In the prevalent times, students are not only seeking to gain global exposure but also want a taste of diverse cultures, languages, attitudes, ways of living and different approaches to learning across disciplines and life in general. The delivery of the same is promised by global exchange programmes by reputed universities nowadays. The programmes not only lead to the broadening of social horizons, inculcating a better tolerance power of other cultures; but also greatly enhance the learning process, lending it a holistic and quality approach.

Student exchange programmes may involve international travel, but does not necessarily require the students to study outside of their home country, pertaining to broadly two kinds of programmes – long term and short term. Most programme costs include insurance and other risk management components, including health insurance. While long term exchange programmes often come with a scholarship that covers most of the expenses, including travel, accommodation, etc.; secondary school exchange programmes may include a scholarship, but most of the time it is self-funded by the parents. Universities are increasingly indulging in signing MoUs and offering exchange programmes with foreign universities, keeping in mind the challenges presented by globalisation.

University of Delhi, for instance, has MoUs with foreign universities in Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and Australia, among others. On the same lines, Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India and Karlstad University, Sweden have inked a MoU in order to promote cooperation and the advancement of academic, research and educational exchanges between IITG and KAU. IIM Bangalore boasts of one of the most comprehensive exchange programmes. B-schools like the London Business School, GSB Chicago, Anderson School - UCLA, HEC Paris and close to 50 others in 26 different countries participate in the programme each year offering a total of 174 students to undertake a term of study at their campuses.

Another prestigious university joining the league is UGC recognised Apeejay Stya University, India’s first Liberal Arts and Meta University. In order to extend a diverse global exposure to its students, the University has signed MoUs with many international institutions and universities. Apart from identifying and developing collaborative research projects, the MoUs entail student and faculty exchange programmes and designing of other mutually beneficial potential academic modules. The University continuously interacts with leading universities and institutions for course development/enhancement, while regularly upgrading its teaching-learning processes to make them more efficient and market-oriented.

Having transformed from being an ‘option for the fortunate’ to ‘a necessity for all students’, Liberal Arts Education presents itself as an approach to learning that aids in preparing individuals to deal with complexity, diversity and change. With subjects ranging from science to performing arts, Liberal Arts Education aims to deliver education in a holistic way, helping students to develop an attitude enriched with open mindedness and freshness of thought.

A lot has changed in the courses and requirements comprising a liberal education over the years. However, the broad goals of liberal education have been constant even till date. As Albert Einstein said, "The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks." The question to be answered here is that why should an educational experience be anything less than a unified whole? Every field of study offers to be a part of a much greater whole and a Liberal Arts Education bridges existing divides by contributing a curriculum that creates coherence and veracity in one’s intellectual experience.

Notably, what employers have been increasingly realising is that it is the graduates with the right skills rather than the right majors who have an edge in the competitive marketplace nowadays. Presidency College, Kolkata, now known as Presidency University, is one of the foremost institutions that introduced liberal education to Indians. The International Foundation for Research and Education (IFRE), founded by a group of prominent businessmen is already in the process of setting up a University dedicated to liberal education. Taking the concept of liberal arts even further, the new Ashoka University will not only have liberal education but will work on the idea of cross-fertilisation.

Top universities, around the world, like Stanford and Harvard are already following this system, along with MIT which is otherwise an engineering institute. Establishments providing liberal education in India include Apeejay Stya University, School of Liberal Arts at the Noida International University and Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts. Apeejay Stya University sets itself apart, being the first Liberal Arts and Meta University. The University, focussed on research and technology, provides a dynamic and unique academic system which includes key features like an innovative evaluation system; freedom to choose your degree and number of credits; a flexible graduation pace; among other things.

A University is not merely a place you apply to for attaining a degree of your choice but also offers an incredible campus life. It promises to be a very special time in one’s life, especially when the University is committed to aid students in developing critical thinking and communication skills, teamwork qualities, community service and independent learning. An ideal campus life exudes vibrancy and a great sense of oneness, thanks to the unique confluence of students from varied backgrounds, nationalities and states, all of which lead to a diverse setting where one can venture out and explore new avenues.

Getting involved in the college campus has many benefits for the student, both scholastically and socially, contributing to the development of the total person – academic, aesthetic, spiritual, social and physical. A student must seek to get involved in the community life of his/her campus. For instance, a student who works for the college newspaper may decide to volunteer for the needy by doing his bit of social work. He, then, returns to the college campus and shares his experiences with the fellow students once the article gets published in the newspaper.

