India’s first dedicated artificial intelligence-led university plans to usher in a new era of future-focused higher education. Universal AI University, based in Karjat near Mumbai in the western state of Maharashtra, starts its first academic year this month after receiving final approval from the state government.
The university will offer undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in AI and future technologies and will bring AI to the core of every subject so that students are future-ready to engage in leadership roles in businesses.
Currently in India, top engineering and management colleges offer diverse courses in AI and it is generally accepted that training students to work alongside AI in the future must begin early.
According to Chancellor Dr Tarundeep Singh Anand, Universal AI University is an AI focused university and all its disciplines will have AI related programmes embedded in them. Each student will have to submit a mandatory AI project on how AI will impact upon their discipline, whether it is law or design, management or psychology.
“We believe in the transformational nature of AI, so our BTech (Bachelor of Technology) and BSc (Bachelor of Science) courses in AI and machine learning will deepen and broaden the learning of AI and future technologies, as they have a profound impact in solving the most complex problems we face,” Anand told University World News.
Curriculum best practice, skills for industry
According to Anand, the university has brought international best practices to its curriculum, which has been designed by a multi-billion dollar IT conglomerate. Each subject has been curated for its roles in industry, with 65% experiential learning built into the curriculum. Psychology students, for example, will do AI lab work that takes up 8% of their curriculum.
To begin with, Universal AI will offer AI-led subjects in five disciplines and the main areas of education will be AI and machine learning, business analytics, liberal arts with a focus on psychology and economics, and business studies with specialties in marketing, commerce and finance.
The university also has plans to offer courses in law, design, sports sciences, and international affairs and diplomacy in near future.
Universal AI University will follow the KSA – knowledge, skills, attitude – framework whereby knowledge is less than 50%, with a greater emphasis on skills development and attitude as per the industry requirements.
There will be internships, leadership development, and on-the-job training to ensure students acquire the skills required to succeed in industry.
“The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have a larger focus on mathematics, while we focus more on applications of AI or applied AI,” said Anand.
The world is seeing a shortage of AI academics, but Anand is confident his university will face no shortage of teaching staff.
“We have a very strong pool of AI academicians from India, including from the IIT’s and international AI experts who will be part of the faculty,” he said.
“Besides, we will have practitioners from industry, from a multi-billion dollar IT conglomerate which will be part of our community learning as they are designing the courses and providing all the interventions, namely, live projects, internships and final placements.”
However, there are people in the technology sector who believe that the shortage of AI academics is a global concern.
Vikas Kaushik, chief executive officer of the US-based technology company TechAhead, said that to address any shortage, educational institutions can collaborate with AI industry experts and professionals, enabling them to serve as guest lecturers, adjunct faculty or mentors.
“Moreover, partnerships with international universities and research institutions can facilitate knowledge exchange and attract experienced AI academics to share their expertise,” Kaushik told University World News.
“India indeed needs universities specialising in AI to meet the growing demand for skilled AI professionals and to foster research and innovation in this domain.
“While AI can be applied across disciplines, having dedicated AI-focused universities will enable in-depth exploration, specialised curriculum development and advanced research in AI-related fields, thus contributing to India’s technological advancement,” said Kaushik.
The courses of Universal AI University are endorsed and featured by 60 leaders of companies and other organisations, and more than 200 chief technology officers of leading industries and organisations and many more eminent personalities.
For funding, the institution is drawing on internal accruals, bank funding and contributions from the 60 CEOs on its board of governors, according to Anand.
Labs and innovation hub
Universal AI University will have labs for students to learn and experiment on Industrial Revolution 4.0 technologies such as AI, analytics, blockchain, AR/VR/MR – augmented, virtual and mixed reality – the internet of things and other emerging technologies spearheading the digital makeover of industries.
An artificial intelligence, emerging and foundational technologies innovation hub will be set up in Karjat by Univitt AI Technologies Pvt Ltd, a joint venture agreement between the university and the Vitti Research Foundation.
Anand said Univitt brings together an in-house on-campus team of data scientists and AI professionals who are working at solving some complex industry problems.
Professional resources and a quantum computing lab, as well as the internet of things and AR/VR/MR labs, will be available to students to work on industry projects. “Besides, we have a tie-up with the multi-billion-dollar IT conglomerate which has built our curriculum and will continue to provide our students with placement opportunities,” he said.
Universal AI University is expecting its first intake in August. It has admitted students from 26 states and union territories in India and has received applications from several countries including the United Kingdom, Nepal, Indonesia and nations in Africa and the Gulf.
Anand added: “We have students who have missed the IITs by a few marks for our BTech programmes.”