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New and promising universities: Ashoka and Shiv Nadar University

For several decades, India has missed out on a general university, with a liberal arts curriculum.
The curriculum at Delhi or Mumbai University is not a liberal arts curriculum: those are specialized and focused Humanities courses.
A liberal arts curriculum typically involves a blend of humanities, languages, mathematics and natural science courses.
The cut-offs for Delhi University sky-rocket each year and even a 95 percenter can't be sure about getting into a college of his choice.
The curriculum and the faculty at even the best of Delhi University colleges, is far from satisfactory. If you've been a good student, scored well in your Class 12 CBSE or ISC examination, you might want to consider a few more options with an open mind. There are amazing colleges out there, which people simply aren't aware of, because of a mindless craze for DU, St. Stephen's, SRCC and LSR. The latter now have a legacy but little to offer apart from the brand.
Your school exams and board exams are extremely important for these colleges.

Ashoka University

An NDTV interview with the heads of Ashoka University

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Offers a unique mix of courses in languages, humanities, creative arts, history, natural sciences and mathematics.

The university has been setup and funded by well regarded philanthropists such as the founder. The founding dean is the same person who help take the Indian School of Business to great heights within a very short span. An excellent team will make no compromises with the academic standards of the institute.

The program is certainly expensive (20 lakhs for 4 years) but a similar education abroad, in a high quality institute, would be far costlier. They also offer various kinds of aid and loans.

They have managed to attract top students from a lot of top CBSE, ISC and International Board schools. Most of them had above 90 in their Class 12 examinations, but admission is based on holistic criteria, extra curricular activities, leadership potential and a personal interview.

They currently run humanities courses in History, Economics, English etc. They also have a rather innovative Computer Science program, with a mix of courses in Mathematics, Statistics and Humanities courses. There are also options to study a mix of CS and Entrepreneurship.

The campus is small (30 acres) but well equipped and has excellent facilities for sports and extra curricular activities. Curriculum is in line with the liberal arts course structure followed at top US universities. Many of the professors hold degrees from reputed universities across the world. They will be starting natural science courses from the coming year. At this point however, Ashoka has one weak area: there aren't too many STEM courses which one could either opt for as electives, or in the form of a minor or secondary major.

The Young India Program (YIF) which was run by Ashoka, was a one year liberal-arts experience for people who already had a degree. It tried to compress a liberal-arts degree into a one year program. Young people who attended that program, ended up at top programs all over the world for Masters and PhD programs. It may safely be assumed that the University will have the same success placing the first undergraduate batch when they graduate in a year or two.

Their UG admission process is in three rounds. You can apply in October to January, January to April, or April to June slots (Round 1, 2, 3).

They require details of your performance right from Class 9 (to 12). They also assess you based on your essays, SAT scores and extra curricular activities. Students end up selecting their major at the end of the third semester. A large number of students receive some kind of scholarship or loan or aid. They require either the SAT score or the Ashoka Aptitude Test or the Class 12 board examination score in CBSE or ISC or State/International Boards.

Students who are interested in studying Economics or Mathematics or Computer Science or Physics, should have studied Mathematics in Class 11 and 12. Those interested in studying Biology should have studied both Physics and Mathematics.

Shiv Nadar University

Shiv Nadar University is a work of philanthropy by the HCL co-founder after whom it is named.

It is much more affordable than Ashoka University and offers far more subjects: Humanities, Arts, Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Design. For students who are specifically interested in the Liberal Arts might still prefer Ashoka, as it has an exclusive focus in that direction. However, from the perspective of sheer breadth, Shiv Nadar University has a far more diverse offering for a curious mind.

The infrastructure and facilities at the university are excellent, by Indian standards. Students have been placed in well respected organizations and many have pursued their higher studies (MS/PhD) abroad.

Their faculty is top notch. For example, if you look at their Mathematics department, they hold PhDs from IITs, Warwick, Oxford, IISc. Some of their programs provide a great platform for those aspiring to make a career in research or academia. The university has a lot of emphasis on project work, right from the start.

They have a common core curriculum - every undergrad does a set of courses in history, natural sciences etc. Then they have university wide electives. They have research and real life based learning courses. They have a major-minor system: so your main area of study might be Mathematics, but you may be able to do a smaller set of courses in Economics. This kind of flexibility to mix and match subjects is very rare in Indian universities. You can decide your courses on the fly instead of being corralled into a never ending stream of courses from one specialized major which you don't like.

Computer Science, Electronics, Mathematics, Economics, Liberal Arts: Everything is available on one campus itself! That is a great accomplishment, specially given the quality of faculty which they have been able to attract. On an average, Ashoka possibly has better pedigreed faculty, but SNU has enough highly qualified professors scattered in various departments.

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