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As India takes giant leaps towards development and gets set to join the league of global superpowers, the need of the hour is a complete overhaul of our system of governance. The pandemic was the most recent lesson in this direction. What the country needs is a shift in mindsets and a team of young, talented leaders who can face the challenges of tomorrow and apply the best global practices in public policy to suit Indian conditions.

Livemint caught up with four esteemed members of faculty from The Kautilya School of Public Policy, to understand the importance of education in public policy for a country like India and what makes Kautilya School of Public Policy a game changer in this landscape.

These faculty members have taught at some of the best universities across the world, including Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford, and bring their rich experience and worldview to the classroom.

Some of the members of Advisory Board at Kautilya School of Public Policy
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Some of the members of Advisory Board at Kautilya School of Public Policy

The names include Prof Indermit Gill, Vice President for Equitable Growth, World Bank and Prof of Public Policy and Advisory Board Member, Kautilya, Prof Moshik Temkin, Fellow at The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School and Advisory Board Member, Kautilya, Prof Steve Jarding, Political Consultant, Former Professor, Harvard Kennedy School, and Advisory Board Member, Kautilya and Prof Glenn Kramon, Lecturer in Management, Stanford School of Business, Visiting Faculty, Kautilya.

The members of faculty at Kautilya School of Public Policy come from rich and diverse backgrounds and have taught at some of the best universities across the world.
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The members of faculty at Kautilya School of Public Policy come from rich and diverse backgrounds and have taught at some of the best universities across the world.

Some excerpts:

Question: Public Policy is a domain that is recently catching popularity in the country. Why does India need such specialists?

Prof Temkin: India is currently the second-most populous country in the world and in a few years will become the first. It is a huge, complex society, a nuclear power, and a “start-up" nation operating in a tricky geopolitical environment with a number of regional tensions. Its economy is growing fast at the same time that its people experience extreme inequality and violence. It is a country of culture and learning, of innovation and resilience. It has a young generation of civic-minded people who want to see their country thrive, who want to improve people’s lives, who want good governance, who want to make India proud. These young people deserve the very best public policy education right at home. The days in which the lucky few who can afford it go to elite institutions abroad should come to an end; India now has its own top-notch public policy school. Kautilya School of Public Policy aims to educate and train the people that India needs, in order to claim its place as a global leader befitting its size, richness, and potential.

Prof Kramon: India needs more robust public policy programs. Here's why: We need more bridges between the public sector and the private sector. We need more people who understand how the government and the private sector can work together to lift their society.

I wish companies had more people who understood the government, and the government had more people who understood business. That's what the best MPP programs do.

Prof Jarding: India needs public policy specialists because India needs to take its rightful place as one of the critical nations on earth to advance global policy in the 21st century.

Question: Can India’s economic transformation be accelerated?

Prof. Gill: Perhaps the most important lesson from international experience during the last three decades is that for India to develop, our institutions must continuously be transformed. This is not easy work, but some parts of India are already showing that this can be done. Kautilya should help spread the word and catalyze this change.

Question: You have been advising top decision-makers across the world on their political campaigns and message strategies. How is India’s political landscape evolving and what kind of leaders do we need to steer the country to greater heights?

Prof Jarding: India’s political landscape is evolving from one of just state and national centric governance to one of international prominence as well. To fill this vital role, India’s leaders of tomorrow must be trained to think bigger and broader. They will need to understand the international responsibility that comes with being a critical nation in advancing world stability.

Question: What sets the courses at Kautilya School of Public Policy apart from the host of others that are available today?

Prof Jarding: The courses offered at Kautilya School of Public Policy are a great mix of core and electives as well as empirical and practical that offer students a well-rounded experience to lead India and the world. Kautilya’s offerings and faculty hires have provided a foundation to make it competitive with recognized public policy schools like the Kennedy School at Harvard and the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

Question: You have been associated with some of the most prestigious universities in the world, including Harvard, Belfer, Columbia, and EHESS. Where do you rate the facilities and infrastructure at Kautilya School of Public Policy?

Prof Temkin: “Physically" speaking, the Kautilya School has everything in place to succeed, and for Kautilya’s graduates to succeed. The infrastructure and conditions are first class. It is partnering with a prestigious, supportive university. It is in a world-class, diverse, multicultural city. Thanks to the experience and vision of its founders and leaders, it is emulating the best practices of top public policy institutions abroad, including the learning environment, and bringing them to India, but with a smart emphasis on Indian priorities and needs. The facilities are ready to welcome the future of Indian public policy leaders and will enhance everyone’s experience in the process.

Question: Does Public Policy education need a fresh perspective?

Prof Gill: Public policy education should be continually refreshed. Crises such as pandemics reveal our shortcomings and press us to care more for the weakest in our communities, but they also provide the biggest opportunities for progress. This is the case for countries, states, and cities, and it is also true of institutions of learning. Kautilyans should be unafraid of crises.

Question: What can a relatively new Institute like Kautilya learn from other Global Public Policy Institutes?

Prof Gill: Great policy schools are international, independent, and influential. First, the best institutes are connectors to the world of ideas, bringing fresh perspectives from abroad and offering outsiders a window through which they can observe India’s development experience. Second, while it is impossible to separate policy from politics, great policy schools are fiercely nonpartisan. And the most influential schools combine first-rate professional teaching with relevant policy research and active engagement with government, business, and society.

Question: As the editor of The New York Times and an award-winning Management lecturer at Stanford Business School, you don two illustrious hats. Can you tell us about your Indian journey?

Prof Kramon: I first visited India wearing my New York Times hat, traveling to Mumbai and Delhi with Times correspondents in 2009, and returned a decade later on a Stanford Business School trip, accompanying 30 students on visits to businesses in Mumbai and Kerala. (The five student leaders of that trip all grew up in India; some have returned to India and all remain good friends.) On both trips, we visited the Taj Mahal, where I found my fellow tourists as fascinating as the monument.

When I attended Stanford 50 years ago, there were few South Asians. Now they form a large minority -- in the San Francisco Bay Area too. The dean who hired me to teach at Stanford Business School, Madhav Rajan, received his Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Madras. I had never taught a full class but Madhav took a chance on me; I will be forever grateful to him. One of my favourite students graduated five years ago this week: Bharat Mathukumilli, now president of Gitam and beginning this important Master’s of Public Policy program.

Question: Which Kautilyan Principal would you propose to pitch for in your university lectures?

Prof Jarding: My lectures will explore the tenets of what makes a great leader and a great communicator.

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