St Stephen’s of Tomorrow
K Natwar Singh
Alas ! The future can’t be postponed. Hence it is necessary to plan
the future of St. Stephen’s College. This great alma mater of ours
cannot exist in isolation. The era of sheltered existence is over.
We can prepare no master plan for life for life is a journey without
maps. We can, and should come out with a well thought through future
frame work for the college. The college faces a crisis of
confidence. The invisible wings of angels might, from time to time
flutter over us, but so often the green lights turn red.
I place myself among the non-prophets. Nevertheless I accept the
inevitability of change. Here there is a problem. Change means
progress, but progress is not inherent in history. This is a dilemma
with philosophical ramification and need not detain us. We are
required to be practical and realistic. Yet can we ignore to look
for an inspiring vision. St. Stephen’s college needs not
re-invention. It needs innovation, renovation and new awakening. In
other words divine regeneration.
I am unable to look beyond 2021, i.e a decade from now. Certainly
the computer, the fax machine, the email, the internet, the web, the
twitter, the face book will edge out the humanities or make them
second class academic pursuits. Knowledge, will increase. The sunami
of information will pour out, unstoppable. Missing will be wisdom.
At the convocation of Delhi University in 1923, the then Viceroy,
Lord Reading said, “We shall welcome knowledge with open arms when
she comes to our portals- but let us not make mistake of forgetting
her bashful sister wisdom.”
How much past baggage should the college continue to carry? From
time to time a depressing thought gets hold of me- are we, the
elderly Stephanians not victims of nostalgic hypochondria? For more
than a century the superiority of the college was unchallenged. No
loner so. The lights of St. Stephen’s have lost their glow. The
spark is missing. Without descending into pedantic punditry, I shall
very briefly put down my priorities for the college for the next
1. Reservations and academic excellence pose a problem which the
college must face. Academic Mandalisation is a frightful thought.
The minority character of the College need not be sacrificed, but it
should not be over-emphasized.
2. The number of courses the college offers is far too small. This
needs to be increased. How is this to be done if the college is
short of funds? Many ex-students of the college fortunately are well
to do, even wealthy. They should be invited to make generous
endowments. These will be gratefully acknowledged by naming, a class
room, residential block, dispensary, tennis and squash courts etc
named after the donar. This list can be expanded.
3. What should be the cut off point for the students that the
college should admit so that the intimacy factor does not suffer?
When numbers increase excellence suffers.
4. Any idea of converting the college into a university ought to
5. Expansion of college facilities, academic or sporting need not
be confined to the 25 acres of the main complex. Grounds near
Kashmiri gate could be utilized.
6. During vacations- winter and summer the college could offer
conference facilities. Seminars are a growth industry which the
college should tap.
7. Constitute an yearly Alnutt Memorial Lecture. The speaker
should be an outstanding and well known individual. His return first
class air fare to be paid by the college. The lecture should
coincide with Founder’s Dairy.
What will be the zeitgeist- the spirit- of India 2021. St Stephen’s
inevitably will be influenced by it. Prosperity there will be, but
not a pot of gold at the end of the rain bow. Man does not live but
bread alone, is today considered an out of date, fuzzy dictum. Why,
because over-valuation of the economic criterion has brushed aside
so much of real value- Gyan, sheel, guna, tap, dharma, karuna.
Let me end this feeble effort on a sentimental note. My years at St.
Stephen’s were happy. How does one define this Stephanian happiness.
To me it is a degree of achievement- an achievement of significance,
an inner achievement and deep rapport with a small world, in an
atmosphere of comrade vie, a consciousness of purpose which gave
meaning and value to our lives, in other words the light of St.
Stephen’s. May this light be never dimmed.
(Singh, an alumnus, is a former external affairs minister.)
Excellence Has No Substitute
In the end, it is excellence that matters; belonging to one college
or the other doesn’t. So, if St Stephen’s has to retain any impact
on national life, the college has to think hard about how it can
regain its reputation for excellence. This includes a concerted
initiative of involving the alumni on various outstanding issues and
I am glad that the college has started this process. I have no doubt
the alumni will respond in ample measure.
Marwah is president of the St Stephen’s alumni association.
He is a retired IPS officer and served as commissioner of police,
Delhi and D-G, NSG, and later served as governor in three states.
