Why India Needs A University Like Stanford, Which Ranks 2nd In The World

Shail Kumar

November 16th, 2017

Image Credit: Stanford

India’s youth, society, industry, and economy needs several new world-class multidisciplinary research universities. It is time to establish India’s Stanford and bring back the glory days of Nalanda University of ancient India. — Nalanda 2.0


Great nations, states, and cities are powered by a world-class higher education system. The United States has 135 universities in the Top 500 of global rankings, China has 45, South Korea: 12, California: 12, Silicon Valley: 3, and Singapore: 2. In the same rankings India has just one university in the Top 500. (Source: ARWU, 2017)

We live in a world that is increasingly being disrupted by technology and business innovation. Being prepared for a hyper competitive and rapidly changing world is the only certain path for individuals to lead a fulfilling life and have a productive career.

Higher education system prepares young 18 year olds for their future life and career. Professionals in all sectors of the industry and society, including teachers in primary and secondary school are educated in colleges and universities. A vibrant college and university also enables the research, innovation and start-up ecosystem and solves problems that matter to the society.  Thus, higher education system is the nerve center of any society and nation.

India’s higher education landscape has over 700 universities, 37,000 affiliated colleges, 11,000 stand-alone institutions and several distance-education universities. They collectively enroll over 30 million students. Yet, even after 70 years of independence India does not have even one world-class multidisciplinary research university.


It’s time to establish India’s Stanford

Stanford University, based in Silicon Valley, California was ranked #2 in the Top 500 of global rankings. Stanford has an enrollment of over 7,000 undergraduate students and over 9,000 graduate students for a total of over 16,000. It has over 2,100 faculty members in its seven schools and colleges: the Graduate School of Business, School of Earth Sciences, Graduate School of Education, School of Engineering, School of Humanities and Sciences, School of Law, and School of Medicine.  

World-class multidisciplinary research universities, like Stanford, by scope, structure, scale and ambition attract the best and the brightest faculty members and students. The students benefit from learning from the best faculty from multiple disciplines, all on the same co-located campus. This also enables invaluable structured and spontaneous interactions with students and faculty members from various fields. Discussions in corridors, labs, and coffee shops often leads to new ideas, interdisciplinary collaborations, advancing of the frontiers of knowledge, and start-ups. This broad-based formal and informal learning and innovation environment is critical in the 21st century.

In addition, faculty and students are able to conduct research at the intersection of subject boundaries. As a result, these types of universities are ideally positioned to solve complex problems facing society and industry such as energy, health, and climate change. The university-led innovations, fostered in these environments, are also creating new products and industries, and fueling economic growth and wealth creation.

According to a 2012 study, since the 1930s Stanford entrepreneurs (faculty and alumni) have started 39,900 companies, which in turn have created 5.4 million jobs and generate US$2.7 trillion in revenues annually.

In 2014, Stanford received US$1.33 billion in research funding. This includes funding for the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, originally called the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. In 2013–14, the university received approximately US$108 million in gross royalty revenues from licensing 655 of its technologies.

Companies such as Google, Cisco, Yahoo, HP, Charles Schwab, eBay, Instagram, VMWare, and Tesla have Stanford roots. Its faculty member, Fred Terman, is considered to be the “Father of Silicon Valley” and “Academic architect of Silicon Valley.” It is research and innovation powerhouse.

Thus, it is evident that the Stanford is making an impact on the students, industry, society and the humanity at a compelling scale.

Leland Stanford, railroad president, land baron, and US senator, and his wife Jane founded Stanford University in 1885 in memory of their son. It is their lasting legacy to Silicon Valley, California, the US and the world.


India has what it takes to build several world-class multidisciplinary research universities

The successful creation of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is evidence that given a compelling vision, committed leadership, adequate funding, autonomy, and excellent execution, India can create new models of universities.

From the recent past, the Indian School of Business (ISB) is an excellent example of a private initiative to create a world-class business school in India. It was aspirational when founded. Now, it is a source of inspiration and learning for future private initiatives.  

It is also clear that India has all the ingredients to establish several world-class multidisciplinary research universities.

  • India has tremendous human potential. It has 1.3 billion people, of which 50% are below the age of 25 years. Its people are trailblazers and leaders in industry, academia, and entrepreneurship.
  • Its leaders have ambition. They all want India and their companies to be counted among the top in the world. At least one chief minister wants to make their state a knowledge and innovation hub for the region and the nation.
  • India has the wealth. Nation’s economy is also on a much stronger footing than the times IITs, IIMs, and AIIMS were first built. It also has over 100 billionaires.

The land of Vedas, Gautama Buddha, Panini, Aryabhatta, Vivekananda, C.V. Raman and universities such as Takshashila and Nalanda is potently capable of establishing several new world-class multidisciplinary research universities like Stanford.

Let us start by building at least five such new universities in the next four to five years. This will be a lasting legacy for the government leaders, industry and academic icons, and philanthropists who make it happen and a win-win for India’s youth, industry, and the society.

(Hat-tip to Dr. Pramath Raj Sinha and his must read book An Idea Whose Time Has Come: The Story of the Indian School of Business.)


Additional Resources:

  • Building Golden India: How to unleash India’s vast potential and transform its higher education system. Now. (Author: Shail Kumar. There is chapter dedicated to Stanford.)
  • Stanford University: www.Stanford.edu

About the Author: Shailendra Kumar is the Founder and President of Nalanda 2.0. He is also the author of Building Golden India: How to unleash India’s vast potential and transform its higher education system. Now. and former administrator at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego. Shail received his MBA from Indiana University, Bloomington and B.Tech. (Hons.) from IIT Kharagpur.

Nalanda 2.0 is a nonprofit and nonpartisan policy think tank on higher education.

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