The visit also explored new models in the delivery of joint degrees with Indian universities and also student recruitment opportunities.
Britain’s Coventry University has announced the “Coventry-India Research Awards”, which are PhD scholarships to support young Indians seeking to study in the university. In a bid to continue its engagement with India, a team of 10 academics, led by Prof. Richard Dashwood, deputy vice-chancellor for research, and Dr David Pillsbury, deputy vice-chancellor for international development, met representatives from 38 organisations, including universities, companies and government bodies, in 13 cities across India.
The delegation will represent all areas of the university’s research, education, enterprise and innovation interests — including its business, engineering, computing, health, life sciences, arts and humanities degrees and projects, according to a statement.
The delegation has visited both public and private universities like the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Raipur, Malviya National Institute of Technology (MNIT), Jaipur, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Christ University, Bengaluru, etc.
“We are looking forward to discovering how we can work even more deeply with India’s leading universities and other organisations to collaborate on cutting edge research and bring benefits to students and academics in both countries,” said Prof. Dashwood.
The visit also explored new models in the delivery of joint degrees with Indian universities and also student recruitment opportunities. “One of the things we have been talking with these institutions is collaboratively working on doctoral trainings centres in India and for the whole of South Asia. These training centres might have 50-100 students as a hub for South Asia, and we think that is the sought of contribution that we can make that will be welcome,” said Dr Pillsbury.
He further added: “Coventry is seeking to distinguish itself around its international engagement not just recruitment but all forms of educational cooperation in an international context. So we do recruit a large number of students from India and other countries but we also have a strong international research initiative. We are committed to internationalisation of curriculum. We have a large outbound mobility initiative for both our students and staff. We are increasingly doing research in areas of global impact”.
In a conversation with this newspaper, Prof. Dashwood and Dr Pillsbury discussed how Coventry plans to deepen its engagement with India. Excerpts:
Can you elaborate on the kind of engagement you want to do with India?
Dashwood: So the idea is research collaboration. The way Coventry does this collaboration in other parts is by engaging through the research students. So it’s about supervising PhD students who may be based in UK or India. We then provide funding for mobility for academic staff to migrate between the two countries to develop research proposals. Within India we will be looking at UK India Education Research Initiative (UKERI) scheme which does fund a lot of mobility for starting these types of relationships. And then progressing to where there are certain UK India initiatives for funding later pieces of research such as UKSRC in UK and DST in India. We have visited both DST (Department of Science and Technology) and UGC (University Grants Commission) on Thursday and spoke with them.
Have you identified any key research areas vis-à-vis India?
Pillsbury: We are starting with five areas that the government has identified as its key priorities — smart cities, energy, water and food, future manufacturing, and cyber systems. Priorities for India are manufacturing and transport and there are great challenges to be met in India regarding that. Also affordable healthcare will be a big focus. We have had a long engagement with India regarding healthcare issues.
You have met both public and private universities till now. How has been the response from India?
Dashwood: We have managed to identify a number of universities that have already shown interest in working with Coventry so it has been a very positive reception. I have worked with Indian universities in previous jobs and I find it a very easy country to work with. I think culturally there are lot of connections between UK and India and the students who come out of Indian universities are of high quality and that makes it easier to work in India than with some of the countries in Europe.
Coventry University had opened a centre in Chennai few years ago. How has the experience been so far and are more such centres planned for near future?
Pillsbury: I think we recognised the geographic size and importance of India. We are going to double the size of office in Delhi because we want it to service more activities including research. We are fortunate that we are the second largest recruiters of students from India so we want to be embedded in India, not near the country and not just in the capital. We will see some significant changes in our levels of engagement with India. There will be more centres but in collaboration with local universities.
While the number of application from Indian students has increased over the years, the number of students getting admission in UK colleges continues to fall. There was a 44 per cent decrease between 2011-18. What do you make of it?
Pillsbury: We are all aware that there have been changes in the UK on immigration policies and we all understood the concern of the UK government about bogus colleges but now we take the view that pretty much all of these bogus colleges have been shut down. The more recent evidence that how few students abuse the process will bring about a change. The previous evidence was that lot of them overstay but the new evidence says that it is only 1 per cent.
In Coventry we are pleased to say number of Indian students have increased. This year it is up by 10 per cent. We are here to deepen our engagement with India and one of the things will be happening with this visit is more of our students coming to India. So we have committed to target that half of our students will have experience outside of UK and I would want more of them to come to India. I would like to see 10 per cent of our students come to India by 2020.