Wealthy Indian entrepreneurs based in New York are planning to invest up to $1 billion to establish six “world class” private research universities across India.
Although similar proposals have been resisted in the past as a potential threat to existing institutions, the new plan has been endorsed by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. “We will actively facilitate this and other similar initiatives,” he told the 88th Indian Science Congress in New Delhi last week.
The backers of the proposed Global Institutes of Science and Technology (GIST) say that “the need for science and technology talent will continue to rise in India as well as globally, and that India will be a major contributor of that talent”.
GIST will be privately funded and managed with no financial input from India's government. It will be registered as an Indian company and, the backers say, will have a president accountable to a governing board made up of major sponsors, world-renowned scientists and chief executive officers of multinational corporations.
Each of its six campuses will have a yearly input of 2,000 students, and GIST plans to form affiliations with leading US research universities.
The proposal was approved last November by the prime minister's science advisory committee, but it has yet to be formally cleared by India's Ministry of Human Resources Development.
Vajpayee also said his government would double research funding by 2004, reform the structure of higher-educational institutions, and free scientific institutions from bureaucratic control. In return, he asked the scientists to transform India into a leading scientific nation in the twenty-first century.