It was an eminent centre of learning long before Oxford, Cambridge and Europe's oldest university Bologna were founded.
Nalanda University in northern India drew scholars from all over Asia, surviving for hundreds of years before being destroyed by invaders in 1193.
The idea of Nalanda as an international centre of learning is being revived by a group of statesmen and scholars led by the Nobel prize winning economist, Amartya Sen,
The group wants to establish a new world-class residential university with top students and researchers from around the world, on a site close to ruins of the ancient Buddhist institution in the Indian state of Bihar.
The new Nalanda International University will focus on the humanities, economics and management, Asian integration, sustainable development and oriental languages.
I like the idea, but I have some concerns.
I've been to the town of Nalanda and Rajgir. There isn't much around there. The countryside is lush and beautiful, but the towns are generally filthy looking and not really welcoming to cosmopolitan scholars, I reckon.
Even Bodhgaya, which has how many thousands of foreign tourists a month, has few hygienic restaurants and cafes. The streets around Mahabodhi Temple are covered in faeces and plastic rubbish. There are pigs, dogs and cows running around pooping freely.
So I imagine the area around the town of Nalanda is worse off. There are pastry vendors all selling the same local special treat (apparently Sariputra liked it), but they're exposed to the open air and flies. Try to find some chai around there that won't give you digestive problems. The university could try to build a few cafes and clean restaurants, but locals generally don't understand the concept of hygiene and maintenance.
I imagine if this university was going to be strictly Buddhist it'd be fine as it'd attract a lot of hardy Buddhist practitioners who are game for a few years of roughing it out in rural India, but trying to become even a national leader in something like management and commerce will be problematic in an environment where local merchants don't even have small change when you buy a bottle of water.