Infrastructure and its aesthetic contribution to the learning process is of critical importance to the life that a University aims to offer to its students. Apeejay Stya University (ASU) has made tremendous investment in the development and layout of its academic and social spaces, be it state-of-the-art ICT-enabled lecture rooms, conference halls, computer & science labs. Added to this, with its vast library, cafeteria, green areas and indoor/outdoor sports facilities, the ASU campus provides a 360-degree solution to all the needs of its students. The entire campus is Wi-Fi enabled, and includes the hostels, library and cafeteria.

ASU provides affordable residential accommodation, integrated within the campus, to promote dialogue among students, their peers, and faculty members. The ASU campus bustles with creative and innovative students who find their own unique voices and means of expression through the various clubs managed by the students. These clubs cater to a wide range of interests, including music, dance, dramatics, fine arts, photography, literature, yoga and meditation, etc.

Meeting new people, establishing personal and professional connections, campus experience isn’t just about buying books and listening to lectures. Campus life is a complete experience which is hard to describe. It is best one experiences it for oneself!

The OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement started in 1999 when the University of Tübingen, in Germany, published videos of lectures online. It only took off with the launch of the OCW at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in October 2002. The movement has now spread to over 120 other universities worldwide.

What sets OCW apart is the fact that it is free and is available to everyone and anyone via web access. Among the multiple advantages of an OCW, the basic ones include aiding college students explore a potential major as they plan out their programmes of study, enhancing their knowledge of any subject for real-world applications. It also encourages faculty to update their courses as they keep a track of what fellow instructors are doing on a regular basis.

Having proved to be a life-modifying resource for those who have no other access to higher education, OCW’s beneficiaries also include self-learners, participating universities, and faculty members. However, OCW does not provide any credentials and self-learners use it exclusively for personal benefit and there is also an inability to interact with the professors who create the materials.

Along with MIT, OCW is being offered by many other prestigious universities like Yale, Stanford, Tufts, Apeejay Stya University and many more. Apeejay Stya University (ASU) has also adopted Open Educational Resources (OCW) with open arms. Recently, a workshop was organised by Commonwealth Educational Media centre for Asia (CEMCA), the Asian arm of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) to introduce the faculty members with this digitised academic hemisphere on the ASU campus by Dr. R. Sreedhar, Professor Emeritus, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, ASU & Dr. Savithri Singh, an expert on the subject and Principal, Acharya Narendra Dev College, Delhi University.

Speaking on the occasion, Vice Chancellor of ASU, Prof. Dr. K.K. Dwivedi said, “The world has turned digital so why not education? Foreign universities have updated their course materials on the net and this is the time that we need to innovate and design new pedagogy at the Apeejay Stya University.”

OCW is a new and evolving concept. Universities have always been keen to have their own area where they could be among their peer institutions, aiding students in the discovery of their content. Today, there is availability of a wealth of no-cost OCW material available to learners across the globe.

A truly educational experience gets its stamp of completion when students make the most of the ‘extracurricular’ activities while at the University that helps them develop and demonstrate relevant skills and interests. The significance of extracurricular activities on college campuses is well established and pay attention to the individual student level, the institutional level, and the broader community level.

These activities range from social organisations to governance organisations to intercollegiate athletic programmes. Adding a rich layer to a student’s time at the university, extra-curricular activities offer perfect opportunities for students to socialise with their fellow students, engaging in sports or other activities, volunteering in the community or taking on leadership positions, enhancing communication and inter-personal skills.

Extra-curricular activities exist to complement the university's academic curriculum and to enhance the student's educational experience. Developing skills specific to their respective career paths is something that is imperative for future job success and extracurricular involvement allows students to link academic knowledge with practical experience, thereby leading to a better understanding and clarity of their own abilities, talents, and career goals. Ernest T. Pascarella and Patrick T. Terenzini's 1991 research indicates that extracurricular involvement has a positive impact on educational aspirations. Students who are actively engaged are more likely to have higher educational ambitions than uninvolved students.

One of Canada’s best known institutions of higher learning, McGill University has over 250 activities, clubs, and services that students may join. With regards to exploring extra-curricular interests, Oxford University offers students a multitude of opportunities from getting involved in Oxford’s world-famous rowing teams to pursuing artistic and musical interests. Established on the academic pattern of the Ivy League Universities of the USA, Apeejay Stya University campus, too, bustles with creative and innovative students who find their own unique voices and means of expression through the various clubs managed by the students. These clubs cater to a wide range of interests, including music, dance, dramatics, fine arts, photography, literature, yoga and meditation, and many others. ASU plans to add a range of clubs and activities to its portfolio – aiming to serve the ever-changing and growing interests of students, aiding them to attain holistic development and personalities.

The ‘extra’ edge provided by such constructive involvement in recreational activities certainly aids students in standing out from the crowd. Not to forget that employers love to see them on a resume!

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