Envisaging St Stephen’s 2025-50
B. G. Verghese
St Stephen’s College was founded 131 years ago to give a fillip to
modern, liberal learning among all classes and communities in India.
It has since become one of the foremost colleges in India, turning
out men and, latterly, women imbued with values, ideals and
traditions that have bound all those who have passed through its
portals. Many have played important roles in the life of the
The college’s core values, described in its founding charter as
reflecting the Christian character of the college, are no different
from those enshrined in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution.
These are “to secure to all its citizens Justice, social, economic
and political; Liberty of thought, expression and belief; Equality
of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all
Fraternity, assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and
integrity of the nation”. The sense of service, compassion and
brotherhood embodied in these inspiring words have been the hallmark
of the College through the past decades.
Starting out in Chandni Chowk with four students in a garret, then
moving to Kashmere Gate and finally to its present campus, the
College witnessed three stages of growth. It first consolidated its
foundations. It next prepared for independence in the aura of Gandhi
and C.F Andrews (though steering clear of active involvement in the
freedom struggle), finally going on in the more recent
post-Independence period to produce the men and women needed to
realise the Idea of India as a plural, inclusive, liberal-democratic
Today, as it surges ahead as an emerging power, the country stands
poised to enter a new era. It has yet to fulfill Gandhiji’s message
that true freedom will come when we are able to wipe the tear from
every eye, ensuring equal citizenship and equal opportunity for all.
This will require imbibing new skills and convergent learning in a
highly competitive world while striving to Be More rather than just
Though known for excellence, neither St Stephen’s nor any of its
peers in India,, ranks in global listings of outstanding
institutions. This is because of its narrow academic base - offering
only nine disciplines- and limited laboratory and related
infrastructural facilities. Its membership of Delhi University has
been both a strength and a weakness, for it lacks the autonomy to
experiment and strike out on its own.
The National Knowledge Commission has posited an exponential growth
in higher education in India to create the knowledge base that will
sustain the high growth required to eliminate stark poverty by 2020
and attain world standards in key branches of learning. The
government has adopted this goal and is prepared to fund existing
institutions as much as new ones to attain both the quantitative
and, more importantly, the qualitative goals envisaged.
The purpose of the draft St Stephen’s College Vision 2011 through
2025 to 2050 being unveiled on its 131st Foundation Day is to see
where and how the College might position itself to lead the way in
this great endeavour. Past traditions by themselves cannot build the
future. Nostalgia has to translate into new aspirations with the
wherewithal in terms of new courses, additional faculty,
administrative structures, vastly superior academic, laboratory,
library, hostel and other relevant campus facilities and arguably
more space, with added numbers to create a critical mass for more
advanced and varied learning. The alumnus and other friends of St
Stephen’s College, scattered throughout the country and in distant
lands, are willing to assist with ideas and funds but need a
carefully structured vision, broken down into discretely phased
projects to fire their imagination.
Implementing the vision document will require significantly large
funding. The government may be expected to make its contribution but
the alumni will, as elsewhere, have to be the mainstay both for
programme funding as well as to build up a solid corpus. The fee
structure will need upward revision. However, if pricing up
education is not to price out St Stephen’s beyond the reach of the
kind of scholars we would like to attract from less affluent homes,
provision will need to be made to endow more stipends and
scholarships as well as prestigious chairs in different
The college chairman, principal and others who have initiated this
effort envisage a democratic and transparent process that will
result in a viable plan of action leading, hopefully, to St
Stephen’s College becoming an autonomous institution if not a deemed
university. This programme could appropriately be implemented by a
manager supervised by a distinguished Vision 2025-50 council of
trustees tasked to carry it forward in close liaison with the
The future beckons. Stephanians, old and new, must steel themselves
to the task.
(Verghese, a former editor, chairs the focus group on academic
courses for St Stephen’s 2050. He was in the college from
1944 to 1946. The report is available at
Planning for 2050
Visioning is a
challenging exercise. But executing that vision will be a far
Alumni all over
the world are looking forward to contributing in this grand
enterprise of rebuilding one of the great institutions of our
country. Indeed, we have gained a lot from our college and now is
the time to give back.
innovation in our approach and our ability to anticipate societal
expectations from courses and curriculum of the college will be of
paramount importance. I am sure this exercise assume relevance to
other great institutions in our country and their alumni.
alumni, is a career civil servant and associated with success
stories in tourism and brand building. He authored
“Branding India-An Incredible Story,” and is presently MD & CEO,
Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation Ltd..
