It started in the mid-2000s when the state government acquired agricultural land for a 'hub for higher learning and a centre for research’.
... these universities have also seen their share of controversies – sexual harassment, drug abuse, sudden departures of staff, student unrest. In addition to this, teachers as well as some students are concerned about the lack of diversity in the classrooms.
The main nucleus of the area is the Rajiv Gandhi Education City. The state government planned it as a “hub for higher learning and a centre for research” in the mid-2000s, and acquired more than 2,000 acres of agricultural land from farmers over 2006-’07.
But the first private university that came up in the area was built outside the Education City – the OP Jindal Global University. Build on land purchased separately, it was the first university to be set up under the Haryana Private Universities Act 2006, and was practically willed into existence over a few months in 2009.
Professor Chockalingam Raj Kumar, after studying law at Delhi University, Oxford University, Harvard University and University of Hong Kong, returned to India in January 2008 with the intention of setting up a university. He talked industrialist and member of Parliament from the Congress party, Naveen Jindal, into financing the plan – his first undertaking in higher education – through his charity, the Om Prakash Jindal Gramin Jan Kalyan Sansthan. Jindal had a large plot of land in Kurukshetra, also his constituency, but Raj Kumar said they “needed to stay close to Delhi.”
An amendment in the law governing private universities also helped. Haryana Private Universities Act 2006 required state private universities to reserve 25% of their seats for students domiciled in Haryana and give them fee concessions ranging from 25% to full waivers. An amendment in 2009 reduced reservation to 10% for universities that would collaborate with foreign institutions. The opposition alleged this was done to favour Jindal Global, which was subsequently added to the schedule of the 2006 Act.
The Education City began to take shape around the same time, with the state government starting land allotments in 2009. Till 2017, it had leased plots of land to 13 private and public institutions.
Once completed, the Education City was to have within one contiguous zone over a dozen public and private higher education institutions that can compete with the best abroad and all the supporting infrastructure required – a primary school, a multi-level car park, serviced apartments, police and fire stations. However, close to a decade later, it is a large expanse of farmland, some parts still under cultivation, with a few buildings strewn about. Only three universities are functional and these are essentially self-contained islands.