Ashoka University

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Ashoka University
Type Private interdisciplinary research university with exclusive focus on Liberal Arts Education
Established Young India Fellowship (PG) - 2011, Masters in Liberal Studies (PG) - 2014, Bachelors (hons.) in Liberal Arts - 2014
Endowment Rs. 750 crores ($125 millions)
Chancellor Andre Beteille (Padma Bhushan awardee, National Research Professor, Professor Emeritus, Delhi School of Economics)
Vice-Chancellor Rudrangshu Mukherjee (Former Editor – Editorial Pages, The Telegraph)
Dean Jonathan Gil Harris, Vanita Shastri
Academic staff
37 permanent and 22 visiting faculty members
Students 750
Undergraduates 550
Postgraduates 200
Location Delhi NCR, Haryana, India
Campus 25 acres (10 ha) (Main campus)
Colors Ashoka University Red      & Ashoka University Blue     
Affiliations UGC

Ashoka University is a fully Residential interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary Research University with a focus on liberal arts in Haryana, India. The University is recognized by University Grants Commission (UGC), Government of India and Government of Haryana.

Ashoka teaches its students through what is called an 'Experimental Learning Method', in which subjects are divided into modules. Along with learning concepts and theories from each module a student is simultaneously part of a live industry project ranging from assisting a Member of Parliament from Lok Sabha to a project team in a women's organization.

The University has been established with a goal to change the job oriented mindset of the Indian education system dominated by professional courses to a more disciplined and focused research studies and create future 'Nobel Laureates'.


The concept of Ashoka University was born in a conversation between some IIT Delhi alumni including Vineet Gupta, Rakesh Jaggi, Ashish Gupta and others, who approached Pramath Sinha for help in setting up a university that would be of a different calibre than that of present higher education in India. In fact, the project was code named Project Nobel, referring to the founders' aspiration for the students to become Nobel Laureates. At the same time, Sanjeev Bhikhchandani and Ashish Dhawan also approached Pramath with a vision of a university, and Pramath fused the two visions together.[1]

Initial discussions leaned towards setting up an institute of engineering and technology that could perhaps match the reputation of leading institutions in the field such as MIT, Penn and Stanford. This led the Ashoka founders to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Penn.

The conversation was to, however, take a turn towards conceptualizing an institution that would actually go on to focus not on engineering and other vocational disciplines, but rather have a bent towards the core sciences, social sciences and the humanities, or what is popularly called the ‘liberal arts’.[2] This decision finds its rationale in both industry need, as well as the need to change the mindsets of Indian students and parents to see education as an end in itself, rather than merely as a stepping stone to securing a job.[3]

It was then decided that Ashoka University will offer a liberal arts education,[4] nurturing core 21st century skills of critical thinking, communication and leadership, also promoting interdisciplinary education and advanced research in the humanities, social sciences, and the natural and applied sciences.


Founders include:


Ashoka University is funded entirely by donations, with no hierarchies present in the founding group in terms of decision making. The group includes over 70 entrepreneurs and industry leaders.[5]

In addition to the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Deans, Ashoka is guided by an academic council of academics and scholars from around the world. The Council sets the academic standard of the University, advising on matters of curriculum, faculty hiring and research.[6]

Visiting faculties from around the world enable the students of Ashoka University achieve a solid footing.

Academic Partners[edit]

Ashoka University collaborates with institutions around the world, drawing on their experience to develop its curriculum and practices. Ashoka University has active partnerships in place with:

  1. Yale University - An American private Ivy League research university in New Haven, Connecticut. They collaborate in designing curriculum at Ashoka and also offer research assistance and summer abroad programs for Ashoka students.
  2. University of Pennsylvania - One of the oldest universities in the United States, and one of the eight Ivy League institutions; represented by Sampath Kannan of the Department of Computer and Information Science, School of Engineering and Applied Science, whose support has resulted in a formidable Computer Science programme at Ashoka[7]
  3. Carleton College - A private liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota, USA
  4. Sciences Po - A public research university, ranked 1 in Europe and 16 in the world for Political and International Studies; represented on Ashoka's Academic Council by Christophe Jaffrelot, Director, CNRS[8]
  5. University of Michigan - An elite research university that is also recognized as one of the eight public ivies; represented on Ashoka's Academic Council by Ruma Banerjee of the Medical School[9]
  6. King's College, London - A public research university that is one of the oldest universities in England, ranked 19 in the world as per the QS World University Rankings published in 2013; represented on Ashoka's Academic Council by Sunil Khilnani of the King's India Institute[10]
  7. University of California, Berkeley- A major public research university located in Berkeley, California. It is the flagship campus of the University of California system.[11][12]
  8. Trinity College, Dublin[13] The University has recently also inked a collaboration with Yale University
  9. Official communication states that the University is also in talks with University of Oxford for partnership in the future. Its illustrious list of partners has been the subject of a lot of media attention, as it is felt to be commendable for a university in its year of inception.[14]

In-House Research Centers[edit]

The following Research Centers highlight and reinforce Ashoka's strong ideological approach towards leveraging and combining research, academics and advocacy to achieve social transformation:

