Students will be taken from eight member countries of SAARC

The South Asian University (SAU) will begin its first academic session from August with 50 students. They will be taken from the eight member States of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Though the university — the first of its kind in the region — has been allotted land in the Capital for its campus, classes for the first year will be held in the School of Physical Sciences building at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The building is currently lying vacant and JNU has agreed to lend the premises to SAU to start a temporary campus.

The SAU has already advertised for admissions to two courses: a two-year programme of Masters in Development Economics and a three-year course of Masters in Computer Applications, each with 25 seats.

Students from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Maldives and Nepal can apply for admission, but for a limited number of seats, students from outside the SAARC region will also be considered.

As per the rules, the host country will not get more than 50 per cent of the seats, and all countries will not get less than four per cent seats. Any unfulfilled seats will first go to smaller countries before being offered to the host country.

B.B. Bhattacharya, JNU vice-chancellor, sent a letter to SAU chief executive officer G.K. Chadha on Wednesday allowing the building to be used for running classes. The administration department of the SAU is already running in the CRS Language laboratory building on the JNU campus. The SAU will have campuses in all eight member countries, with India having offered to take the lead. The concept of a world-class university was initiated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the 13{+t}{+h} SAARC summit at Dhaka in 2005, with a formal agreement for establishing the institute signed in April 2007 during the 14{+t}{+h} summit in New Delhi.

The foundation stone of the SAU campus, at a 100-acre plot in Maidan Garhi, was laid in 2008. The initial investment for the university is being made by the Indian government. All SAARC member countries will contribute towards operational costs, and the university will also raise money from international financial institutions, educational foundations and donors.

The SAU will focus on research and postgraduate level programmes, and will ultimately have 12 postgraduate science and non-science faculties, as well as a small faculty of undergraduate studies. At full strength, the university will have 7,000 students and 700 teachers. A flagship Institute of South Asian Studies will also be established.

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