If he could do so, Dr. Joseph VG would offer free education. Until this Utopian dream becomes a reality, he is focused on the giving the best education he can to the over 40,000 students of the Garden City University. This newly minted University in Bengaluru resembles a mini United Nations; students drawn from several countries and states who co-mingle with each other.
Referencing his own journey, the Chancellor of GCU tells Subhalakshmi Roy, “Education should impart knowledge that should be converted into a skill to make our students employable. The learnings of every student from GCU should sustain them as well as their families. This is a very big responsibility”.
Dr Joseph confesses that back in 1992 when he set up the first computer training institute, he viewed it as a livelihood. Over time, though, he’s grown into a committed educationalist, for whom education has become a life’s cause. He started Garden City College in 1993; affiliated to Bangalore University, it offered courses in business management, computer application and hotel management – all disciplines which met the demands of a growing economy. Retaining its focus on equipping students with life skills, the college became an university in 2017 and has swiftly grown to become a premier academic institution.
GCU offers more than 40 courses across various streams including pure sciences, and updates its syllabus twice a year to match changing industry trends. Students and faculty have frequent interactions with industry leaders and other organisations to keep their curriculum relevant. The focus is always on sending out knowledgeable and passionate members of society.
The courses offer students the freedom to explore options outside their core field of study, giving them a more balanced education. Interactive tools and Augmented Reality turn learning into a dynamic experience. Students go through mandatory industry training in their chosen courses, so that by the time they join the workforce, they are equipped with the necessary skills to add value to a team.
Dr. Joseph approaches higher education from a global perspective, “so that students can understand different cultures and different socio-economic and geographic conditions.” GCU is the epitome of a well-rounded global campus; apart from attracting students pan India, the university has students from over 80 countries. The campus encourages students to celebrate their diversity through events where they can showcase their cultures, and also to facilitates international faculty and student exchange programmes to universities in Spain and France.
GCU’s innovative practices include:
- Management Trainee Programme: GCU hosts more than a hundred events during the academic year, which are managed by students. From conception to implementation, students of various streams are selected as Management Trainees and focus on their areas of expertise, gaining first-hand knowledge in building a team and running an organisation.
- CREATE (Culture, Region, Evolution and Tradition in Education): Students and faculty from every department contribute to events. The motive is to gain practical knowledge from each other as well as to encourage the students to rethink their choice of study and future career.
- ARM (Ambition, Resources and Mentoring) Strategy: The University aims to nurture a student’s ambition, and provide the necessary resources and mentoring to bring it to fruition. GCU encourages its students and faculty to innovate; it has a patent attorney to make sure each innovative idea gets registered to their rightful ideator. The college has a robust incubation centre, which helps the students build a prototype, create a business model and prepare a pitch, which they then present to a board of potential investors.
- The University has set up a Research and Innovation Council (RIC) which aims to enable students to attain the maximum expertise in their chosen field through intensive research. Stressing on research for change, the RIC incorporates tech to bring about possible sustainable solutions to problems such as environmental degradation and endemic diseases, among others.
For over 25 years now, GCU has stayed true to its Founder’s vision of revolutionising education in India, and now it aims to reach a stage where it can make quality education accessible to everyone. GCU will in the not-too distant future move to a 150-acre campus, construction of which is currently underway. The campus will include commercial spaces and technology parks, revenue from which will be channelised to provide free education to deserving and meritorious students. “Everyone deserves a chance to fulfill their dream, regardless of the marks they get,” says Dr. Joseph. The University will select the students on the basis of the following criteria: academic merit, excellence in non academic pursuits such as sports, art, music and dance, and economic disadvantage.