Interdisciplinary Research Centers (IRCs)
In this day and age, interdisciplinary research is crucial for participating in the cutting edge research efforts of any academic area. Interdisciplinary research would therefore be the hallmark of the research effort of the SouthAsianUniversity. However, interdisciplinary research is possible only if expertise in all the relevant disciplines is available on the campus. This objective is proposed to be met by having nine faculties described in this document. Presently, the proposed nine separate faculties along with the Faculties of Medical & Health Sciences and Engineering to be added in Phase-II, would ensure that experts throughout the spectrum of human knowledge would be available on the University campus. It is proposed that interdisciplinary research efforts in area of contemporary interest would take the shape of Interdisciplinary Research Centers (IRCs) in which faculty members from different Faculties will join hands to pursue highly relevant interdisciplinary research. Some illustrative research areas to come under the preview of IRCs could be:
- Artificial intelligence
- Global warming
- Wild life preservation
Faculty members from different Faculties of the University, interested in jointly pursuing a particular interdisciplinary research theme, would be encouraged to move a joint proposal for an IRC wherein they justify the proposed research and ask for funds for additional research facilities and personnel. Each proposal for an IRC will be critically examined by the Academic Council (AC) of the University and if found meritorious and relevant, will be approved for a specified time period. The AC will constantly monitor and assess the progress and productivity of the IRC and at the end of the approved duration, may further extend the IRC in some cases, modify it in others and shut it down. Since an IRC will not have faculty of its own, it would be like a virtual research center with infrastructure needed for its office alone. Constituent faculty members will use their own research facilities. Additionally, requirements of specific research facilities will be met through funds allocated for the IRC. It is hoped that this mechanism will provide a tool for rapid creation of research groups to meet emerging challenges.
Some salary incentives will be provided to encourage faculty members participating in IRCs.
Regional Research Centers and Campuses: Wherever a need is felt, the University will consider establishing academic bodies in the form of Regional Centers and Regional Campuses outside the Main Campus headquartered in New Delhi. Proposals for such academic bodies will be considered by the University’s Academic and Executive Councils and if recommended, taken to the Governing Board of the University for approval. Such Centers/Campuses, being essentially the Regional Specialist Outfits, will heavily draw upon local facilities and expertise to promote research and training in areas that can be best handled by them.
In sum,the SAU is intended to be a perfectly autonomous entity. With the in-built freedom to be bold and innovative in its research policies and priorities, the SAU is sure to emerge as a nursery of new ideas, cross-section of contrasting viewpoints, competitive propensities, and readiness to learn and adjust, all of which should catapult academic pursuits to higher and mutually accommodative regimes. That, all these virtues would strengthen democratic traditions, a sense of regional togetherness, and cooperative living, need hardly to be emphasized.
The SAU is to enjoy flexibility in setting its own courses and curricula, on the one hand, and its own governance structure and rules, on the other, which, in turn should facilitate the SAU to adopt bold vision and innovative thinking to capitalize on its unique status and to realize its mission of creating a world-class institution that South Asia requires. Understandably, as a new institution, it will have to create its own distinct standing among the comity of strong and well-respected international educational institutions, while, at the same time, it will have to grapple with, and absorb, traditional mindsets that abound the region. A balanced mingle of the newest of the new, and the time-tested, region-specific traditional, academic disciplines and practices, is what will endurably sustain SAU, and make it a respectable seat of learning.
The unique character of the SAU should manifest itself in terms of three distinct academic practices that it is choosing for itself. First, a de facto inter-disciplinary approach, both in teaching and research, will be the hall-mark of SAU academic life. On the teaching side, the University will offer a highly diversified curriculum, based on cafeteria approach to provide flexibility to individual students. Students registered with any Faculty would have an option to take courses offered by other Faculties. Thus, a student pursuing a Master’s program in Biotechnology would be free to take a course in computer modeling in the Faculty of Mathematics and Information Technology, a course in Agricultural Economics in the School of Economics and a course in Philosophy of Science in the Faculty of Humanities. Students would thus be encouraged to credit a certain fraction of their required course work in Faculties to which they do not formally belong. A university-wide timetable of courses being offered in various Faculties will be made available to students so that they, in consultation with their faculty advisors, would be able to pick and choose courses most suited for the academic direction they wish to pursue. Inter-disciplinary approach is equally persuasively built into the cob-web of research activities, both for students and faculty. The manner in which research in individual Faculties is visualized, the rationale for setting up Inter-disciplinary Research Centers is built, and the heightened significance attached to the Institute of South Asian Studies, are all reflective of a true inter-disciplinary approach that would differentiate the SAU from most other universities in the region, and beyond. Undoubtedly, this will help unshackle their creativity, and broaden their intellectual horizon, beyond the rigid conventional boundaries of individual disciplines. The in-built spirit of intellectual innovation is what should make the SAU distinct from other universities in the region. It should produce not only good physicists or botanists but also more enlightened scientists; it should throw up not only just economists or socialists but also more envisioned social scientists.
Second, under the chosen continuing monitoring, mentoring and evaluation system, the University will adopt a system of two academic semesters per year. Each semester would have self contained credit courses and a system of constant monitoring and evaluation would be adopted to ensure that the students remain fully engaged throughout the semester and not only at the time of examinations. Thus, the evaluation of the academic performance will be a continuing process comprising occasional class tests, term papers, mid semester and end semester examinations. Teacher-student academic committees, regularly constituted semester after semester, would be the hallmark of collective thinking, course corrections, confidence and trust building, and progressive harmonization of what is taught and what needs to be taught; the South Asian Region can ill-afford to carry on with its historical burden of academic mis-matches.
Third, remedial courses, on a continuing basis, would lend their own uniqueness, given the highly disparate mingle of students from individual SAARC countries, with differences in educational systems, and varying evaluation yardsticks. Individual deficiencies may exist in their communication skills, computer proficiency and in specific areas of their basic training. Special attention will be devoted to ensure that each student makes up for the deficiency in her/his past training. An advisory mechanism will be put in place to assess students at the time of their entry to the SAU and to advise specific remedial/bridge courses they may require in order to remain up-to-date in their respective academic pursuits.