Krea University is an avenue to grow a scientific temper with creative firmament and interactive learning approaches. Former RBI governor and advise of Krea University, Raghuram Rajan and the Vice-Chairperson of the supervisory board for Krea University, Kapil Viswanathan speaks on their vision of a university with an agnostic ideology and flexibility in the curriculum. Krea will come up in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh, which is approximately 75 km from Chennai and roughly a two-hour drive away.

Two years after the germ of an idea — the founding of a liberal arts and sciences university — was tossed around by entrepreneur Kapil Viswanathan and economist and educator Sunder Ramaswamy, who will be the Vice-Chancellor of Krea University, it is now inching closer to reality.

On March 23, a distinguished group, comprising of corporate leaders and academicians, gathered in Mumbai to make the official announcement for the establishment of Krea, a university that promises interwoven learning and preparedness for the 21st century. The university opens registrations for its inaugural Bachelor’s degrees in Arts and Science in November this year for the academic year starting from July-August 2019.

Away from theoretical logjams

Mr. Rajan said, “The demand [for universities] is huge. Just look at the number of kids we send abroad, [which] are basically imports because we are paying for them with domestic currency. Think of us as an import-substituting industry.”

For Mr. Rajan the keyword was flexibility while noting that very few Indian universities offer a wide choice of subjects and interdisciplinary combinations.

“Krea hopes to offer that breadth, but also ties it to learning tools, cross-cutting courses across disciplines and immersive work experience, maybe with an NGO in a village during a summer,” he said. Having missed the flexibility of elective courses during his student years, Mr. Rajan now takes advantage of his position as Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, by sitting in on classes about Hinduism and philosophy. He said, “Time at universities should be about giving you tools and capabilities and also opening doors to what might lie outside, that you haven’t even encountered.”

Rapid plan of action

For Mr. Vishwanathan, the trigger for establishing Krea was a deep concern for future generations. “It was about having kids and [thinking of] the world that they were going to grow up in. I was worried. That was the starting point,” he said. His imperative in sight, Vishwanathan rapidly began to expand the circle of dialogue to draw in professionals like Mr. R. Seshshayee, chairperson of IndusInd Bank, former banker Mr. N. Vaghul and Mr. Rajan, and roped in industrialists like Ms. Anu Aga, Ms. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Mr. Anand Mahindra and Mr. Sajjan Jindal, among others. Mr. Vishwanathan has taken on the mantle of vice-chairperson of Krea’s supervisory board.

Changing perceptions

“We are trying a new path. Ashoka has been very successful and certainly gives us a standard to beat. But the idea is not to follow any particular mould, but to create one – we have a very varied academic council – with people like T.M. Krishna and Srinath Raghavan who will bring their own perspectives. The idea is to try and break the mould while recognising that there has to be a mould for students to be accepted in – by business and by institutes of higher education. But within that, use the freedom we have to create something different. We need far more institutions of the kind that Ashoka has already turned out to be”, said Mr. Rajan

Creating Agnostic Quentioning Minds

“We spent a lot of time thinking about building an institution from the ground up and thinking about the core values of the organisation, which is to be ideologically agnostic. We are all very committed to this and we are going to hold that principle very seriously,” said Mr. Vishwanathan.

Taking the idea forward, Mr. Rajan reiterated, “We are all prisoners of our own ideology and if we don’t recognize that, we remain prisoners. The best way to liberate yourself from the prison is to be forced to debate your strongest-held assumptions. The moment the institution kills debate, you are sunk as an educational institution, because you are not educating but imparting theology.”

Krea shows a new path in higher education and it’s a rare opportunity for its promoters to create world leaders from the first batch of 100 students who will graduate in 2023. That’s the test of time for this unique venture.

Source: The Hindu