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NEW DELHI : Ashoka University (AU) is set to raise about 1,500 crore from businessmen, non-resident Indians (NRIs), and high net-worth individuals (HNIs). The private university, whose co-founders have invested more than 1,000 crore to build the first campus, has entrusted Ashish Dhawan, the co-founder of private equity fund ChrysCapital Investment Advisors, to lead the fundraising effort.

Dhawan said the funds will be utilised to build a second campus on a 27-acre plot adjacent to the university. The land was purchased from the Haryana government.

The 1.8-million sq. ft new campus will be built in three phases of two years each. “Last decade, it was about starting Ashoka and this decade it will be about building and expanding Ashoka," Dhawan said in an interview. “We are well placed to take up the next phase of growth for Ashoka University. This second campus and the funds we are raising shall be utilized to make Ashoka diverse from largely a liberal arts university by adding new-age science and deep-tech wings, departments and research and development labs. This will also allow us to double our student and faculty capacity over time," he said.

Dhawan said he will approach businessmen, NRIs, and HNIs from the UK, Singapore, and the US for raising funds. However, a bulk of the capital is expected to come from entrepreneurs and enterprises in India, he said. “Over the years, we have 160-plus co-founders and we believe they are all on board for this new funding expectations in different capacities. We will add more to the list," he said.

Some of the founders, including him, and InfoEdge Ltd founder Sanjeev Bikhchandani, have already stepped up their philanthropic contributions. Dhawan said Ashoka University will raise enough funds from the right minded people but “will not raise debt".

Ashoka University has a celebrated list of co-founders, including Dhawan, Bikhchandani, Dalmia cements managing director Puneet Dalmia, Jerry Rao, chairman of Value and Budget Housing and former promoter of Mphasis Ltd, Pramath Sinha, ISB’s founding dean, and Atul Nishar, the former promoter of Hexaware Technologies Ltd.

“We are expanding post-doc, doctorate and graduate programmes, and we shall expand our research capacity. As part of the first phase of this new campus, we are building a new bio sciences building with cutting edge research and development facilities. There is a big focus on the sciences," he said.

“We shall also focus on computer science, build and use computational application for use in areas such as environment and other societal problems. We are also setting up a data science centre. Our goal will be to use data science in research and social good and train people for dealing with the future of work," Dhawan added. “Once, we start the funding campaign (soon), some of us will perhaps give some numbers from our side as well," he said.

A budget of 2,500 crore to set up two campuses for an educational institution, through collective philanthropy, is unheard of. The Centre generally allocates less than 800 crore as initial cost to set up an Indian Institute of Technology or a central university

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