Udaipur : This is a university with a difference! It is un-deemed, un-recognized and grants no degrees or certificates to the learners, but believes in creating portfolios based on one’s own experiences as a proof of one’s education. Learners earn a ‘Letter of Completion’ at the end of the 2-year full time program offered here and ‘Letters of Recognitions’ from their mentors and organizations where they did their internships. There is no fees demanded as one can voluntary contribute for the boarding, travelling and lodging expenses incurred during the program.
Welcome to Swaraj University, where students are called ‘khojis’ i.e explorers since it aims at broadening the perspective of life and learning beyond the heavy baggage of fear associated with the word ‘student’. Started in the year 2010, over 100 khojis have gone through the learning process at Swaraj University, a 15-acre campus located in an isolated scenic valley between two mountain ranges, some 15 kms away from Udaipur city. The learning process and the schedule are co-created by khojis and the facilitators. The university is a part of a national campaign ‘Healing Ourselves from Diploma Disease’ a campaign promoting better evaluation framework based on experience and portfolios.
The khojis explore range from farming to film-making, story telling, writing to self-healing, arts to cooking. There are many people in the large network of Swaraj University who have a good knowledge of their respective fields and who act as mentors, gurus and guide to the khojis. Rather than being confined to classrooms and theory, Khojis become involved with their mentors’ work and learn hands-on with them. In the process they experience and learn how to deal with many real-life situations, thus gaining a well-rounded practical exposure to their field. Learning from one’s mistakes and taking and incorporating feedback is a critical component of the Swaraj process. The focus is self-designed learning and social entrepreneurship, including programs to strengthen local culture and ecology. Anyone above the age of 16 willing to experiment with new ideas and engaging with different line of thought can enroll for the full-time 2 year program at the university.
“ Exams are not the right way to evaluate an individual and the conventional education system does not give any feedback or tells one how to improve. Each person has their own talents and dreams. At Swaraj, our curriculum starts by identifying those attributes, rather than telling the students to learn mathematics or history or any other preordained syllabus. Based on their input, we provide training” Manish Jain, co-founder of the university claims. “ We do not give any degrees or certificates. People hire our students not based on the degree they have got but on the work they have done. Many companies have come forward to hire our students without any certificate, Manish adds.
Attending an orientation meet, is the prerequisite to join Swaraj University. Here, the student is given an opportunity to design a course and syllabus for himself. One can study any number of subjects he or she likes. A student can learn film-making, music creation, energy healing, theatre and bicycle power technology at the same time. A big part of the program consists of group gatherings and apprenticeships. During gathering, learners and mentors stay together for 2-4 weeks long at the Udaipur campus. In the second part of the program learners chose their field of interest and are placed under Ustaads for a duration upto 2 months. They stay at their Ustaad’s location anywhere in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh. There are over 250 faculty from all over India who do not sit in the classrooms and reach. Learners go out with their mentors in the community doing real projects and learn. Among the few things students get to learn here are zero waste crafts, self healing techniques and products, cooking with indigenous grains and health foods, architecture and alternative energy, natural fabrics and fashions etc.