Even as the Universities for Research and Innovation Bill, 2012, is pending in Parliament, billionaire and Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) Chairman Mukesh Ambani’s team has begun acquiring land at Karjat in Raigad district of Maharashtra to give shape to a university.
Ambani plans to set up a research and innovation university with world-class amenities, said sources.
“The university will have state-of-the-art facilities and attract students from across the globe. We are waiting for the passage of the Bill, so that we are clear the university will have its own identity and autonomy. We do not want the university to be under the state or central government,” said an RIL official.
An email questionnaire to RIL remained unanswered.
During RIL’s 37th annual general meeting in 2011, Ambani had announced the plan to set up a “world-class, multi-disciplinary university” in Maharashtra. He had also announced the formation of Reliance Foundation with a planned contribution of Rs 500 crore from RIL, to later be scaled up to Rs 1,000 crore.
The university is expected to come up on a 100-acre plot. Courses in science, arts and professional disciplines will be offered. “A university in a suburban area will have a better land spread than one in a metropolitan area like Mumbai. Hence, we are acquiring land at Karjat,” said another RIL official.
While investment details are not known, sources said the nuances were being worked out. “We will wait and watch till the Bill is passed, with all the checks and balances in place. Innovation universities shall have autonomy in matters such as awarding of degrees and diplomas, appointing teaching and research faculty, determining student fees, and faculty salary,” the official added.
Mukesh Ambani’s wife, Nita Ambani, will be heading the project, which, according to sources, will match the standards of international institutions such as Harvard and Stanford. Nita Ambani is also chairperson of the Dhirubhai Ambani International School, set up in 2003. The school offers courses up to middle school and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma programmes. Its integrated curriculum at the primary level also draws on the ICSE and the Cambridge International Primary Programmes.
According to the Universities for Research and Innovation Bill, every university shall be a not-for-profit legal entity, and all surplus generated must be reinvested for growth. Among other conditions, a person can set up a university if it is a non-profit company under the Companies Act, 1956, a society or a trust, which is an organisation of repute and has proven innovations in research.