OP Jindal VC: ‘We train liberal arts students in critical thinking, impart creative skills’

OP Jindal University plans to enter into science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) and other disciplines like engineering and medical sciences.

C Raj Kumar, Vice Chancellor of OP Jindal UniversityC Raj Kumar, Vice Chancellor of OP Jindal University

Sheena Sachdeva | July 7, 2024 | 12:48 AM IST

NEW DELHI: C Raj Kumar, vice chancellor of OP Jindal University spoke to Careers360 on liberal arts education in India, placements at Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities, internationalisation, partnerships and more. Edited Excerpts:

Q. What’s the difference between a standard BA, BSc you’d get in a traditional university and a liberal arts programme?

A. A standard bachelor of arts/science is solely focused on one singular discipline/subject. However, the rising problems of our world do not exist in silos. To combat issues like climate change, the world requires educated global citizens who can address the issue from multiple perspectives.

A bachelor of arts in liberal arts has a strong interdisciplinary foundation that trains the student to critically analyse a problem through multiple lenses. At Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities (JSLH), our BA honours in Liberal Arts and Humanities (BALH) programme offers small classes, close faculty-student engagement and experiential learning through field work. This ensures the holistic development of a student and prepares them for the future.

The BALH degree imparts creative skills and trains students in critical thinking through an interactive learning pedagogy. The emphasis on interdisciplinarity helps students understand connections between different disciplines.

Q. How do you ensure students have choice and flexibility? How flexible is the programme structure? What are the subject combinations?

A. Our BA honours in liberal arts and humanities offers interdisciplinary foundation courses in humanities and social sciences ranging from literature, history, environmental studies, political science, expressive arts and philosophy.

Q. What is the ratio of foreign faculty at your university and how are they being hired?

A. From inception, our vision was to create a truly global, interdisciplinary, and research-oriented university. To help us achieve this transformative vision, we have focused on welcoming outstanding faculty members from India and around the world.

Currently, 10% of our 1200+ faculty members are non-Indian nationals from over 50 countries. At OP Jindal Global University (JGU), we look for inspiring teachers who are also prolific researchers, who can drive our vision of becoming a world-class global university.

Internationalisation is also a key element of the school, not only in terms of faculty representation but also in the way the curriculum is designed and executed. Faculty members bring their international experience into the classroom not only through an experiential learning pedagogy, but also readings that emphasise a global understanding of issues.

Q. “Liberal arts education” is seen as something for the elites as it is offered mainly by private universities. How do you see this?

A. Liberal arts education is the need of the hour. Even industries require students who can think from multiple perspectives.

While the term ‘liberal arts’ may be new, the broad-based approach to education is not new to India. Many ancient universities, such as Nalanda or more recent ones such as Tagore’s Visva Bharati, emphasised holistic education.

The focus on an interdisciplinary education in NEP 2020 will expand the reach of liberal arts education beyond private universities.

Q. Any new courses or departments in the pipeline?

A. In the next few years, we have plans to enter into science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) and disciplines beyond STEM like engineering and medical sciences.

Q. How have the placements for 2023-24 been?

A. JSLH students have been recruited in top companies, such as Ernst and Young, KPMG, McGraw Hill, Essai Education, PWC, Turian Labs, as well as internationally, such as the Clooney Foundation for Justice. In addition, a majority of JSLH students prefer to pursue a higher education degree overseas or in India. This could often be after a year or two of internships. JSLH students have been offered into renowned institutions such as Harvard University, McGill University, New York University, Yale University, London School of Economics, ESSCA-France, The Graduate School at Geneva and IIM Ranchi to name a few.

Q. OP Jindal has many international university partnerships. How do these partnerships and pacts help students in research and academics?

A. JGU has established over 450 international collaborations with leading institutions in more than 75 countries. Our partnerships with leading liberal arts counterparts in the world have enabled us to provide experiences such as summer schools, semester exchanges and study abroad opportunities.

In our BA honours in liberal arts and humanities programme, students have the option to pursue a dual degree from our leading partner universities – Rollins College in the USA or Deakin University, Australia – after completing their second year at JGU. I am also happy to share with you that over 50% of the students of JSLH engage in our long-term or short-term international experiences. Through these experiences, they have been able to learn
and collaborate with international peers and leading scholars in their fields.

(C Raj Kumar didn’t respond to questions on the allegations of crackdown on Left-wing student groups and the university’s participation in NIRF or NAAC)

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