Economist NR Bhanumurthy is the first vice-chancellor of a fledgling school of economics Dr BR Ambedkar (BASE), a university which saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurate its new campus earlier this week. Bhanumurthy tells DHit is Rashmi Belur how BASE, modeled on the London School of Economics (LSE), is trying to carve out its own niche. Excerpts:
What was BASE’s need? And, how is it different from other public universities?
This university was started on the 125th birthday of Dr Ambedkar when there was a discussion about the need for a university specializing in economics in South India. Most universities are centered in Delhi or Mumbai. Bengaluru, being a pioneer in the education sector, had a vacuum when it came to economy. BASE obtained university status in 2019. We have completed four years and the first batch graduated in May 2022. Although it is state-run, BASE has a national character. We welcome students from all over India, while 60% of places are reserved for those from Karnataka. Because we also have an international character, we plan to admit foreign students this academic year.
What are the courses offered and the admission process?
Last year, admission was through the Bank Personnel Selection Institute (IBPS) on the basis of a written test. Before that, we conducted a test ourselves. Now we have decided to admit students through Common Central Universities Entrance Test (CUCET). We are the only state university to be part of CUCET. We offer a 3-year BSc in Economics. We have now launched our 5-year integrated flagship program. The basic requirement for admission is that a student has studied mathematics in II PU, as economics is more of a science. So, one cannot study it without knowledge of mathematics and computer science. We have also set up a 2-year master’s program. We are planning to introduce a Masters in Financial Economics.
Does BASE have any expansion plans?
It is an entirely residential university. Even if a student from Bengaluru enrolls, he must stay on campus. The Prime Minister has inaugurated phase one and we are looking for phase two of the campus. Our goal is to have at least 1,000 students on campus in the coming years. Currently we have 250 students.
Where is BASE now? Was there a hand holding that LSE provided?
We had 92% of our first batch students placed. This is a great achievement and a milestone for a young university. There is a lot of demand for our students. We have had some discussions with LSE and they are progressing well. LSE has many centers and we plan to collaborate on research and co-direction. At the institute level, we plan online courses with them.
What is the socio-economic profile of the students, given that BASE is positioned at the same level as LSE, while being affordable.
Absolutely. The fee is Rs 1.25 lakh per year including accommodation. We follow government booking policy and scholarships are available. For SC/ST students, the fees will be reimbursed by the government. We have made it compulsory to know Kannada. For those who don’t know Kannada or Hindi, we have a basic course that includes both.
Give us an overview of the research work at BASE
Being a new university, we try to give our professors time to do research. Otherwise, it will be like any other college. The fundamental objective is to be seen as a research university and not as a student-producing university. Like LSE, we would also like to be recognized for research. We started taking sponsored projects. Currently, we have six research projects, including two from UNICEF and one from RBI. We are already in the development of public policies. The last two union budgets were actually based on our studies. We also contributed to the economic survey of Karnataka.