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Decks cleared for setting up Azim Premji University

Mahesh Kulkarni & Bibhu Ranjan Mishra  |  Bangalore 

Bill passed against stiff opposition in Assembly

Decks were cleared for setting up the University, the first private in Karnataka, with the passing of the Bill, 2010 by the legislative assembly, amidst strong protest from opposition parties, here on Friday.

This will be the 43rd private to be set up in the country. It will be based out of Bangalore and open campuses, and study centres across the country and abroad.

Welcoming the passage of the bill, sources at Foundation, the not-for-profit organisation managed by Chairman Azim Premji, said, “It’s a welcome step taken by the state government, which will have far reaching effect on the sector in the country.”

The Foundation had approached the state government last year for permission to set up the state’s first private university. Since its establishment in 2001, Azim Premji has donated Rs 650 crore to the foundation from his personal wealth for undertaking various activities in the sector.

The Bill was passed by a voice vote in the assembly amidst protest from the opposition parties after a three-hour long debate. Members from the Congress, the main opposition party and JD(S) stated that the Bill was not in the framework of the University Grants Commission and requires certain changes. They demanded the government to set up a joint house committee to study the Bill in detail and make certain changes before reintroducing it.

Dileep Ranjekar, CEO, Azim Premji Foundation, had earlier said that the fact that there was no university in the country that focussed on elementary education, prompted the Foundation to think about setting up such a university.

"At every level in today, there is a dearth of educational professionals. The university will engage in developing such professionals. These professionals are required for building teacher educator capacity, education managers capacity, head teachers capacity and also the people who will make policy decisions which are based on their knowledge about education," Ranjekar had told Business Standard.

Speaking on the bill, Siddaramaiah, leader of the opposition party said, “The proposed university will not be helpful to common people and it will cater to the requirements of the wealthy people only. Everybody should get quality education. This university is only for few who are rich and not for all. Why should we allow this?”

G Parameshwar, former higher education minister and leader said the government should have thought of bringing out a private universities bill instead of bringing the Azim Premji University Bill.

Many other states like and have failed in administering private universities, why is government interested to allow a private university, he said.

The entire opposition in the house demanded for setting up a joint house committee to go into the details of the bill and submit a report to the house on the feasibility of such a private university.

However, the ruling members defended the Bill. Chief minister and higher education minister Aravind Limbavali said that stalling the bill at this juncture would send wrong signals to the private investors in the state, especially to Azim Premji who has come forward to set up the university. “Premji’s vision for the education sector is amazing. He wants to do something good to our education sector. Its our duty to strengthen his hands and not stall the development,” he said.

The university aims to launch a postgraduate programme (MA) in education, to start with. Other than this, the varsity intends to launch several short-term courses targettted at in-service development needs of education managers, teacher educators and teachers.

Ranjekar said the second important activity that the varsity would be focussing is on research, which is lacking in education sector in the country. The university will collaborate with number of states across the country in helping them by setting up education resource centres. These will be like extended arms of the university, which will focus on building capacity among people in elementary education and higher education.



First Published: Sat, March 13 2010. 11:09 IST