Current developments in the field of higher education in India provide an “opportune” time for the University of Chicago to establish an ‘Institute for Advanced Study’ in New Delhi that will focus on promoting interdisciplinary research projects, an ad hoc committee has recommended to the city-based institution.

The mission of the “faculty-driven” Institute for Advanced Study could be to promote and advance a wide range of interdisciplinary research projects through academic and public programmes as well as outreach and development in India.

“University of Chicago’s presence in India might contribute to the intellectual, political and cultural life of India and the process may open our campus and our faculty to new voices and insights from India. The identity and traditions of the University of Chicago mesh felicitously with intellectual needs that are widely felt in India at the present time,” the ‘Ad Hoc Committee on India’ said in its report.

A key initiative of the institute would be giving fellowships to young and junior Indian scholars at the start of their careers as well as to those who are constrained from pursuing research. Another focus area would be to create short-term programmes for government and business community.

“We also hope that the institute could bring together scholars from other countries in the South Asian region, and over time, in collaboration with Chicago centres in other countries, serve to enhance the research and dialogue on global issues like climate change and security,” said the 14-member committee chaired by Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor in the Departments of History, South Asian Languages and Civilizations. Raghuram G Rajan, Eric J Gleacher Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, Chicago Booth School of Business, is also part of the committee.

At a time when the Indian government has approved a bill to allow foreign education providers set up campuses in India and offer degrees and with U.S. President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussing “enhanced U.S.-India strategic partnership in education... it is an opportune time for the university to deepen its engagement with India.”

The committee also considered activities of its peer institutions in constructing its recommendations. While Yale has publicly committed large sums of funding to initiatives related to India, Harvard has some physical presence in Mumbai and New Delhi, and Duke has announced plans for a campus in India.

“However, no peer institution, as far as the committee could ascertain, appeared to have a large presence on the ground in India and Indian colleagues were warmly welcoming of the idea of a Chicago Institute in India,” it said.

It added that partnering wholesale with any new or existing Indian institution would place unmanageable demands on the university’s resources.

While it may take some time for a fullfledged University of Chicago teaching campus to be set up in India, “there was unanimity among the members of the committee that the university could, through the operations of a university facility in India, make a modest but significant contribution to the Indian cultures of research and scholarship.”

New Delhi emerged as the preferred location for the institute, piping other major cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore. On deciding the location for the institute, the committee said New Delhi was a favourite given its accessibility, density of academic and institutional life, real estate and infrastructure and ability to serve as a point of focus for alumni mobilisation.

Further, the committee supports a governance structure for the institute that includes a lean bureaucracy with a governing body, steering committee, faculty director and staff — with special attention paid that the governance of the institute reflect the diverse disciplines and specialisations present at the university.

Other recommendations include a ‘Month in India’ programme, support for ongoing and new India-related scholarship and teaching, scholarly collaboration with Indian academics and institutions and organising summer schools, workshops in India that would help faculty identify opportunities and partners for long-term collaboration.

The institute could also create and administer fellowships for business and opinion leaders, research managers, journalists and policy makers from India to visit the university for short periods for exchange of opinions and ideas.

“We recommend that the institute, in collaboration with alumni, arrange for visiting Chicago faculty to travel to high-quality schools in India and address their teachers and students on undergraduate studies at the university,” the committee, set up by invitation from the Provost in 2009, said.

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