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First Indian Jesuit university sets December deadline 

Fr. Paul Fernandes, SJ

Bhubaneswar: Jesuits, the schoolmasters of Europe, are all set to launch their first university in India.

The campus for the Xavier University will be ready by December near Puri, some 60 kilometers east of Bhubaneswar, capital of the eastern Indian state of Odisha (formerly Orissa).

However, the first batch will start from the next academic year in July 2014, the Business Standard today quoted Jesuit Father Paul Fernandes, who is behind the ambitious project.

Jesuits, who introduced modern education in India in the 16th century, manage several prestigious colleges in the country, but they all function under government-run universities. Some have received autonomous status.

The idea of a Jesuit university was mooted some four years ago. It got the final nod from the Odisha state legislative assembly when it passed the Xavier University Bill 2013 on April 5, reported the Business Standard.

The Odisha assembly reportedly passed the bill after a marathon debate.

Higher Education Minister Badri Narayan Patra told the house the private university would start functioning in two years. This is for the first time that a private university is having provision of reservation for Odisha students, the minister added.

Father Fernandes says the university will set apart 50 percent seats for students from Odisha. “This is a unique feature. No other private university in the country has such provision. We have done it because of our commitment to the state,” the priest told.

Lest people in other states get disappointed, the priest quickly added that the Jesuits are studying the possibility of expanding the university to other places.

 “Odisha is a very important destination of higher education for students. This is an engagement and a commitment,” said the priest, who also directs Xavier Institute of Management, a prestigious business school, in Bhubaneswar.

He clarified the new university would not affect the business school, which goes by the acronym, XIM-B. XIM-B will remain as it is and Xavier University will be a separate entity,” he added.

The priest said they had initially estimated the cost to be around 330 million rupees. However, it has escalated to 400 million rupees in the past four years.

In the first phase, the cost of developing 200,000-sqft built up area will be around 40 crore (400 million) rupees,” he said.

He said they will start the university with the rural management program. “We would have more plans for the university’s second, third and fourth phase. Where, we would, in each phase, we will add one or two schools of the Xavier University,” he said added that they would share the details later.

How will they raise the funds for operations and infrastructure of the university? “We need resources and we seek support openly from alumni, friends, donors and anyone whoever wants to support our venture,” he explained.

According to him, the Jesuits are very clear about their vision – establish the university, make it innovative and of greater quality.

And the university is not going to limit teaching to business alone.

“We may have science and humanities schools of the university. Looking at the state’s needs, we need to strengthen arts, science, cultural and media education. This, however, would be at a later stage,” he added.