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Now You Can Study at the World’s Oldest University

How academics, government officials, and one Nobel prize winner are fighting to resurrect ancient Nalanda from the ruins.

Ruins of ancient Nalanda University. Photo by Bpilgrim/Wikimedia Commons

Back in September, a cadre of prominent Indians, including Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, trouped down to Rajgir, Bihar, to mark the opening of a new university. Given the recent rapid expansion of higher education in India, a nation with almost 700 universities, you’d expect that only some new mega-facility could draw the attention of luminaries. Yet this institution, Nalanda University, boasts less than a dozen faculty members and 15 students, all huddled into the local convention center while their meager campus awaits completion. The new facility has drawn attention as a symbol of national pride and pan-Asian ambition because it’s not really an entirely new facility; it’s an attempt to resurrect an ancient school of higher education—one of the wonders of old India and perhaps the first university in the world—which once stood nearby.

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