Your School and
St.Stephen's College is arguably
a bell weather on the state of traditional undergraduate education
in India. The college has invited an organizing committee of alumni
to help out with a vision for 2050. This team includes, among
others, former governor Ved Marwah, chief election commissioner SY
Qureshi, Delhi University Vice Chancellor Dinesh Singh, civil
servants Amitabh Kant and Prajapati Trivedia, and journalist BG
Verghese, besides Principal Valson Thampu and Dean-Academic SV
Eswaran. Some of these eminent citizens have written for this
special debate very kindly hosted by “Governance Now.”
We are sure that the template under works interests the worthy
alumni of all great undergrad colleges whose legacies are under
The college (spelt with a capital `C' in internal literature and
unduly comfortable talking about its past) has the writing on the
wall. The network thrives, but the old tie is frayed. The list of
alumni with profound impact on national life may not last beyond the
next 10 years. Most movers and shakers are already in their 50s and
even 60s and 70s. Bench strength is suspect. The IITs have stolen
the march by miles. Rather than read history, literature or
philosophy at Stephen's, the best
non-techies now flock to SRCC for commerce, or Xavier's, Loyola,
Presidency, and the National Law School University.
Economics and the science courses salvage some pride for St.Stephen's,
but insistence on leaving 50 per cent seats for Christians has
impacted both results and brand image.
Not surprisingly, Global Inc., has been quick to desert the
college. After a drought, two students this academic year got picked
up by McKinsey. Two got Deutsche Bank (reported salary: Rs 40 lakh!).
There wasn't much to rejoice: One student was common to both lists;
all three were from economics.
The sub-group under journalist BG Verghese has tried to draw the
academic landscape of the college in
2050 (www.ststephens.edu). Should St.Stephen's
focus on economics and create a centre of excellence around that
catchment? Concurrently, what new courses would society and Global
Inc. might want? Where would the University Grants Commission and
the University of Delhi kick in?
The Varghese recommendations is coordinating with another group
responsible for the "master plan: 2050."
They comprise policy wonks, an architecture firm, and folks like
Amitabh Kant from the IAS, who presently handles project-management
challenges at the scale of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. The
groups are mandated to align academic requirements and physical
Another team is tasked to propose the ethical architecture that
right sizes the distance between the administration and alumni
Key alumni are donating time to organize February 1, 2011, as the
day to start raising these issues before a larger audience. That day
they will debate the master plan and in collaboration with
“Governance Now,” use social media so that global endowments get
The big questions remain. Can more time be lost before the
college's 28-acre campus is left to serve just 1,200 students?
Should this number go up, and if so, how could this be done without
pock marking the famous red-brick heritage building! Even if this is
possible, is there faculty that's willing to bear the burden of new
pedagogy? Also, what happens when existing faculty is asked to
produce research that the market is willing to fund?
Conversely, rather than mess up what some may say ain't broke, is
itbetter that the present 30% of the FAR permissible under the
relevant regulations was left untouched?
"In an age, unprecedented in the sweep and scope of the changes it
is spawning, responsiveness to stimuli is a sign of health and the
secret of growth: St.Stephen's
cannot be a stagnant stone amidst a flowing stream. Nor should it be
a piece of deadwood drifting downstream," Revd. Thampu, the
principal, has posed.
The easy bit was to have an organizing committee. Next came the
canvass. Then the sub-groups, crawling with talent. The next bit is
about stamina, and retaining "visionaries who aren't maintenance
(Bansal, an alumni of the college, serves on the above-stated
organizing committee and is honorary executive editor of “St
Stephen’s Who’s Who.” He is CEO and Co-Founder, India Strategy
Group, Hammurabi &
Solomon Consulting. Email:
The antiquity of the
S V Eswaran
During the last founder’s day service, names of those who served St
Stephen’s College in different capacities and have gone on to higher
life were read out. These included names like Samuel Joseph Martyn,
lecturer in physics, 1891-1906, Khub Ram, old student, later Reader
in physics, 1900-22, Dalip Kumar Roy, lecturer in chemistry,
1913-14, Charles Jenkin, lecturer in physics 1913-15 and Jitendra
Nath Mitra, lecturer in chemistry, 1914-43, establishing clearly
that there was a certain degree of representation of natural
sciences in the college even in its early days.. In 1959, Dr. Sant
Ram Anand, after retiring from the physics department, Delhi
University, took over as Head of both the physics and chemistry
departments in St Stephen’s. In 1960, Mr G. S. Bhatia and the late
Dr. C. J. Raphael joined the college and after the retirement of Dr.
