By T Navajyoti
Assam no longer remains as the land of separatist armed militants who waged a war against the Indian Union government. The developing State of northeast India has slowly emerged as an important place in the areas of education, as well as in health and business sectors.
The prime city Guwahati has surfaced as the virtual capital of the region which has steadily expanded its reaches to various avenues of South and Southeast Asia. The State, with around 30 million in population, has recently witnessed the emergence of a few private universities primarily catering to the aspirants in medical, engineering, information technology and management streams. Those institutions have already attracted students from various parts of the region and also some neighbouring countries.
It should be mentioned that pioneer higher education institutions in the region including Gauhati University, Dibrugarh University, Assam Central University, Manipur University, Nagaland University, Mizoram University, Tripura University, Sikkim Manipal University, North-Eastern Hill University, Assam Agricultural University etc., continue to cater to the need of thousands of students coming out from 50 million indigenous population in far eastern India.
Martin Luther Christian University (MLCU) is recognized as the first private university of the region, which offers job-oriented courses unlike the conventional degree programmes run by government sponsored universities. Initiated by the Khasi-Jaintia Presbyterian Assembly the university was first led by Dr Glenn C Kharkongor, a former professor of paediatrics and public health.
In an interview, Dr Glenn said, “We would like to prepare our students for careers that may take them back to their villages or on the other hand, propel them into multinational corporations. They will be well-balanced individuals, combining the richness of their heritage with the modern-day skills required in a global economy.”
Assam Don Bosco University is identified as the first private university of Assam. Until a full-fledged campus emerges, the Don Bosco Society has decided to run its classes in Don Bosco Institute at Kharguli in the city. On the other hand, the Don Bosco College of Engineering & Technology at Azara in the outskirts of Guwahati has been used for engineering classes.
A new and promising name has been added here with the emergence of Assam down town University (http://www.adtu.in), set up by the Down Town Hospital group, the largest healthcare group in the northeast.
Located at Panikhaiti, around 12 km from Dispur, the university campus is spread across 45 acres of land overlooking the mighty Brahmaputra. After due processes, the campus was given a University status in 2010 by the Assam Government under the Assam Private Universities Act, 2007.
The Down Town Charity Trust, which runs the university, has two important missions at this moment — to reach premium healthcare facilities to the economically weaker sections of the society and to create infrastructure to develop the human resource of the region.
Apart from doctors, the members of the Trust include Engineers, Educationists and other professionals from various walks of life, said Dr. NN Dutta, chairman & managing trustee of the Trust.
A senior ENT specialist of the country and also one of the most successful and reputed entrepreneurs of the region, Dr Dutta stated, “Over the years, the Trust has been involved in varied social activities and Health Projects. It has been involved in the education and training sector since 1993. The Assam down town University is the fruit of years of dedicated efforts and we are hopeful that it would play the role of a catalyst in the development of human resource in the region.”
The Trust had established 300-bedded Shankar Madhab Rural Charity Teaching Hospital at Panikhaiti to provide quality healthcare at the most reasonable rates to the common people. Now the fully functioning charity hospital (in addition to Down Town Hospital in the city) also doubles up as a training facility for nursing and paramedical students. This is the one and only education institute in the region with training facilities like Laboratory, Radiography with X-Ray, CT Scan on Campus for the students.
Talking to this writer, Dr Dutta, who is presently functioning as the Chancellor of Assam Down Town University also added, “We propose to develop skill, intellect and expertise in the field of education in the coming years. Our range of education which varied from post school level to PhD will also have skill development training programme for school dropouts. They will be prepared as skilled workers in various fields which is absolutely necessary towards building a modern India.”
The University has introduced different professional courses like nursing, physiotherapy, food and nutrition, biotechnology, social work, engineering, pharmacy and management, to cater to the professional needs of the student community, informed Dr Nandita Choudhury, the former Principal of Assam Medical College, who is the Vice-Chancellor of the university. She added that they hoped these courses would help the students especially from the alienated northeastern region to carve good careers in new emerging fields.
There are more than 45 degree and diploma courses in engineering, pharmacy, hotel management, paramedical, nursing, mass communication and management. All these disciplines are equipped with most modern methodologies for teaching. There are 120-plus faculties for these courses and almost 3000 students from across the north east and even countries like Nepal and Bhutan are studying here.
The University is approved by the UGC, AICTE, Indian Nursing Council and the Pharmacy Council of India. The University aims to not only introduce new programmes but also give the students the best exposure and a new learning experience which was not available in the region.
It is the first Institute in the region to introduce Digital class room and digital content for engineering students. The Assam-based university has also signed a MoU with Aspire Human Capital Management to prepare their MBA students in a better way by training them on a programme called MBA Pro which has content from Harvard Business Publishing.
It is also tying up for other programmes like IT Pro which will enable students to be trained in IT Modules designed by the I Carnegie Mellon University, USA. Headquartered in Gurgaon, Aspire Human Capital Management is known as the leading employability education firm in the country, which has trained over 52,000 students across 78 unique campuses in 14 States since 2007. Amit Bhatia, founder of Aspire Human Capital Management, after signing the MoU expressed his happiness and expected that the initiative would lead to a resounding success, grooming the business administration masters from Assam down town University for global employability.
The university had recently undertaken a collaboration programme with Limerick Institute of echnology of Ireland. It would enable the interested students to join a course in the University and finish it in Irish institute with an Irish degree certificate. While recently visiting Assam, John Cooke and Paul Madden of Limerick Institute of Technology sated that the ‘initiative is nothing less than creating a pathway for students willing to study in Ireland’.
Ireland is a major hub for biosciences, information technology and other services sector and India offers immense potential for manpower in such segments, they added. Mentionable is that Limerick Institute of Technology is an autonomous institute (controlled by Irish government) and it has also tied up with three other private universities in India — two in Andhra Pradesh and one in Delhi.
“We have taken various special initiatives to reach out to all sections of the society. It is decided that few seats will be reserved for women candidates and also 50 seats every year will be given with 100% fee waiver for meritorious BPL students. Besides this we also have multiple scholarships like admission scholarships for meritorious students and result-based scholarships for students who secure high marks during examination. Last year we have given scholarships totalling almost Rs. 10 lakhs,” revealed Mrs Bandana Dutta, Dean of studies of the University.
Concluded Mrs Dutta, “Educational institutions help the students to give a specific shape to their career. Institutions are very essential for the growth of future life. Here we hope to act as a catalyst for growth in the region by being able to train thousands of students every year.”