The Bhaktivedanta Institute cherishes the privilege to have started the world's first Master's degree and Ph.D. programs in the rapidly emerging field of consciousness studies. This program has been launched at Bombay in collaboration with the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS Pilani), one of India's top technical schools. While a growing number of major universities offer degree programs in related fields such as cognitive science, our program is, to the best of our knowledge, the first full-fledged program exclusively dedicated to consciousness studies.
In October 2015 the Senate of BITS Pilani, in accordance with UGC requirements, formally approved the change of degree nomenclature of the Master of Science (M.S.) in Consciousness Studies program to Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) in Consciousness Studies, with effect from the academic year 2015-2016. The program structure and curriculum of the M.Phil. program remains the same as that of the corresponding M.S. program. The input requirements and graduation requirements of the M.Phil. program also remain the same as those of the M.S. program. Students can obtain a certificate stating that the M.Phil. degree is equivalent to M.Tech. degree, if they so desire.
Our M.Phil. degree program runs for two years, consisting of four semesters (3 semesters of course work and one semester for dissertation).
The first group of students entered the M.S. program in January 1997. Since it is an intensive research-oriented graduate program, we enroll no more than 5-6 students every year. So far, over thirty students have graduated from the program. We strive to provide full/partial financial support to all admitted students. An international quality education at low-cost together with the opportunity to go to India promises to make this degree program particularly attractive to overseas students.
Our graduate program is a natural culmination of the active participation of the Institute in the development of the new scientific field of consciousness studies in this decade. In a modest sense, the Institute can be said to have played a pioneering role in the development of this field.
For example, the Institute hosted the First International Conference on the Study of Consciousness within Science in 1990 in San Francisco. The conference featured sixteen invited speakers including three Nobel Laureates. About 490 scholars from different universities in North America and overseas attended as registered participants. The conference was considered a trend-setting major academic event of the time. Immediately after the conference, the Bhaktivedanta Institute started a colloquium on Consciousness and Science in the San Francisco Bay Area. The colloquium ran for over a decade, with a list of speakers that is a veritable who's-who of leading researchers in consciousness studies.
A graduate program in any field can be only as good as the research carried at the host institute. The staff of the Bhaktivedanta Institute pursue vigorous state-of-the-art research programs in many areas of consciousness studies. The Institute has developed a unique perspective on what consciousness studies should entail, and the insights developed have already enriched the planning and conducting of the graduate program.
The degrees are awarded by the collaborating parent institution, the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani. BITS, as the Institute is known within India, is internationally recognized as one of India's premier technological universities and is also a leader in the area of distance education and off-campus programs in Asia. Originally started in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1960s, the BITS academic program is similar to that of North American universities. Each course is planned, taught, and evaluated by the instructor-in-charge who ensures that the education imparted uses the teaching and evaluation format most appropriate for the course. The M.Phil. program in consciousness studies is designed to take full advantage of the latest theoretical and experimental results in this rapidly-emerging field. Courses are taught using both the latest textbooks and recent papers from professional journals in the field. The Institute has a small but growing library, currently holding about 3500 books, with subscriptions to many journals in the field of consciousness studies.