Sant Ram Anand, the two of them took over as Heads of the
departments of physics and chemistry, respectively. The old science
block was built by the great architect Walter George, who was by
then in very poor health and could barely see.
S. K. Chaterji (Chemistry) served St Stephen’s briefly but soon
moved over to the University department. Though they did not teach
in college but both Prof. D. S. Kothari (the eminent physicist) and
Prof. B. D. Jain (chemistry) were for long formally ‘attached’ to
the college.. Soon after, Dr. N. K. Bajaj, the late Dr. M. S.
Bhatnagar, Dr. R. N. Maini, the late Dr. Mohan Katyal, Mr. M. M.
Bhardwaj and Dr. S. K. Vig joined the two departments. Dr. Tara
Chand who later served as the Dean of Residence (for a record number
of 10 years), Dr. C. N. Krishnan and the author also joined the
faculty in 1968. The late Dr K. Swaminathan joined the college in
Further recruitments to the faculty occurred when the honours
courses in physics and chemistry were transferred to the colleges In
1970, the late Dr. D. P. Goel, Prof. V. S. Parmar (later Head,
Chemistry Department, Delhi University), the late Dr. M. C. Jain and
Dr V. S. Chauhan (later Director, International Centre for Genetic
Engineering and Biotechnology), joined the chemistry department. The
physics department was reinforced by the appointment of Dr. R.K.
Garg, Dr. D. L. Katyal, Dr S. K. Muthu (physics), the late Prof.
Habib Kidwai, the late Dr. S. C. Bhargava (who won successive
elections to the Academic Council of Delhi University) and the late
Dr. Rajendra Popli (named after him, the Popli Memorial lectures
have brought many eminent speakers to the college).
C.G. Sudarshan, the famous physicist is said to have often enquired
from Indian physicists attending international conferences “When did
you do physics in Delhi?”(on the presumption that only if one had
done physics in Delhi if one had made one’s mark internationally).
Between 1970 and 1980’s the question got slightly modified and could
very well have been: “When did you do physics at St. Stephen’s?”
students from the science block, both in chemistry and physics, have
excelled in life. The leading science student from college is Dr
Nitya Anand who studied in 1943-45 and later worked at Cambridge. He
was the Director of the Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow and
served as Advisor to Ranbaxy. He discovered Centchroman,
contraceptive better known as ‘Saheli’. In his mid eighties, he is
proud of his association with college. Prof A. C. Jain (Chemistry,
Delhi University, Bhatnagar awardee), Prof N. Panchapakesan (resigned from I. A. S. and
taught physics at Delhi University), Prof. R. Rajaraman (Delhi
University and J. N. U, worked with the Nobel laureate, Hans Bethe)
are all old students of the college. At that time, only B. Sc (Gen)
courses were taught in college and the students were at times even
seen carrying their apparatus to the university laboratories for the
practical examinations. Only the old science block existed at that
time. A very large number of the former students of our college are
occupying major academic positions both in India and abroad
especially in USA. e g. Utpal Banerji (chemistry, now a famous
geneticist at UCLA), Abhijit Saha (a well established physicist),
Rajarshi Roy (physicist, University of Rochester) Ananya Majumdar
(Director, Biophysical NMR, Johns Hopkins), Ms Charusita
Chakravarthy (chemistry, IIT, Delhi, winner of the prestigious
Bhatnagar award), Ms. Ipsita Roy ( Universisty of Birmingham),
Bala Sundaram ( physics, chair, U Mass, Bostan),
Krishna Kumar (Chair, Chemistry, Tufts University, Boston), Pushpito
Kr.Ghosh (Director, Central Salt and Marine Research institute, CSIR,
Gujarat, Bhismadev Chakravarthy (University of Reading), Prof
Shobhit Mahajan (physics, Delhi University), Dr Daksh Lohia
(physics, who worked with Stephen Hawking) and Rajeev Shorey
(President, NIIT University, Neemrana) to name just a few.
