On a recent visit to Chandigarh to further the cause of the South Asia Anglia Partnership (SAAP), UK-based Michael Thorne, vice-chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, England, spoke to HT about the internationalisation of higher education.
An initiative to bring together vice-chancellors from universities in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka besides the UK, SAAP focuses on globalisation of the student learning experience.
Briefing on the deliberations held at the partnership’s annual conference in Mysore last week where vice-chancellors and heads of various autonomous institutions participated, Thorne said south Asia, with ¼th of the world’s population, had a demand for more universities and higher seats of learning to boost its economies and development.
“India itself needs over 1,500 universities in the years to come,” he said, adding that lack of facilities for higher education was evident in the south Asian nations.
He added that SAAP intended to strengthen the relationship and network of universities in these nations as well as government and private institutions involved in the exercise.
On being asked about the programme’s priorities, Thorne said the programme aimed at giving a boost to research activities, in addition to skill and curriculum development programmes.
“Quality research always contributes to a country’s economic development and institutions, besides providing a network of higher education, should concentrate on quality research in their universities. SAAP decides to work on this elaborately in the time to come,” he said.
When questioned if the quality of research in south Asian universities was up to the mark, Thorne mentioned Amity University which has been receiving maximum funds for research from European nations and added that these nations would not invest money without the guarantee that it was being used fruitfully.
He also revealed how the members of SAAP had common factors such as need for international partnerships by universities, helping students become global citizens, economic development and making students employable, and these factors helped them come up with constructive solutions.
He also pointed out the rising concern among Indian universities about receiving support from the government and said the concern was justified as investment in education ensured returns.
Thorne added that the partnership was also a result of a host of challenges the south Asian countries were facing. Scarcity of expert academicians, higher teacher-student ratios and a shortage of research output, both in terms of quantity and quality, were the shortcomings he pointed out.
He added the problems were especially common in India, where soon, more than half of the population will be under the age of 25 and the middle class will grow to accommodate more than 500 million people.
In India, the universities currently involved in the partnership are a selection of publicly funded and private institutions, each with a unique area of expertise, experience and expectation.
Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Bharathiar University, University of Calcutta, Chitkara University, DY Patil University, University of Mumbai and the University of Mysore are included in the list.
As part of the Knowledge Economy Partnership project, Anglia Ruskin University will also establish
a joint centre of excellence in public health, based at the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in India and Anglia Ruskin University in the UK.