Academic programmes, scholarships and ground breaking research with a tinge of spiritual learning is what universities run by spiritual gurus offer. Prachi Rege takes a quick peek at the campuses that aim to create graduates with a conscience.
Realising the importance of quality education and vocational skills, many popular spiritual gurus have invested in setting up educational institutes across the country. Each of these universities, has multiple campuses across various cities, where a gamut of courses that span from topics and sub-topics in humanities, science, history, technology and many more are offered.
"Universities like ours offer an amalgamation of quality curriculum backed with values of our spiritual leader," says P Venkat Rangan, vice chancellor, Amrita Vidyapeetham University. The focus of Amrita University which functions under the guidance Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, its founder and chancellor, is to offer learning that will not only earn you a living, but also contribute to the benefit of the society. "Education not just to earn a living but education for life is our mission," emphasises Rangan.
At the Sri Sri University (SSU), the Art of Living Lifestyle is weaved into the curriculum, so that students train their mind to become efficient and productive at their workplace. KC Mishra, vice chancellor, SSU, explains, "We offer education that interweaves ancient spiritual values of the East with cutting-edge ideas and technology of the West." According to Mishra, their curriculum enriches both domain expertise and life skills. "The aim is to mould students into ethical, capable leaders who have the ability to effectively deal with stress and facilitate happy, creative and efficient work environments."
Located in Orissa and founded by spiritual leader, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the University has recently collaborated with the Overseas Volunteer for a Better India (OVBI) to offer 12 scholarships to students who want to pursue a Masters in Good Governance and Public Policy. SSU is also offering the Rajendra Laxmi Mathur Memorial Award for Education in Governance and Policy, a full scholarship for those interested in political reforms, political leadership and political governance. "During the two-year programme students will receive rigorous theoretical and practical training in political affairs, party and election management, political governance and public policymaking," informs Mishra.
FOCUS ON RESEARCH
Having received funds to the tune of Rs 200 crore from various global government and non-government agencies, Amrita Vidyapeetham encourages collabortive research. Finding the structural genome of plants, building an automatic insulin pump, wireless sensors networks, e-learning software and developing a source code to detect plagarism are some of the projects that are in various stages of progression. There is also the Sakshat Amrita Vocational Education (SAVE), where the UN funded research project ‘Development of Computerized Vocational Training Modules’ is underway. "This is developed using haptic devices that create a vocational learning programme for skilled workers like carpenters, electricians and plumbers," explains Rangan. The university along with the Gate Foundation is also working on building “no water usage toilets’’. The underlying principle is use good bacteria to kill the bad bacteria that come out of human waste.
SSU too encourages research. This year it has set up the Faculty of Research and Doctoral Studies with the aim to conduct global interdisciplinary research and innovation projects. Eight students have been offered the doctoral programmes in the field of management, governance and public policy, performing arts and yoga. Research is being carried out in areas of integrated development including business policy, economics, finance and accounting, computer and information systems, marketing, organisational behaviour and personnel and industrial relations etc,. "A resource centre that provides the opportunity to embed research in learning and teaching and create new knowledge will be set up at the Orissa campus," informs Mishra.
At the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (SSSIHL), the number of doctoral research scholars has increased from 60 in 2012 to 78 in 2013. The University is in the process of setting up a state-of-the-art Sri Sathya Sai Centre for Advanced Studies — an innovative research center to explore and promote the convergence of basic and translational research in environment, health and energy.
At SSU, students also undergo the Advanced Meditation course every year. They have a Development Index of the Spiritual Committee (DISCO), one of the nine main student committees under the Assessment Development Leadership Outreach Potential (ADLOP) programme. It takes responsibility to keep the spiritual quotient high among students. This includes organising weekly follow-up sessions as well as regular meditation and yoga programmes. At SSSIHL, besides conducting daily prayer meets and regular awareness programmes, students have to participate in gram seva — a social service initiative in rural areas. The objective is to introduce and sensitise students toward societal problems. Amrita University too encourages its students to take social work as a profession.