the mid sixties, Dr John Haysham from Cambridge spent three years in
the chemistry department of the college. He started an Association
of Chemistry Teachers whose members met in college annually and had
lunch or dinner together. He was instrumental in introducing
semi-micro qualitative analysis, even designing the apparatus
required for it. All other colleges of Delhi University teaching
chemistry followed suit and the college served as a trend setter. Dr
David Gosling from Cambridge followed Dr Haysham and taught physics
in college for three years into the early seventies. His articles on
Atomic Energy often appeared in national dailies. Later on, he
returned to teach environmental chemistry and encouraged many
students to join Cambridge for higher studies. The concept of
Visiting Professors would, thus, not be new to the science block.
‘India Study Group’ from the University of Groeningin, The
Netherlands and the ‘Biotechnology Study Tour’ from the Technical
University, Delft, The Netherlands visited the college in 1990-91
and even held joint seminars.
then tennis courts gave way to the ‘New Science Block’ which was
blessed by the Bishop in 1973 and since then has been thus referred
to. The science blocks remained largely an
unknown/uncharted/undiscovered part of the college and the
“Sciencees” or the ‘science types’ were often mocked at thus. In a
recent issue of The Stephanian, Dr. Rohit Wanchoo, the editor
indicated that the science students now were more visible in college
life than students of the arts block. What with the gentler sex
outnumbering their male counterparts in the science block, many
young men found it attractive to locate the science block or its
inhabitants showing preference over the back gates of Miranda House!
Thus the new phrase “Artsies” was born.
‘Survival rates’ in sciences are higher than 50%, which is
phenomenal considering that the funding was always very meagre. No
improvement in infrastructure was ever undertaken. It is only the
generosity of the outgoing Vice Chancellor, Dr. Deepak Pental and
Prof. Dinesh Singh, an old student (who has since taken over as the
new Vice Chancellor), that the college has received Rs. 2.5 Crores
for improvement of the science block. Apart from the much needed
repair of the flooring, etc. the chemistry laboratories are poised
to become modular.
year ‘India Today’ rated the science courses in the college as
number 1 in the country. This is duly recognized and acknowledged by
Prof. C. N. R. Rao, Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister and
founder, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research
(JNCASR), Bangalore (“Ram Seshadri is the best student I’ve received
in my life, send more like him from St. Stephen’s”) and is echoed in
the I. I. Sc circles. In recent years, science students have
received the prestigious Rhodes scholarship. Many have been selected
for the Kishore Vaigyanik Protsahan Yojana (KVPY) fellowship and
the Project Oriented Chemical Education (POCE) award. The work of a
student, Amritanshu Sinha, who passed out in 1999 figured in the
Nobel lecture by his Professor from M. I. T. in December 2005. This
is unheard of (and without a parallel) in the annals of science
education in India.
During the last four decades, many new areas of science have
developed like biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials science and
Omic studies. Just like college has studiously stayed away from
introducing commerce, we have never ventured into biology. Should it
not be asked whether these have happened accidentally or a certain
invisible philosophy has guided us? So far as commerce is concerned;
it is easy to understand that ours is a missionary college with
emphasis on higher values of life and spirituality, where commerce
took a lower ranking. However, the question regarding biology needs
a closer look. In the opinion of the author, subjects like
microbiology, biotechnology and even for that matter nanotechnology,
so many highly funded laboratories and centres (e. g. the IISER’s)
have sprung up all over the country and even in the University and
its colleges that our college will find it difficult to catch up.
revised B. Sc (programme has a mandatory biology course added which
is a departure from the traditional B. Sc (general) course This has
led to a lot of difficulty for students who left biology in 10th
standard. The outcome has not been very encouraging and the students
have to struggle to keep up the pace. This surely has set up a bad
example and college could be more cautious in introducing such
half-baked courses. Dr V. K. R. V. Rao, founder, Delhi School of
Economics, Vice Chancellor, Delhi University and later Minister of
Education at the Centre wrote in the Centenary issue of ‘The
Stephanian’ that “the U. G. C. should learn from the hundred year
old experiment at St. Stephen’s College”.
