India offers affordable excellence through educational diplomacy: Irani

New Delhi, March 21 (IANS) India has embarked on the path of educational diplomacy in order to provide foreign students who come here “affordable excellence”, union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani said on Monday.

“For, long cultural diplomacy has been at the forefront of our engagement through the MEA (ministry of external affairs)

“The honourable prime minister (Narendra Modi) now has given it an added push through education diplomacy and am hopeful that this educational diplomacy which leverages affordable excellence in India is a part of diplomacy that will take us from strength to strength in times to come,” said Irani after inaugurating a conference on “Higher education for foreign students” organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

She stressed the fulcrum of engagement for the education sector regarding foreign students should be affordable excellence.

“India is an affordable destination of high-quality education. It’s the engagement that we seek with foreign students across the world,” she said, calling for creation of an environment that went beyond scholarships.

“If I look at the numbers that help students to apply for scholarship that are given by the government of India under various heads, the numbers are very miniscule. It is our endeavour and our hope that we expand on these numbers given the excellence which is affordable and is now available in India.”

Irani said the government started the Global Initiative for Academic Networks (GIAN) under which various institutions could invite foreign scholars to teach in their campuses.

“Over 380 scholars from across the world have decided to teach in India and we have already started the process in IIT Kharagpur and IIT Gandhinagar and we see that these academics coming to Indian public institutions to teach those students that are facilitated by education that is subsidised don’t feel short-changed because academics of repute land up straight at their doorstep at no extra cost,” she said.

“The other benefit that we have seen when Indian faculty teaches with foreign faculty that new knowledge is exchanged with joint projects getting an added push. If we get more academicians even through ICCR who are interested in ensuring that our public sector institutions engage with foreign academicians, that is an engagement that we seek to also sponsor and support.”

The minister said that in the area of research, for the first time, 10 goalposts have been earmarked for research which vary from defence to sustainable living to water resources to holistic health, affordable housing under a programme called Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT).

ICCR president Lokesh Chandra said that more than 6,000 students from around 120 countries are on the rolls of ICCR almost at any given point of time.

“We are happy to count proudly many eminent persons including cabinet ministers and the secretary general of Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations) and distinguished ambassadors,” he said.

ICCR Director General C. Rajasekhar said that hosting foreign students has many benefits for the nation as they “can be bridges between India and their respective countries in promoting mutual understanding and goodwill” while adding to “our socio-cultural diversity” and “bring new perspectives”.

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