Stressing upon the importance of attracting best academic talent from foreign countries to the UK, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, opposed stricter immigration laws.
“We should have the freedom to encourage the brightest students and teachers from other countries and not just for their economic value,” said Borysiewicz, who is on a 12-day visit to India.
On his India trip, the head of one of the world’s oldest universities hopes to emphasise to Indian policy-makers the importance of integrating the sciences and humanities.
“Humanities make us what we are, they give us the ability to explore beauty and creativity. We should recognise that.”
Borysiewicz feels British universities should not be judged by instances like the London Metropolitan University fiasco in which even legitimate students suffered.
“If a university does not meet the required criteria, I suppose the authorities are within their right to take action. But, I do feel bad for the students who enrolled in these places in good faith.”
When asked why students should choose universities like Cambridge when top class education is available in the US and even Singapore for a lesser cost, Borysiewicz said that the value of a Cambridge degree translates into enormous benefit for the students.
“Parent support and ability to pay are not the deciding factors for Cambridge rather it is the aptitude of the student which comes first,” he said.
Borysiewicz rated Indian students at Cambridge as among the “brightest and the best”, expressing the hope to establish partnerships with the IITs and the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore.
The Cambridge V-C rejected the notion that the slump in the economy will have an impact on the applications from India.
“I don’t see the slump in the Indian economy having a long-term impact on students seeking to study in our university. Economies recover and if India is going through a slump then you should look at Britain at this time.”
He is firmly of the belief that to encourage students, to realise their full potential, the state cannot abdicate its responsibilities although it is becoming a trend in places like India to invite private investment in education.
“I am not saying the private sector should be deprived of investing in education, but it must not be seen as a substitute, rather it should be considered an additive.”
He said that though the Indian education system has pockets of excellence, “there are many unknowns as with all education systems”.
He said that the three basic tenets are to ensure that students have access to opportunities, that they are nurtured in an environment of commitment and that there is a commitment to quality and excellence.
“I test educational values against these benchmarks,” he said.