Entrepreneurship and the Liberal Arts: The Making of Ashoka University
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In 2006, four successful entrepreneurs decided to establish a world-class mega university. Initially, the project progressed slowly until Vineet Gupta was able to locate a small plot of land in Sonipat, Haryana. Forty-eight hours before the payment deadline, Ashish Dhawan and Sanjeev Bikchandani agreed to invest in their personal capital to kick start the project. They however suggested a pivot in favour of a smaller private liberal arts college. Meanwhile, Pramath Sinha, with prior experience in establishing the Indian School of Business launched a pilot through the Young India Fellowship (YIF). Dhawan and Bikchandani, through their extensive entrepreneurial networks, raised scholarships for the first two batches of the fellowship in the hope of attracting other donors to the board and getting a buy-in for Ashoka University. The team faced a number of challenges: managing the new model of collective philanthropy, recruiting faculty and finding jobs for the first undergraduate batch. At Ashoka University’s first graduation ceremony in 2017 they wondered whether this model could revolutionise the higher education space like the IITs and IIMs had done for the country.
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