New Delhi, Sep 4 (IANS) In a move that will provide a thrust to higher education initiatives in India, a bilateral programme with the UK aims to double the number of British students in the country by March 2021.
The higher education-focused bilateral programme, UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI), which has 235 British students in India at present, aims to raise the number to 400 by March 2021.
The students will be enrolled across graduate as well as post-graduate courses.
“As a guiding principle, we want to do everything we can to remove barriers to reciprocal mobility of the students, particularly post-graduate research students. We want to enhance the multicultural approach to education and remove the hesitation of the British students to come and study in India,” said Vivienne Stern, Director, Universities UK International.
As part of the initiative helmed by the British Council, a delegation of 20 university leaders on Tuesday met officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and other government departments to explore opportunities of mutual interest in the higher education sector.
The UK universities have a shared interest with India on internationalisation of education which has been stressed upon by the draft New Education Policy (NEP).
“The draft policy also talks about the autonomy of the institutions which will make it easier to work with the universities. It also focuses on pedagogy, professional development as well as creation of National Research Foundation (NRF), which align with our interests,” Stern said.
The delegation with its visit aims to identify mutual interest areas with Indian stakeholders in the higher education sector, including the government and the private players.
“We discussed about the proposals made in the draft NEP and how we could mutually work towards achieving internationalisation of education that the draft policy talks about. We also talked about collaborations in the online and distance learning programmes and enhancing the employability of the graduates,” Stern said.
She said digital technology can enhance the experience of students who are on campus as well as expand access to students who previously would have probably not had access to such high quality education.
“Our universities are interested in building partnerships which are not just limited to the traditional universities and to collaborate and develop courses that cater to the needs of the present times,” Stern said.
Emphasising the importance of the collaborative research, she said, “When an Indian university and a British university come together to produce a research paper, it benefits both of them. Our universities constantly look forward to adopt collaborative research models as they are more enriching and beneficial. Also, expanding the research focus from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to Arts and Social Sciences would be beneficial to deal with the global challenges of today’s times such as climate change.”
Tom Birtwhistle, Director, North India, British Council said recently the British government relaxed the student visa norms according to which Indian students can now stay in the UK for six months rather than four months, without making any modifications to their visas.
For PhD students, the duration of stay in the UK has been extended to one year post the completion of their course work.
“Student mobility between India and UK for higher education is very important and has been a key agenda for discussion with the stakeholders,” he said.
Talking about achieving parity between a one-year masters’ programme that the universities in the UK offer, and a two-year post-graduation programme offered by the Indian universities, Stern said talks between both the countries are ongoing.
“Several students who opted for the masters courses in UK are doing great in their careers. So, this is not a big problem and the governments of the two countries are working towards a fluid approach,” she said.
As per the figures available, the number of Indian students opting to study in the UK has increased by 100 per cent in the last three years. There has been a 42 per cent increase in Indian students in the UK in the last financial year. Indians are among the fastest growing nationalities of students in the UK. As many as 21,881 Indian students were granted Tier 4 visa in the last fiscal, the highest since 2011-12.
(Pragya Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)