Should we not be futuristic in our thinking and quickly move into
areas such as materials science, Omic (genomics/ proteomics) studies
which would be crucial for High Throughput Screening (HTS), leading
to the development of newer and more effective drugs for the forth
coming era of personalised medicine, which is indeed the future.
Similarly, materials science provides a very good platform for the
two science departments (physics & chemistry) to come together and
work on areas like organic electronics, which also is the name of a
new department created recently in the National Physical Laboratory
(NPL), Delhi. These lead to organic thin film transistors (OTFTs),
organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), better laptop screens which
can be viewed from a wider angle and electronic gadgets, mobile
phones, etc. The author has himself shown the use of natural
products like the low cost Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL) for
microelectronics, a crucial requirement for Indian Defence, an area
still covered by the US sanctions.
research projects have been granted to college and students have
done Ph. D while working in college. Work done in college has been
patented and published in peer review journals. These can be
accessed using any search engine and even while ‘googling’ randomly.
The discovery in college of a new reaction has led to establishing a
‘long lived’ (in picoseconds!) reactive species by laser flash
photolysis done in a collaborative study with the Ohio State
University, Columbus, U. S. A. Work has been done with the
Max-Planck Institute for Biochemisry, Munich Germany; Universities
of Goettingen, Karlsruhe and Pharmaceutical Chemistry Department,
University of Heidelberg, Germany. The use of Fast Atom Bombardment
Mass Spectrometry (FAB-MS) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) at
Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA using Matrix
Isolated Laser Desorption Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (MALDI MS)
has led to a new crosslinker with uses in biochemistry and
conducting polymers. Joint work with the Solid State Physics
Laboratory, Delhi, DRDO, R&D) has led to work on microelectronics
and with NPL on solar cells. Many new compounds have been made using
the recently discovered ‘Click’ reaction and characterised using
High Resolution Mass Spectrometry (HRMS) and Time of Flight Mass
Spectrometry (TOF-MS) at the Indian Institute of Chemical
Technology, (CSIR), Hyderabad and their anti-fungal activity studied
at the Indian Agriculture Research Institute,
New Delhi. Work on “Green Chemistry” has been done in collaboration
with the CSIR laboratory in Bhavnagar. Work on soluble
Buckminsterfullerene [C60], Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes (SWCNT)
using 2D- NMR techniques, Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM),
Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (FE-SEM) and Raman
Spectroscopy carried out with IISC, Bangalore is already at a peer
review stage. With the Sri Chitra Tirunal Centre for Biomedical
Sciences, Thiruvananthapuram, Confocal Raman Microscopy has been
used to study these substances. These are a part of Nanotechonolgy
and Nanomaterials. Many of these lead to photovoltaics and the use
of solar energy to produce electricity. Work done in the college
could also be useful for diagnostics and cure of tuberculosis (under
Open Source Drug Discovery, OSDD, CSIR) and dreaded diseases like
cancer and HIV-AIDS. The day is awaited eagerly when our students
and faculty can access all such sophisticated modern equipments on a
routine basis (and not during a summer project alone).
one hastens to add that the above reference to research output is to
be carefully weighed against committed undergraduate teaching and
being available for counselling of our students and encouraging them
‘beyond the classroom’, thus continuing and building on the long
traditions and strength of our college. It may be interesting to
note that the science block has produced many able administrators (Ajit
Seth, Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat), people successful in
the industry (Bharat Tandon, of ‘SERICARE’; Debashish Mitra, of
‘Calypso Foods’), policemen who have been recognised and awarded (Neeraj
Kumar, who also produced ‘Police File Se’, a popular TV serial),
lawyers (Pravin Anand, Patent attorney), sportsmen (Loveleen Singhal, Swimmer; Rajinder Singh Hans,
Cricketer, U. P., Ranji Trophy; Deepak Sharma, Cricketer, Haryana,
Ranji Trophy, musicians (Rahul N. Ram of ‘Indian Ocean’) and many
budding theatre artists. Ajeet Bajaj (old student, chemistry)
successfully reached both the North and the South Pole! The science
block thus continues the college tradition of imparting all round
education. Hope in 2050, the natural sciences
will continue to flourish in college.
is Dean-Academics at St Stephen’s and has taught
Chemistry at the college for 41 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Why a Vision 2050?
The hallmark of a living tradition is its capacity for critical
self-audit so as to respond to the needs and opportunities of the
given context. Needs point to opportunities. To see emerging needs,
individuals and institutions have to look beyond themselves.
