Innovations That Inspire

Innovative Interdisciplinary Foundation Studios

Recognition Year(s): 2023
School: Amrut Mody School of Management, Ahmedabad University
Location: India

The Innovative Interdisciplinary Foundation Studios integrate six domains of knowledge, such as Constitution and Civilisation, Behaviour, Biology, Materials, Data Science, and Communication, into relevant topics today.

Parag Patel, Senior Associate Dean, Amrut Mody School of Business, Ahmedabad University

Call to Action

Contemporary society is a result of evolutions in human network systems, technological innovations, and geopolitical transformations, supporting the notion that our key challenges will occur from the interplay of these areas and beyond.

Leaders and decision-makers of modern and global societies are in a continuous process of addressing the issues that transcend various disciplinary boundaries. If the purpose of an academic institution is to create leaders for tomorrow, the exposure and the experience at our universities must equip these future leaders with interdisciplinary thinking and problem-solving capabilities to address complex, real-world problems.

There is currently a gap between the academic training in India’s higher education system and students’ ability to meet the challenges of the 21st-century workforce and society. Globally, industry faces a challenge in finding graduates with a combination of a holistic view of the world, a sense of citizenship, and highly cultivated technical skills.

In 2016, when Ahmedabad University started envisioning its undergraduate programs to be delivered in 2019, it was clear that the foundation needed to be built with a focus on citizenship and interdisciplinary and experiential learning. The idea was to design a curriculum that lies at the intersection of various disciplines that are shaping our society. The aim was to offer higher education in India with a focus on interdisciplinary meta-learning to create a set of leaders and problem-solvers.

Innovation Details

Since 2019, the students entering the management school’s undergraduate program at Ahmedabad University go through our common core, 18-week-long intensive and immersive Foundation Programme in their first year. The Foundation Programme integrates six domains of knowledge, including constitution and civilization, behavior, biology and life, materials, data, and communication. These domains aim to define the areas of advanced research and innovation that are transforming the world and offer contemporary academic and life skills essential in the 21st century.

Students complete four thematic “studios” of learning that integrate the domains together, creating a more effective way of thinking and problem-solving. This builds the foundations of citizenship and interdisciplinary learning and enables students to identify issues relevant to the theme of each studio, understand the various dimensions of these issues, and engage with these societal issues through project-based and contextual learning. The Foundation Programme’s thematic studios on democracy and justice, environment and climate change, neighborhoods, and water are carefully chosen to engage the student’s imagination with contemporary problems encountered by the society in which they live.

Each studio follows a format where, apart from concepts and theories on domains, they apply this learning through daily, weeklong, individual, and group activities and projects. The Foundation Programme is unique in that the unconventional design not only facilitates students’ exposure to real-world global concerns but enables them to engage and actively participate in the cause with the help of invited speakers who bring global and local initiatives, industry perspectives, and a rich range of experience and exposure to the classrooms.

Innovation Impact

The four studios actively contribute to 15 out of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Inspired by the water studio of the Foundation Programme, the Living Waters Museum, a virtual museum on water, is currently collaborating with educators in Pune to develop and test “water classrooms” for middle school children. The effort is part of a global initiative called Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures through the Indian Institute of Human Settlements, Bangalore, with support from the Global Challenges Fund, U.K.

The studios are a unique and core part of the management school, with about 2,000 students having attended the studios since 2019. Almost half of the faculty members involved in teaching four out of six domains of the Foundation Programme since its inception have been from Amrut Mody School of Management (AMSOM). This involvement has strongly impacted AMSOM students, as more than 25 out of about 45 activities and projects in the studios contributed to offering business-related domain exposure and instilling an interdisciplinary and business mindset.

Based on the analysis conducted every week during the Foundation Programme each semester, about 78 percent of students confirm having covered more than 60 percent of 56 domain topics in different studio modules. Through practical examples, contextualized frameworks, field visits, case studies, and multimedia analysis, the monthlong program builds sensitivity and leadership in our youth as future water stewards.

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