Published: 01st December 2020
At GITAM's Kautilya School of Public Policy, emphasis is laid on nurturing India's future
This school of public policy is where you should go to for gaining mastery over the subject. Affiliated to GITAM, Kautilya School of Public Policy is opening applications for its brand new courses
Named after the royal advisor to Maurya Emperor Chandragupta and the author of Arthashastra, Chanakya, Kautilya School of Public Policy was established in Hyderabad this month and is affiliated to GITAM Deemed-to-be University. "Our inspiration for setting up Kautilya School of Public policy was to bring together Indian ethos and the rigor of Western policy-making and implementation," says Sridhar Pabbisetty, Founding Director of the school. Launching with a residential Master’s in Public Policy, whose applications are now open, this school is a product of the coming together of Harvard, Stanford and IIM alumni to address the growing needs in the field. Moreover, the faculty too are from Harvard Kennedy School, Sanford School of Public Policy and more and they have just one aim — "Our endeavour at Kautilya is to educate skilled professionals who lead and inspire progressive change," shares Pabbisetty.
India's 21st century problems require rigorous public policy education which this school, spread across 24,500 sq ft, promises to deliver. So we quiz the Founding Director about all that the school is bursting to offer, India's emerging problems and what public policy means to youngsters today. Excerpts:
Named after Chanakya, one of the most prominent names in public policy from the bygone era, tell us how you will continue to keep it relevant for India and its problems especially since you are offering education that is on par with Ivy League institutions.
Kautilya's Arthashastra, though written in the 3rd century BCE, has many timeless lessons that are applicable even today. Though written in the era of monarchs, Kautilya emphasises the importance of the king following both Dharma and the will of the people. The will of the people is today expressed through elections in a democracy; the nation's constitution represents Dharma. Different political formations in any democracy are always finding this balance in different ways. Be it the recent elections for the President of the USA or in Bihar; electoral battles are getting quite close as each political alliance interprets the people's will differently and contests for the power to serve its electorate.
Arthashastra is used extensively even in the Ivy League institutions to teach statecraft and lessons in leadership. Kautilya's work covers various aspects of governance, ranging from economics, law, politics, military, spies, intelligence to logistics. We need to continue to take in the Indian ethos from Kautilya's work and blend it with modern-day frameworks of implementing public policy effectively. To this end, at Kautilya School of Public Policy, we will apply these principles to 21st-century challenges for India and the world. To ensure our students are learning the right skills, we are continuously taking inputs from civil society organisations and NGOs, government, and businesses.
You have assured "practical application" and "quality engagement" so that students can go beyond theory. Do tell us how you will help the students gain the two aforementioned aspects during their education.
Indian higher education has a lot to do in terms of bridging the industry-academia interface. Concerning public policy education, we see that academia's bridge is with businesses and governments, and society. We are already in touch with different state governments and district administrations, where our faculty are working alongside them to improve public service delivery. Our students will join our faculty and work on smaller projects in a less threatening atmosphere of affecting change on the ground. Similarly, we will be offering executive education programmes where our faculty will work with society and businesses to solve their public policy challenges and bring portions of these challenges back to the classroom for our students to benefit from. Every course that the student takes will have a couple or more lectures from practitioners.
Also, we have a whole range of skill shops where practitioners will be invited to engage with our students in workshop-mode to teach contemporary skills from the public policy arena. Students can select from the following skill shops — Big Data Analytics for Public Policy, AI/ML for Social Good, Campaign Management, Making of a Politician, Navigating Climate Change: Preparing for a Sustainable Future, Navigating Bureaucracyand Politics: How to Operate in India, Writing for Public Policy, Speech-writing, Column Writing, Business at the Base of the Pyramid: Building Social Ventures, Managing Strategic Partnership at Non-profits, Developing your Personal Narrative, Art of Persuasion, Starting Non-profit/Social Movements, Advocacy 101, Effective Use of Social Media, Adaptive Leadership Framework, Fundraising for Non-Profits.
Their students will be part of the public policy conversation right from the start, through classes that engage with live case studies and internships and projects that enable networking with key policy professionals
We are all well aware of the role public policy students could play in the public sector and the government. But do highlight for us the scope they have with regards to working with research organisations, non-profit organisations and so on.
