Chandigarh University: Founder who admires PM Modi, youngest varsity to debut in QS World Rankings

Mired in a row over the alleged objectionable videos of its women students shot and leaked from inside the campus hostel, Chandigarh University in Punjab’s Mohali district is a young private institution that has witnessed an unprecedented rise in the last few years.

In a development that had surprised many in the academic circle, the decade-old university had performed extremely well in the QS World University and NIRF rankings released earlier this year, and was placed higher than well-established older universities in Punjab. It became one of the youngest universities in the country to make its debut in QS World Rankings 2023, considered the most coveted.

RS Bawa, pro-chancellor, Chandigarh University, said there are around 30,000 students, including international students from 54 countries, currently enrolled at the varsity.

From agriculture to the education sector

Established in 2012, Chandigarh University was founded by Satnam Singh Sandhu, a Sikh entrepreneur and philanthropist, and is also its chancellor.

Once an agriculturist, he forayed into the education sector in 2001 and established the Chandigarh Group of Colleges (CGC) at Landran in Mohali. From Rasulpur village of Makhu in the Ferozepur district, Sandhu never joined any political party but has been close to the Badals and is known to admire Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A day before the video fiasco rocked CU, Sandhu celebrated Modi’s 72nd birthday by organising a mega-health camp in Chandigarh, which was inaugurated by Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit and also attended by Union minister and senior BJP leader Smriti Irani.

The Chandigarh Welfare Trust (CWT) and New India Development (NID) Foundation were the main organisers of the camp. Sandhu is the patron of these two NGOs which work on community welfare projects in Chandigarh.

“This mega health camp is our contribution towards the Government of India’s revolutionary Ayushman Bharat scheme and the Fit India movement, and is aligned with our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of providing accessible and affordable healthcare to the common man as well as to make fitness an integral part of our daily lives. It is only apt that we are holding this camp on day one of Sewa Pakhwara, which is also the birthday of the Prime Minister,” Sandhu had said.

He also announced a “Sewa Pakhwara”, a series of social works to be undertaken by his organisations for Modi’s birthday.

Sandhu’s admiration for Modi has never been a secret. He had led a delegation of Sikh NRIs and prominent members Punjabi community which met the prime minister in April this year under the “Sadbhavna programme” in Delhi. “Our PM Modi has shown a very big heart by organising Sadbhavna event for Sikhs and spending time with us,” Sandhu had said after meeting Modi.

Debut in QS World Rankings

Released in June this year, QS World Rankings had just 41 educational institutions from India featuring in it. And, Chandigarh University broke into the QS World University Rankings for the first time. It was the highest ranked institution from Punjab, and was placed above state-owned Panjab University (PU). While CU was placed in the 800-1000 bracket, PU was in the 1201-1400 bracket.

Chandigarh University also performed well in the National Institutional Rankings Framework (NIRF), released by the Union Ministry of Education, jumping from 77th overall rank in 2021 to 48th in 2022. It was the highest-ranked private university from Punjab, and was placed after government-run institutes such as IIT Ropar (35), PU (41), and IISER Mohali (47). It also ranked higher than other well-established, older private institutions in Punjab—Thapar Institute of Engineering, Patiala; Lovely Professional University (LPU), Phagwara, and even two government-run GNDU, Amritsar and NIT Jalandhar—in the overall category.

In the “universities” category, CU was placed 29th, the second in Punjab after PU, which was placed 25th.

Row over name, famous visitors

A row had also erupted over the name of Chandigarh University when a subcommittee of Panjab University had objected that a private varsity cannot use names of states or Union Territories for private purposes without permission of authorities as “it was causing confusion among the students” and it was decided to take a legal opinion on the issue.

Apart from Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, who had visited CU to inaugurate the state’s first drone hub in April this year, the university has hosted several known figures in the past few years.

Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel laureate Dalai Lama, former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, African Nobel laureate Prof (Dr) Wole Soyinka, film director Mahesh Bhatt, former CEO of the IBM group Ginni Rometty, cricketer Virender Sehwag, actors Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif among others have also visited the university. The Art of Living founder and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar had also visited the campus with Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt to take part in the ‘Drugs-Free India’ campaign.

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