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Scottish sojourn

A representative of Universities Scotland talks about how interested their institutions are in greater engagement with India Rahat Bano Reports

education Updated: Nov 11, 2009 09:27 IST
Rahat Bano

Universities Scotland, which is the representative body for the 20 higher education institutions in that country, has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with its counterpart, the Association of Indian Universities. Pamela Gillies, a senior representative of the Scottish organisation and principal and vice-chancellor of Glasgow Celdonian University, explains what this would lead to.

What does the collaboration mean for Indian students?
Minister Michael Russell (Scotland’s minister for culture, external affairs and the constitution) has announced 50 additional Saltire scholarships and fellowships to allow students from India to come to Scotland to study.

Apart from that?
For students from India, the MoU will mean that we shall have firmer agreements in place to encourage them to come to Scotland for short and longer periods to engage in research as well as in undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

Any joint programmes that will materialise shortly?
Every single Scottish university has agreements with Indian universities to engage in joint programmes. We are very keen in the current climate, where higher education is to top the government of India’s agenda.

Are there Scottish universities that would like to start a campus in India?
I think universities in Scotland would be very interested in developing more joint programmes first. If these can grow into high-quality campus offerings, then I think we’ll be interested, very interested indeed, in moving in that direction. My own university has had preliminary discussions about it.

How would you view any government move to extend the reservation policy to foreign universities operating in India?
I think that would be a positive move. I do think foreign universities, as long as they are of high quality, can compete with existing universities. I prefer, though, the model where foreign universities are obliged to work with private local providers or state universities in India to ensure that there’s a long-term relationship. So, there’s a commitment to developing capability and capacity.

What about regulation of fees?
I don’t see that as a problem because universities are not-for-profit organisations. The one thing that universities in Scotland are very good at is generating income in other ways. And I think Scottish universities could help Indian universities to think through how we could raise income from continuing professional development courses, from applying their research and working with the industry.

Universities Scotland has talked about working with India for economic growth as well. How?
The AIU and Universities Scotland have agreed that they will focus on affordable health and the environment and renewable energy as key elements for programme development. As you can see, both areas contribute to economic growth.

The focus would be to find global solutions to these problems. We can export together, thereby helping universities raise marginal money that can make them more sustainable and allow them to offer greater access to students from a disadvantaged background. In Scottish universities, students do not pay fees.

We believe in free education.

Will that be the same for your campus in India?
If fees are levied in any joint venture, any profit (if there is, and there may not be any) must stay in India.

Any other plans?
The AIU plans to look at the evaluation of the higher education system in India. Our Indian colleagues are very keen to understand our qualifications framework, quality control mechanisms, how we can ensure high-quality student experiences and quality distance-learning products.