Our classroom learning methodology focuses on understanding governance challenges from grassroots-implementing organisations to top policy-making institutions. Oriented in applying a multi-stakeholder management approach, our students will bridge the various actors' expectations to design and implement a policy.
In India, increasingly, NGOs are becoming partners to both governments and, thanks to the CSR law, to the corporates for delivering large-scale programmes. Be it the mid-day meal scheme or improving the quality of education, NGOs play a significant role. Our students will understand the various prevailing laws and public policies and help them expand their footprint across multiple states.
Many think tanks in India are today working on various governance challenges and coming up with research reports, position papers that policymakers rely upon to bring in amendments to existing laws and policies. Since our students come with well-grounded research backgrounds into the governing systems, they will be very much in demand in these organisations.
In COVID times, you are offering management development programmes for working professionals from January 2021. Will this be a hybrid blended model of teaching? And about the MPP residential programme, what precautions are in place and how will quality engagements be carried out?
We have invested significantly in blended learning systems that will allow us to engage participants through both online and offline learning modes. Today, we can engage all the online mode participants to grasp various concepts through periodic polls and breakout rooms where we can team smaller subgroups to focus on specific aspects of learning. Our faculty will be assisted by teaching assistants who can ensure smoother learning by providing detailed instructions and assistance to individual learners. With the current trend of calibrated unlocking in India, we hope that we can also have offline interactions by January 2021.
Our primary focus is to ensure a safe learning environment for all our learners. We have crafted a robust COVID-19 policy where we have kept all stakeholders' safety as the primary goal. Physical distancing, ensuring masks and frequent sanitisation allows reducing the risk of spread. Since it's a residential programme, we have detailed guidelines to ensure that the hostel will be a bio-safe bubble.
What about the future courses that are going to be offered? What else can we look forward to from the school?
We look forward to offering a Doctoral programme in Public Policy in the coming years. As we expand our faculty body, we would like to provide Post-doctoral fellowships to young researchers who are doing innovative work in the public policy arena.
When it comes to public policy itself, in your experience, how do youngsters today view it? And are they willing to take up a career in public policy?
There is an increasing desire of today's youngsters to bring about a change in the way we govern ourselves. A Master’s in Public Policy rightfully enables them to be the change-makers. Our interactions with student groups from different disciplines give us a lot of hope. As a transitional economy, as India's GDP increases, more and more students will want to move beyond the safe careers of today.
While inequality and poverty are persistent issues that public policy professionals have to be mindful about, what are some emerging problems that they will have to navigate?
Climate change, responding effectively to pandemics, socio-economic and cultural impact of emergent technologies (like EVs, Blockchain, algorithm-led business models) and changing order of international institutions have emerged as global opportunities.
At Kautilya, we aim to impart public policy education that is relevant, contemporary and practical
Sridhar Pabbisetty, Founding Director, Kautilya School of Public Policy
What is the best way to combine emerging technology and public policy for social welfare? Could you give us two examples of where this has been done effectively?
Despite various limitations of Aadhaar, the direct benefit transfer has played a significant role in improving the delivery of social welfare measures. Subsidies of several types, MGNREGA and scholarships today are delivered through this mechanism. De-duplication of beneficiaries and the reduction of fraud has been possible through the use of technology. Right to public services is another promising arena where states are adding more and more services to be delivered in a time-bound manner. While states like Delhi have pioneered with doorstep delivery, Karnataka has spearheaded the expansion to close to a thousand services today. With a single click today, you can know just as much as the tout about the documents required and procedure to follow to avail government services. This has enabled lakhs of citizens to no longer have to pay bribes as they know their rights well and can exercise it with clear knowledge of the process and track the status of their service request.
In the Indian context, these are the critical problems we need to tackle, as per Pabbisetty:
- Will India be a wealthy nation before it becomes old?
- While we are moving up on the ease of doing business, why is our regulatory cholesterol still plaguing businesses?
- While there is a greater emphasis on cooperative federalism, we still need to build robust institutions and mechanisms to ensure state and center relationships remain resilient to various challenges. Reduction in GST collection and the aftermath of who should take loans to overcome shortfall is an example.
- With the 2026 delimitation, 1/3rd of Lok Sabha is likely to be from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal. The industrious south states will have fewer seats while being major revenue contributors to the national exchequer
For more on them, check out kautilya.gitam.edu