Recession a hurdle for reviving Nalanda university

IANS, March 1, 2009

Kolkata, India -- Global recession is posing a hurdle to the revival of Nalanda University, the world’s oldest centre of learning, says Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.

“This is not a very good time to collect funds for the project,” Sen told IANS, when asked whether the economic meltdown had impacted the $1-billion (Rs.50-billion/Rs.5,000-crore) project.

“We are yet to launch our fundraising bid,” he said.

Currently the Lamont professor of Harvard University, Sen heads the Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG) that is overseeing the opening of an international university at the ancient site of Buddhist learning at Nalanda in Bihar.

The project involves setting up an international centre of education and learning like the ancient university, which drew students and scholars from countries and places such as South Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Persia and Turkey during its existence from the 5th century to the late 12th century.

Sen, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 1998, said some official procedures were still left before the fund-raising stage arrives.

“First, the Nalanda Mentor Group will present a report at the fifth East Asian Scholars Summit (EAS). Then the government has to prepare the ground for an agreement to be inked by the EAS member-countries. Parliament will also have to enact a law approving the international status of the university,” he said.

Sen was simultaneously hopeful and sceptical about the economic situation easing by the time the NMG begins scouting for funds.

“I am hoping that the grip of the present recession will be lighter then. But then I am not certain,” added the former Master of Trinity College of Cambridge University, who visited the site of the proposed university along with other NMG members.

Former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had taken the initiative three years ago to make the project happen.

The Bihar government has already acquired land near the original Nalanda site for the proposed university, which was earlier scheduled to start in 2010.