Wholesome and relevant growth is a by-product of responding to needs
within a self-transcending vision. Vision results from the light of
yesterday and tomorrow illumining the service-zone of today.
St. Stephen’s College is a 130-year old tradition of unwavering
commitment to excellence in higher education. The founding fathers
of the College – five Cambridge Missionaries led by The Revd. Samuel
Scott Allnutt, the founding Principal – who began their tryst with
the destiny of India in 1881,despite the meagre circumstances of the
inception of the institution – 3 hired rooms and four students in
Chandini Chowk! – nursed a robust faith in the future of the
College. They were sure that St. Stephen’s would be “one of the best
colleges in India”.
Size was not the prime concern of the founding fathers. They neither
coveted nor despised size. Their over-arching purpose was to
benchmark excellence in higher education within a transforming
vision for the society. It is this vision, which has stood the test
of time admirably, that accounts for the uniqueness of St.
Stephen’s. The founding fathers had a dual focus in what they did.
They kept St. Stephen’s and the country in focus. No wonder the
tradition of excellence that St. Stephen’s embodies inspired a
Charles Freer Andrews to connect the life of the College to the
struggles, hopes and aspirations of Indians in South Africa and,
later, in the British Raj.
It is imperative to thumbnail this matrix at a time when St.
Stephen’s is poised for a huge leap forward. Growth should not be
mistaken for outgrowth. Authentic growth does not disown the soil in
which the sapling has grown to be a majestic tree. To grow is to
create space for a larger number, and a greater variety, of young
women and men to benefit from a time-tested tradition of education,
responding proactively to the multitudinous and multiplying needs of
a nation. The insignia of appropriate growth is the enlarged ability
to re-appropriate the core vision in a changed and changing context
in response to the given needs with the country as the point of
reference. That is why St. Stephen’s has a national stature and is
readily acknowledged as such. It betokens the outreach of a
community to the country as a whole with a view to nurturing
responsible “citizens alike for heaven and for the earth”. (College
For decades now, the operative, albeit unwritten, creed in St.
Stephen’s has been, “Do a small basket of courses, but do them as
best you can.” Arguably, this is a laudable goal. The fruits of it
are there for all to see. But we exist today in an age,
unprecedented in the sweep and scope of the changes it is spawning.
Responsiveness to stimuli is a sign of health and the secret of
growth. St. Stephen’s cannot be a stagnant stone amidst a flowing
stream. Nor should it be a piece of deadwood drifting downstream . .
India is today poised for significant, even revolutionary, changes
in the domain of education, from the elementary stage upwards. It is
not an accident, I venture to believe, that this is spearheaded by
an alumnus who is the Minister for Human Resource Development. It is
my quintessential belief that St. Stephen’s has its own role to play
in the waking up of the long-soporific genius of this sub-continent.
In the very nature of things, this role of the institution can never
be solely quantitative. Given our history and heritage, we have a
mandate to serve as the leaven in the lump of our burgeoning
educational enterprise. While the nation undertakes the revolution
of broad-basing education, bringing down the bastions of exclusion,
St. Stephen’s has a mandate to seek and advocate the meaning and
purpose of holistic or total education. The physical growth of the
institution and the enlargement of its academic basket have to be
predicated on an compromising commitment to its core vision and
Some highlights of St. Stephen’s Vision 2050 are:
1. The need to open up a time-tested tradition of excellence
to a larger number of aspirants so as to enhance our contribution to
nation-building. We are a 28-acre campus, currently catering to
about 1200 students. While we can be legitimately proud of the per
capita academic and social space we offer to students, we also need
to ask if we are responsive enough to the massive needs in the
domain of higher education to the optimum extent. As of now we have
used up only 30% of the FAR permissible under the relevant
2. To facilitate a greater cross fertilization of ideas and
knowledge. Inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary approach to
higher education is already the order of the day! By limiting
ourselves to a small range of subjects, we bottleneck the
corss-fertilisation of ideas and expertise that would, otherwise,
have enriched the learning process. Currently a Focus Group,
comprising distinguished alumni, is at work to identify the new
courses that the institution may add to its existing repertoire.
