Vineet Gupta Ashoka University Founder: Re-imagining Higher Education In India

Both Ashoka University and Plaksha University are not funded or owned by a single individual or entity

Vineet Gupta, Ashoka & Plaksha University Founder and Co-Founder of Jamboree Education has spent nearly 25 years in the education ecosystem of India. During this time, he has not only trained thousands of students, scaled up Jamboree into India’s premier test prep institute, advocated for bringing change in the education policy of the country but also helped set up two world class institutions - Ashoka University and Plaksha University. 

Established in 2014 at Sonipat, Haryana, Ashoka University, ranks amongst the top 5 universities in the country as per a survey done by QS Asia University Rankings 2022. The survey ranks the university first on 'International Faculty'. 

Plaksha University, established with the vision to re-imagine technology education and research in the country, commenced operations in 202, in Mohali, Punjab.

How are these universities differentiating themselves? 

Collective philanthropy

Both Ashoka University and Plaksha University are not funded or owned by a single individual or entity. Ashoka University has more than 150 donors and co-founders and these include eminent personalities from different walks of life such as Ashish Dhawan (Co-Founder, Chrysalis Capital), Vineet Gupta (Co-Founder, Jamboree Education), Sanjeev Bikhchandani (Co-Founder & Executive Vice Chairman, Info Edge), Pramath Raj Sinha (Ex-Partner Mckinsey and Founding Dean, ISB), Ashok Trivedi (Co-Founder and Co-Chairman Mastech Inc. and IGATE) and many others. All of them have one common vision - to create an institution, par excellence, which has the potential to transform Indian Higher Education.

The story at Plaksha is similar, when in 2015, about 6 Entrepreneurs and CEOs from some of India’s best companies decided to come together to create a university that re-imagines technology education and research by making technology education experiential, interdisciplinary and relevant to the challenges of the 21st century. 

Today, its list of 100 plus Founders and Donors include Neeraj Aggarwal (Chairman, Asia Pacific, BCG), Manas Fuloria (CEO and Co-Founder of Nagarro), Vineet Gupta Ashoka University Founder (Co-Founder and MD, Jamboree Education), Ashish Gupta (Co-Founder of Benori Knowledge), Mohit Thukral (Co-Founder of Vivtera), Hitesh Oberoi (Co-Founder and CEO of Infoedge), Pankaj Chaddah (Co-Founder, Zomato), Gagan Hasteer (VP, Content Engineering, Netflix), CP Gurnami (CEO and MD, Tech Mahindra) amongst others and has raised over 800 crores as funding corpus. The university opened its doors in 2021 and is one of the most exciting projects in India’s higher education sector.

The notion of collective philanthropy not only helps the institution raise funds from a large pool of exceptional people but also fosters excellence as the only glue that binds everyone together. As long as the institution pursues excellence as its single-minded focus, it will have access to more donors. More donors in turn help provide more resources to fund excellence. It is a vicious cycle.

Preparing students for 21st century challenges

The problems of the 21st century are complex. Most higher education institutions were crafted from a template that got created after World War II. For higher education institutions to be able to serve society better, they need to re-imagine ‘what they teach and how they teach’. The disciplines of learning need to reflect the problems of the real world and of society. 

Both intuitions not only offer degrees in disciplines that reflects the multi-disciplinary nature of problems around us but have also re-imagined courses and curriculum that may be very different from a conventional curriculum. Both universities were conceptualised with the idea of ‘breadth and depth’ thus contributing to all round development of students and equipping them with the skill-set necessary to tackle the toughest challenges that the world faces. Students are also encouraged to communicate and collaborate with peers on projects that mimic real world challenges. 

Faculty quality

“To become truly world class institutions, the most important aspect is the kind of faculty we onboard,” expressed Vineet Gupta Ashoka University Founder. Today, Ashoka has the best faculty in the country in the social sciences and humanities. Whilst in just over a year since commencing operations, Plaksha boasts of faculty who are alumni of and have taught at prestigious institutions such as MIT, Stanford, University of Cambridge, IISC and IIT’s amongst others. 

Explore and decide

“We believe that students after 12th grade haven’t really figured out what they really want to study. However, in India, most institutions force students to pick a discipline when they enter college and also want them to stick with it. Both Ashoka and Plaksha allow students to explore different disciplines (that these individual institutions offer) before deciding what students want to major in. This decision could be as late as fourth semester," says Vineet. This freedom not only exposes students to various disciplines but also helps them make informed choices. This choice also helps develop the love for learning. 

Distinctive research centres

Ashoka has set up several centers of learning for students to expand their knowledge and collaborate with peers on campus and around the world. There is a dedicated centre for writing and communication, a centre for entrepreneurship and a centre for political data analysis amongst others. “Since there is a great need for data driven research in every discipline, we are in the process of setting up a Data Sciences Institute at Plaksha University,'' added Vineet Gupta. 

Democratising access by providing liberal scholarships

Both universities were conceptualised with a focus on improving education in India and helping meritorious students realise their potential. Both universities have very liberal scholarships for students coming from disadvantaged sections. Infact the promise is that every student who is admitted is not denied admission due to lack of resources. As a result, close to 50 per cent of the students studying at Ashoka and Plaksha University received scholarships.

“As India embarks on a journey to be a US Dollar 10 trillion economy over the next decade, there is an urgent need to build a knowledge economy for which we need a vibrant higher education ecosystem. Unfortunately, Indian higher education institutions lag in research and innovation compared to their global peers. At both Ashoka and Plaksha, our endeavour is to pursue excellence in all that we do and contribute to India’s growth story,” concludes Vineet Gupta, Ashoka University Founder.

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