We need towns like Oxford
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The steps taken by the government to set up several institutions of technical education such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), National Institutes of Technology (NITs), Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs) and Schools of Planning and Architecture (SPAs), is indeed laudable. Further, the policy to permit private colleges and universities is also a welcome one.
With India's population galloping, there is no doubt an urgent necessity to set up more institutions of excellence for the ever increasing number of aspirants in search of better educational opportunities. While this is badly needed, the question of how to manage the resultant spatial sprawl has emerged as a big challenge today.
One view is to allow the state-backed institution to be appendages of large cities, allot some land and funds and permit them to chart out their own destiny. On the other hand, the private players are left to fend for themselves. This has in fact been the way things have been taking shape for the last several decades.
However, a more novel, proactive and holistic approach would be to view these large establishments as centres which trigger employment, generate economic momentum and emerge as hubs that can act as nodal poles for new urbanisation.
While the geographical location is part of a larger political or business decision making process, their micro-locational articulation and structuring, both inwards and outwards, holds a great opportunity for new urban growth centres to be fashioned.
Each of these new institutions needs to be located close to a village, a cluster of villages or a small town and not in a large metropolis. It should have substantial land to allow for proper spatial planning of all facilities, which can make it a real centre of excellence.
This would mean that the institutes have not just buildings for academics, administration, hostels and residences but also state of the art sports and recreational facilities in terms of grounds, stadia, theatres and so on, so as to generate a conducive modern environment which can nurture the inquisitive minds and give them opportunities for exposure, expansion and grooming. Each of these campuses need to be globally competitive in terms of physical facilities that parallel with the best in the world.
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