DR. JAMSHED BHARUCHA ON HIS DREAM OF BUILDING A WORLD CLASS LIBERAL UNIVERSITY IN INDIA
“Students are the future of the Nation and the world. As elders, we have traditionally told our youth what to do and how to do it. In today’s world, we need a new approach to prepare students to develop talent and match it to the society,” says Dr. Jamshed Bharucha, Founding Vice Chancellor, Sai University. The renowned cognitive neuroscientist has served in leadership roles with top universities around the world. We talked to him about his decision to come back to India to shape the nascent university with big dreams of making a strong international presence and nurturing its students into global leaders of tomorrow.
The return of the master academician
Fellow at Stanford University, Provost and Senior Vice President, Tufts University, Visiting Scholar, Harvard University; Dr. Bharucha’s storied career is marked with outstanding highlights on global platforms. But he asserts that he always dreamed of returning to India and building a world class liberal university. “I left India because the higher education system was stifling and I wanted a liberal education. I have returned because India now actively welcomes liberal education. Our generous Founder and I have once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a university based on unleashing student talent with minimal bureaucracy. We must get it right,” he declares.
Taking an Indian University onto the world stage.
Dr. Bharucha admits that over the years there has remained a gap between higher education in India and some of the top international names. He informs that Sai University aims to bridge that gap through active learning, interdisciplinary studies, looking at writing as a craft, and being student-driven. The foundation for its global mission has been laid with the help of an International Advisory Board consisting of thought leaders across a vast intellectual spectrum. “Most of them are also visiting faculty who are committed to interacting with our students through teaching, research opportunities, and mentorship,” he explains.
Dr. Bharucha cites the example of Professor Sherman Teichman, who is the Founder of the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University. “He will teach a Foundation Course called Global Challenges, in which students will come face to face with leaders around the world working in the government or non-government sectors to discuss global problems. Students will have the opportunity to be a part of international projects, either in person or virtually, collaborating with other peers from around the world,” he adds.
Truly global and research experience through a thoughtful approach
Semester exchange programs are integral to any university with global aspirations. However they often remain out of bounds for many students as families struggle to bear the costs for tuition and housing overseas for an entire semester. Dr. Bharucha asserts that these programs will be offered at Sai University too but with new opportunities. “Besides the exchange programs we will also offer shorter trips abroad that are project-based or workshop-based, focusing on personalized interactions with students and faculty at the overseas host institutions. We will offer a far richer menu of International experiences than any other university we know of,” he says confidently.
These rich experiences will also include research, which has been a constant in Dr. Bharucha’s remarkable career. He strongly believes that great universities have a dual mission: teaching and research. In fact, according to him, it’s a mistake to regard teaching and research as independent of each other. “Students who are involved in research under the supervision of faculty find it to be a powerful form of active learning. You will never forget what you learn through discovery. Some of the most original ideas sometimes come from undergraduate students who bring a fresh approach to a problem,” he says.
It’s this generation of problem solvers that will be nurtured at Sai University, which clearly has a few original ideas to raise the bar for higher education in India. Dr. Bharucha believes, it would result in, “Sai University students graduating as true global citizens, bringing their Indian context to the table in International forums.” It augurs well for India; focused on becoming a future global leader.