Across India, which has a tradition of strong, public universities, several new private institutions are focused on liberal arts and sciences education with an emphasis on innovative styles of teaching and responsiveness to society needs.

To support these initiatives, Pomona College, Claremont McKenna College, Yale University, the Indian Institute of Human Settlements and the Raman Research Institute are sponsoring a historic conference on "The Future of Liberal Arts in India: Towards an Integrated Education –­ Undergraduate Liberal Arts and Sciences in India: A Conference on New Directions, New Curriculum and New Institutions," Jan. 7-9. The Raman Institute, in Bangalore, will host the event.

"We are at a historic moment for India and higher education," notes Pomona Professor Bryan Penprase, currently an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow at Yale University, who collaborated with a number of leading U.S. and Indian institutions to organize the conference.

"For the first time, a privately funded model for liberal arts and sciences education is taking root in India. There's been a real convergence of philanthropy, innovation and an openness to new models of undergraduate education, with an emphasis on holistic liberal arts education, that could revolutionize higher education in India.

The three-day event will feature panels, work sessions and keynote speakers including Nandan Nilekani (former CEO of Infosys, and noted author and speaker), Ramachandra Guha (author, columnist, historian and philosopher) and Andre Beteille (author and professor from University of Delhi).

Among the larger questions to be addressed by education leaders and innovators from across the U.S. and India are: How liberal arts are best suited for India? What has been the experience of the new liberal arts initiatives in India? How can curriculum be re-imagined to be more interdisciplinary, more responsive to the needs of modern India, and more relevant to society and to the challenges of today? What is the role of the liberal arts in training leaders to be more responsive to the societal needs of India?

From Pomona College, President David Oxtoby will discuss "Pomona College and its liberal arts mission." Penprase, who is a professor of astronomy and physics, will present on "Research and institutional culture at liberal arts colleges – What does it mean to be a teacher/scholar at a liberal arts college?" and Professor of Religion Zayn Kassam will join in a panel discussion titled "How can liberal arts and sciences help address some of the societal problems within India and promote equity in society with regards to gender, caste, and region?"

Claremont McKenna College President Hiram Chodosh will speak on "Reflections on Liberal Arts and Sciences," and other members of the CMC faculty and staff will attend and present as well.

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