3. To identify the infrastructural, technological and
financial needs of the College necessary for the fulfilment of the
present renewed vision and to meet them within an appropriate
time-frame. This will be done in tandem with the vision for the
evolving academic vision for the College. There is, besides, a need
to set up a substantial corpus and endow it towards meeting the
shortfall between the UGC grant (95%) and the approved expenditure
which currently stands at Rs. 65 lakhs.
4. To institutionalize the participation of the alumni in
the educational robustness of the learning milieu offered in the
institution. Stephanians are making outstanding contributions to
the academia in various parts of the world. Several of them are keen
to return for varying periods to catalyst the academic ferment afoot
in the College. Every effort will be made to facilitate the
participation of the maximum number of the alumni in this process.
5. To set the institution on course for the next 40 years or
more by developing a Master Plan. Focus Group comprising some very
dynamic and experienced alumni is at work on this in a time-bound
fashion. And they are also working in sync with the Focus Group on
Academic Programmes. The Master Plan outlined thus will be unveiled
on the forthcoming College Day (1 February, 2011) when a large
number of the Alumni will have the opportunity to critique the Plan
and to suggest modifications/improvements in the suggested Plan
outline. After this exercise the Master Plan will be firmed up and
it will then guide the development of the College campus for the
several decades to follow.
6. To begin the process of shifting the institutional gear
from teaching to teaching enlivened by research: As a constituent
College of Delhi University, St. Stephen’s is bound by the
regulations of the University in respect of our academic reach and
fetch. Given the work-load (not a happy expression, really!) on each
teacher, incorporating and fortifying a research culture, in what is
essentially an under-graduate institution, is an uphill task. Yet,
if St. Stephen’s is to contribute to, and not merely warehouse,
knowledge the requisite provisions have to be made. It is proposed
to institute professorial chairs with primary focus on research in
certain chosen departments. This arrangement could cover other
departments over time.
7. To establish a think tank for ensuring the continuing
relevance of the institution to the unfolding destiny of the nation
and to infuse substance, on a continuing basis, into our identity
and stature as an institution of excellence in the national scenario
at the present time. The insignia of a healthy and lively
institution is its keenness to seek continually. This seeking
ensures the undiminished relevance of the institution and the
services it offers to the nation at large. This also deepens the
bond between the alumni and their alma mater.
8. To ensure that St. Stephen’s remains a wholesome
intervention in the intellectual, social and cultural progress of
the nation, remaining faithful to its core vision, and to undertake
informed advocacies in words and deeds to attain that end.
Put simply, the quintessence of “St. Stephen’s 2050” is the
commitment to making this bench-mark institution a greater blessing
on the nation. At the heart of our vision is a universal goal that
we cannot afford to willingly compromise, much less abandon: to
facilitate the fullest, all-round growth of the young women and men
entrusted to the institution, year after year. We, in St. Stephen’s,
believe that they are an invaluable part of our national resource
potential. They are, in promise, the arms of service that St.
Stephen’s would extend, in course of time, to the nation and to the
world at large. That being the case, it should be unacceptable that
the education we practise limits itself to mediating knowledge to a
comparatively small, privileged set of students. Arguably, St.
Stephen’s gets some of the best students from all over the country.
The opportunity to nurture a few more of them, thereby enlarging our
contributing that much more to the national stock of human
resources, is both welcome and exciting. But this will make good
sense only if we inculcate in every Stephanian a spirit of national
responsibility so that they may use their knowledge, skills and
resources to serve our society, solving its problems and empowering
its latent potentialities to be activated, developed and expressed
for the good of the entire nation. “St. Stephens 2050” has to be St.
Stephen’s 1881, pursuing the sort of academic and infrastructure
growth that the founding fathers would have engaged with, if they
were guiding the destiny of the College today. They were
visionaries. Visionaries are not a maintenance people. To the
visionaries who founded St. Stephen’s in 1881 education was a
movement. Every authentic movement is predicated on
contextually-proactive, life-enhancing changes for which
‘transformation’ is the technical term. A movement dies when morphs
into a monument. A monument exists for its own sake, insensitive to
its context. Growth and outreach are alien to the ‘monument-model’
of stewarding an institution. “St. Stephen’s 2050” is a reminder and
a celebration that education, as posited in the history and heritage
of the College, is and ought to be forever, a movement . . . Ad Dei
alumnus (1971-73), is the Principal of St Stephen’s.