Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has informed the government’s Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) that it’s investing about Rs 1,500 crore in its proposed university, Jio Institute, in the next two years to ensure that it creates a world-class centre of learning, said people with knowledge of the matter. This comes after the EEC, which monitors all Institutes of Eminence, had expressed its displeasure to the Jio team over delays in April.
The Mukesh Ambani-led group is also in discussions with academic and institutional experts at Stanford University and Northwestern University in the US as well as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore on establishing the facility, it has informed the government, according to the people cited above.
Jio Institute was the only greenfield institute selected as an Institute of Eminence by the government in 2018, sparking a controversy, as the honour had been bestowed on the basis of future plans. It was one of six institutes accorded the status — three each from the public and private sectors.
The Reliance Foundation Institution of Education and Research, which is setting up the university, told the EEC in a May 6 communication that hasn’t been made public before that it had already invested Rs 775 crore and intends to plough in another Rs 600 crore in FY20. The institute plans to complete faculty and leadership recruitment along with design of the academic programme between September 2019 and October 2020, in time to begin admissions for the 2021-22 academic session, it told the EEC.
The Jio Institute team is learnt to be in discussions with academic and institutional experts at various global institutes. They include Nanyang Technological University president Subra Suresh; Michael Keller, chief librarian and vice provost, Stanford University; Frank Mulhern, associate dean, Medill School of Media and Journalism at Northwestern University and Vinayak Dravid, a professor at the latter school. Keller is helping with a digital library and digital learning modules.
It is also learnt that advanced discussions are on with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) among other leading schools for a mentorship association with Jio Institute, as reported by ET on May 2.
Global collaborations, expected to be finalised by September, are expected in academic programmes, the curriculum and research agenda, joint research centres, faculty recruitment and development, faculty exchanges for teaching and research besides student exchanges and research internship programmes. Plans are also afoot to draw up an ambitious programme to attract international students and scholars, especially at the postdoctoral level.
The Reliance Foundation has informed the EEC that the programmes in its inaugural academic session will include engineering, natural sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences, management and entrepreneurship, and digital media and journalism.
The Jio Institute was being planned on 800 acres in Karjat outside Mumbai. It may be twinned with another 150-200-acre site in Navi Mumbai’s Global Economic Hub as environmental concerns have held back Jio’s Karjat plan, forcing it to expand at Navi Mumbai instead.
ET was the first to report that the EEC had hauled up the Jio Institute team at a review meeting of all the Institutes of Eminence held on April 30 for failing to meet timelines that had been pledged, such as those for setting up a campus and drawing up academic plans. At that meeting, the Jio Institute team indicated to the EEC that it would be able to start its first academic session only in 2021-22, instead of 2020-21 as had been originally proposed and that its campus was likely to move to Navi Mumbai.
The EEC had asked Jio to come back in a week and submit a detailed explanation for the delays. Not fully satisfied with that response either, the EEC asked for quarterly status reports on progress made on various parameters and targets, said the people cited above.
Reliance had submitted an updated report to the EEC thereafter, they said.