pomona College)
10:15-10:30 am Short Break
10:30-11:00 am Reflections on Indian and US Higher Education – Pradeep Khosla, Chancellor, UC San Diego
11:00-11:30 am The view from the University of California, Santa Cruz – George Blumenthal, Chancellor, UC Santa Cruz
11:30-12:00 noon Building Centers of Excellence in Research at Higher Education Institutions: A Review of Science Research Policy and Curriculum Reform in the US

David Drew, Claremont Graduate University.

12:00-12:30 pm The Global Liberal Arts Imperative (Hiram Chodosh, President, CMC)
12:30-1:30 pm LUNCH – Served at the IIHS Bangalore City campus where the conference is being held. Will be a “working lunch” with tables designated by topics for our afternoon breakout sessions
Session III – Details of Governance, Curriculum and Support for Building Excellence in Liberal Arts

The meeting will break into two parallel sessions, which will feature panel discussions of how to implement science, humanities, common curriculum, and experiential learning into undergraduate education, and the ways these programs provide transformative and holistic education for undergraduates. The smaller groups in each panel discussion will enable deeper discussions and potential collaborations.

1:30-2:30 pm Parallel Panel Discussions I
Science and Common Curriculum at Liberal Arts Institutions

Session A: Panel 1 – Science in Liberal Arts institutions
Panelists include: Somak Raychaudhury (Presidency University, Kolkata), Priya Natarajan (Yale), Arjendu Pattanayak (Carleton), Urbasi Sinha (RRI), and Sharada Srinivasan (NIAS).

Session B: Panel 2 – Common Curriculum and General Education models
Panelists include: Anitha Kurup (NIAS), Rajaram Kudli* (Prajnan Enterprises), Usha Rajaram (Azim Premji), and Nikhil Sinha* (Shiv Nadar).

2:40-3:40 pm Parallel Panel Discussions II
Humanities and Experiential Learning at Liberal Arts Institutions

Session A: Panel 3 – Humanities for 21st Century India – what is the best approach?
Panelists include: Rajeev Patke* (Yale-NUS), Beth McKinsey (Carleton), Cynthia Humes (CMC), Satish Inamdar* (KFI), Jerome Nirmalraj (St Josephs College), and Supriya Chaudhuri (Jadavpur University, Kolkata).

Session B: Panel 4 – Experiential Learning, Internships, and Science Research for Undergraduates at Liberal Arts Institutions.
Panelists include: Sara Smith Orr* (CMC), Bidushi Bhattacharya* (CMC, Scripps, and Pitzer Colleges), Rajaram Nityananda (NCRA and Azim Premji), Brian McAddoo (Yale-NUS), and Kavita Wankhade (IIHS)

3:40-4:00 pm Tea break
4:00-5:00 pm Plenary Panel Discussion III
How can higher education help sustain India’s environment and economic growth throughout the 21st century – political and scientific dimensions.
Panelists include: Amlan Goswami (IIHS), Steven Wilkinson* (Yale), Radha Gopalan (Rishi Valley), Dilip Ahuja (NIAS). 

Session IV – Working Group Meetings
In this session smaller groups will convene to work together on particular topics of mutual interest. We would start the meeting with a possible set of topics and a whiteboard that would enable people to sign up for these “breakout” or “birds of a feather” groups. A total of 6-8 of these groups would convene with titles including “partnerships for online learning,” “common curriculum development,” “outreach and access,” and other topics TBD. These sessions would make use of 6 meeting rooms at IIHS.
Each of the working group topics will be announced at lunch, and the working group leader will stand and offer a short thumbnail description of the topics they will be focused on in the working group discussions.

5:00-6:30 pm Working Group Discussions
Small groups will convene to discuss topics that are most useful and relevant to attendees and which can lead to longer term collaborations. Group leaders will convene a focused discussion on specific topics, and report back to the entire conference some plans for addressing each topic at their home institutions as well as potential and proposed collaborations.

Evening Reception and Dinner – hosted by C B Bhave at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements Tharangavana facility (1.5 km from the conference location).

Day 3 (9 January 2014)

This final session will be held at the Raman Research Institute Campus. The session will feature reports back from the various working groups, and a discussion of how best to continue the collaborations and contact. Partnerships between the institutions can be discussed – we may hear from new connections between US and Indian institutions, and also between Indian institutions.

9:00-10:00 am Session V: Conclusion and “next steps”

Opening Plenary
Venue: Raman Research Institute, Auditorium

Nandan Nilekani, former CEO of Infosys, Inc., currently chair of the Indian Government Committees on technology – UIDAI and TAGUP, and author of the book “Imagining India.” (introduced by Aromar Revi, IIHS).

10:00-10:15 am Break
10:15-11:15 am Plenary Panel Discussion IV
“How can liberal arts and sciences help address some of the societal problems within India and promote equity in society with regards to gender, caste, and region?”

Panelists include: Smita Premchander* (Sampark NGO), Anita Reddy (Dwaraka), Swati Dandekar (filmmaker), Shekhar Seshadri (NIMHANS), Zayn Kassam* (Pomona College).

11:15-11:45 am Indian Institute for Human Settlements
Interdisciplinary education programs in India and future plans (Aromar Revi, Director).
11:45-12:00 noon Reports from working collaborative groups – a series of 5 minute recaps of working group “breakout” discussions.
12:00-12:30 pm Next steps – a discussion. [session facilitators: K. Sivaramakrishnan (Yale), and Pramath Sinha (Ashoka)]
12:30-1:00 pm Concluding remarks: Satish Inamdar, KFI
1:00-2:00 pm Lunch
2:00 pm Adjournment