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Health and law projects highlight 105-year-old ties

education Updated: Nov 19, 2014 12:20 IST
Ayesha Banerjee

It’s a relationship which spans a century. The first Indian students came to the University of Birmingham, (UoB) UK, in 1909, to study for degrees in mining and commerce. Today, health and law projects are strengthening bonds between the university and Indian institutes.

With a 1300-strong Indian alumni network and hosting 150 Indians on campus, UoB has an India-born chancellor in Lord Karan Bilimoria (the first to head a Russell Group member university). It is also prioritising research targeted at health issues India is currently facing. Birmingham University clinicians are studying the salt intake of Indian adults as part of an international research team led by the Public Health Foundation of India (India has a diverse dietary culture where salt is used extensively, an important risk factor in cardiovascular disease). Researchers from UoB’s School of Biosciences are engaged with the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, to tackle tuberculosis, deciphering how the ‘bricks’ of the cell wall of the tuberculosis bacillus are made. A global justice programme with Delhi University and Yale etc are the other link-ups.

UoB vice-chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood, on a visit with Lord Bilimoria to India, says the numbers of Indian students are going up despite an overall decline in Indian applications to the UK.

On the foreign universities bill pending in the Indian Parliament, Eastwood says, “Our model is to partner with universities in a country. What we would want to do in India as the higher education system opens up is to work with partner universities and have joint programmes with them.”

On the Indian connection, Lord Bilimoria says, “After my installation as chancellor we initiated the Indian student of the year award, recognising a student for his (or her) achievement at the university.” Family links have made his connection with UoB stronger: “My mother, uncle and grandfather studied different disciplines at the university. My grandfather read commerce; my mother read English and history of art and my uncle was an engineer. He did his doctorate of engineering, and UoB is strong in all the fields,” he says. The Generation UK programme, Bilimoria says, “is going to be phenomenal. I have been a champion of the project and this is very good news.”

Working links

UoB, placed 64 in the latest QS World University rankings, is a member of the Russell Group (representing 24 leading UK universities, including Oxford and Cambridge) and Universitas 21 (a global network of 26 research-intensive universities enrolling 1.3 million students).

My mother, my uncle and my grandfather - all went to UoB Lord Bilimoria, chancellor, UoB