  1. Centre for Entrepreneurship - focuses on developing student skills outside the classroom, in entrepreneurship and community leadership, to prepare them for positions of responsibility in NGOs, social ventures and government bodies. The Centre arranges a wide array of workshops, guest sessions and mentoring activities for students. It also acts as the primary gateway to industry tie-ups and collaborations in order to assist students with summer internships as well as jobs after graduation. The Centre for Entrepreneurship will also support the Ashoka Quest, a unique social internship for students, which takes place during the fourth year of the undergraduate degree programme.
  2. Ashok Trivedi Centre for Political Data - aims at promoting data-driven research, policy work and journalism by providing open access to scientifically collected and treated political data and by offering data services to non-profit organizations. It will play a major role at facilitating the diffusion of empirically sound data and information on matters of public interest, and can become a major tool for anyone interested in public debate in India.
  3. Genpact Centre for Women’s Leadership (GCWL) - is a first-of-its-kind industry academia partnership between Genpact and Ashoka. GCWL will combine the power of academic research with best practices from industry, to empower women through research and advocacy, training programs and a supportive infrastructure to become leaders who drive gender inclusive growth.
  4. Centre for Studies in Gender and Sexuality - is the first in the country to conduct research into both gender and sexuality. It will house researchers working on these subjects in local and global contexts, and will work out ways in which this research can impact activist interventions in daily life. CSGS also hopes to become a one-stop archival space for all academics, activists, and media persons working on issues of gender and sexuality.
  5. Centre for Individual and Group Experience (CIGE) - is one-of-a-kind on-campus counselling center at Ashoka University which is dedicated to the mental health of the Ashoka fraternity. It is staffed by trained psychoanalytic psychotherapists and a mental health counsellor, who offer a range of services from individual counselling sessions to group workshops. The Centre also works towards building awareness about mental health issues by organising guest sessions, seminars and educational workshops.
  6. Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy (CSIP) - perceives two major needs for social impact in India today. One is to influence the capital to be more strategic and informed; the second is to ensure that the capital can be effectively absorbed. To do this, the Centre aims to leverage Ashoka University’s rich student body and academics to foster strategic philanthropic action and help build capacity for social institutions. The Centre envisions to be the foremost organisation for early as well as seasoned social entrepreneurs and philanthropists for research. It will do so by analysing gaps in social impact and philanthropy, creating a framework to address these gaps, enhancing awareness and building capacity for its participating stakeholders. Our stakeholders include: students and academicians, existing and early-stage social leaders/entrepreneurs, philanthropists, corporates, donors and the government.
  7. Centre for Writing and Communication - helps students learn how to think analytically and innovatively and write cogently and lucidly. The CWC works with students through one-on-one tutorials, group sessions, or larger workshops that are designed in consultation with faculty and tailored to specific disciplinary, assignment, and student needs.

Academic Programs[edit]

Young India Fellowship[edit]

This form of education was prototyped in the Young India Fellowship, a full-time academic programme that was launched in 2011 with a vision “to develop committed change agents for India through a multi-disciplinary programme guided by eminent scholars and leaders of our time.”[15] The founding batch had 57 Fellows, all of whom were provided full scholarship. Fellows included graduates and professionals from all walks of life.[16]

The one-year programme comprises eight terms of six weeks each, with up to three courses in each term. The Fellowship emphasizes writing, research, and experiential learning – in the form of an 8-month part-time Experiential Learning Module .[17]

Courses are taught by faculty from institutions around the world. Classroom learning and discussion is augmented by guest lectures by people from both academia and industry, a list that includes names from the University’s Academic Council, Founders and Trustees, network of Mentors, and others such as Nandan Nilekani, Prannoy Roy, Madeleine Albright, Shaheen Mistry, Arjun Uppal and Mihir Shah.[18]

The success of graduates in each batch of the YIF has served to increase the popularity of the programme in its subsequent years.[19] With about a hundred Fellows each in the second and third batches, the YIF now has 200 Fellows in its most recent and fourth batch whose classes are conducted, for the first time, at the newly constructed University campus.

Undergraduate program[edit]

Ashoka University offers a full time residential multidisciplinary 3 (+1 optional) year undergraduate programme. Students are motivated to extend 1 more year after the standard 3 year and remain in the campus and do a further in-depth research in their chosen major under the guidance of a faculty and complete the standard 4 year university education, which the universities abroad require to admit students to their Doctoral Research Programmes leading.


The 25-acre campus of Ashoka University is in the Rajiv Gandhi Education city in Sonepat, Haryana. The campus has been designed by American design firm, Perkins Eastman led by architect Aaron Schwarz.[20]


  1. ^ "Ashoka University". The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 2014-04-07. 
  2. ^ "Ashoka University". Ashoka University. Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  3. ^ "Ashoka University". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2013-12-26. 
  4. ^ "Ashoka University". Ashoka University. Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  5. ^ "Ashoka University". Ashoka University website. Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  6. ^ "Ashoka University". Ashoka University website. Retrieved 2014-03-02. 
  7. ^ "B.Sc. (Hons) in Computer Science at Ashoka University, developed in collaboration with the Department of Computer and Information Science, Penn". Ashoka University website. Retrieved 2014-07-05. 
  8. ^ "French University extends tie-ups with India". The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 2014-02-18. 
  9. ^ "Ashoka University inks MoU with University of Michigan". The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 2014-11-13. 
  10. ^ "King's College plans tie-ups with Indian institutes". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ "A New University Offers Liberal Arts as Higher Education Alternative". The New York Times India Ink. Retrieved 2014-11-26. 
  15. ^ "Young India Fellowship". Ashoka University. Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  16. ^ "Young India Fellowship". Ashoka University. Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  17. ^ "Young India Fellowship". Ashoka University. Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  18. ^ "Young India Fellowship". Ashoka University. Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  19. ^ "Young India Fellowship". Ashoka University. Retrieved 2014-08-07. 
  20. ^ Campus

Coordinates: 28°56′48″N 77°06′06″E / 28.9468°N 77.1016°E / 28.9468; 77.1016