India sets up Guru Nanak Chair at University of Birmingham
India on Friday announced the setting up of a Guru Nanak Chair in the University of Birmingham to mark the 550th anniversary of the first Sikh master in the latest such support by the Indian government in British universities.
Union minister for civil aviation Hardeep Singh Puri made the announcement during a lecture on Guru Nanak’s teachings organised by the university’s India Institute. The university’s chancellor is Karan Bilimoria, an entrepreneur and member of the House of Lords.
Puri said: “The very fact that Guru Nanak was able to anticipate the major challenges that we face as a country today — gender empowerment, environmental protection, checking radicalisation — means that there is substance to his message. We are utilising the anniversary to get it to resonate.”
“Setting up a prominent chair in a prominent university is one of the most cost-effective ways of carrying forward that message. It will be identified with a place where researchers can send their research, where they can turn to,” Puri said.
Assuring continuity of India’s support, he said he had seen many such initiatives when “people pay lip service and when the event is over, they forget about it”. Puri said the initial funding will be for five years which is likely to be extended.
“We are spending a fair amount (on the chair). It is a question of continued support. When you set up a chair, you have to plan for a number of years. I think the initial funding is for five years, but it is likely to be extended and the university has committed itself to an even longer period,” he added.
Puri’s was the second annual lecture at the India Institute, the first was by S Jaishankar in October 2018.
Besides the Guru Nanak Chair, the Indian government’s funding and support to centres and chairs in British universities includes the IG Patel Chair at the London School of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru Professorship at the University of Cambridge, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Imperial College London, the Tagore Centre for Global Thought at King’s College London and the Oxford India Centre at Somerville College.
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