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In the footsteps of Gandhi: India - UK Education

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India’s love of a UK higher education spans centuries. Afterall, the ties of shared history, shared culture and shared language bind us together, making a compelling case for the Indian student to consider Britain as a natural home for their university education. The father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, the first prime minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and subsequent premiers, Indira Gandhi and Manmohan Singh show the natural progression from university to leadership. If we want proof of business prowess, then there are Dorabji Tata, of the Tata Group, and Anil Dhirubhai Ambani, the chairman of the Reliance Group. We could find other global names from the arts. In every education sphere there are connections.

Over the past decade, the perception among Indian students is that they are not welcome in Britain. In 2010-11 more than 39,000 students were recruited from India. In 2016-17 that figure fell to 16,550. What’s heartening, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), is that things are picking up and latest figures (2017-18) show that 19,750 came to the UK, about 150 per UK university. Most, according to HESA, choose to read medicine and business.

At the University of Southampton, we have more than 200 Indian students studying a variety of subjects at various levels. We have now taken that special relationship with India to the next level. Earlier this month, we officially opened the new India Centre for Growth and Sustainable Development. Our goal, while ambitious, is pretty simple: we want to create a globally recognised think-tank to share innovation and knowledge. The Centre will underpin existing excellence in research, education and enterprise, and it will be driven by common goals, shared values and partnerships between Southampton and India. Our patrons are global superstars which show the serious nature of this venture. The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Dipak Misra, and the former Labour government minister, Professor Lord Patel of Bradford, are no strangers to the University. Now they will advise the Centre and enable stronger and fruitful partnerships between Southampton and India.

So why is the Centre important? The deputy Indian high commissioner to the UK, H.E. Charanjeet Singh, summed it up nicely.

“This new development will provide even greater opportunities for the University to grow its work in India as we jointly seek to solve global challenges such as climate change, healthcare and an ageing population,” he said.

Collaboration is key to our success. That’s why Professor Caroline Fall and her team are working with doctors and researchers across India to study maternal nutrition and health to cut type 2 diabetes and heart disease in Indian children. Professors Robert Nicholls and Craig Hutton are leading on a multi-million-pound project to address the impact of climate change on displacement and migration across India. They are partnered with Jadhavpur University and the National Remote Sensing Agency in India. Alumni, Aniket Singh, has established an internship scheme at the University’s School of Electronics and Computer Science so other students in India have the chance to follow in his footsteps where he works for Apple in California.

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has called the links between India and the UK a “living bridge” and rightly so. There are countless personal and professional ties between our two countries, including the estimated 1.5 million Indian Diaspora, active in all walks of life and who act as the cement which holds together that living bridge. In the age of global technology there has never been a better time to work together, and the University of Southampton is at the forefront of this modern-day frontier. Growth will come from knowledge intense industries and emerging sectors such as digital technology, life sciences and fintech. Our spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship, skills and teaching are boundless. Our dreams will inspire the next generation of global leaders and help bring Southampton and India even closer together. The Centre was an example of daring to dream, and now we are delivering that vision.

Amarjit Singh, CEO of India Business Group & Special Advisor for India to University of Southampton