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Slew of tie-ups bring relief, suggest UK-India ties unaffected by Brexit

UIKERI, the largest bilateral research partnership between the two countries, features 57 projects worth over £1.6 million this year.

education Updated: Jun 07, 2017 16:10 IST
Dipanjan Sinha
Dipanjan Sinha
Hindustan Times
Study abroad,TISS,Study in UK

From climate change to methods of studying the humanities and game theory to tourism promotion in conflict zones, universities in the UK have tied up with counterparts in India for 57 projects worth a total of over £1.6 million, under the UK India Education Research Initiative (UKIERI), allaying fears of cuts on research funds and partnerships.

After Brexit, the UK’s decision last year to exit the European Union, the Indian academic and student communities were concerned that partnerships might be affected.

“Post-Brexit, Indian students cannot even intern after their study in the UK. Tough measures like this have worried students about the interests of the British government in encouraging studies and research there,” says Urvashi Malik, founder and MD of education consultancy firm College Core Education.

But UIKERI, the largest bilateral research partnership between India and the UK, has remained unaffected — and academics are taking that as a positive sign of things to come. So far, UKIERI has supported over 1,000 partnerships between the UK and India, benefitting 35,000 academics since 2006.

The announcement that there will be 57 collaborations this year helps clear the air, says S Parasuraman, director of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). “This is the third phase of projects announced under UKIERI. It has been very useful in producing quality work in different fields,” he adds.

TISS, for instance, is partnering with School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London on a project establishing a UK-India research methods node to promote research training and collaboration in the social sciences and humanities. Elsewhere, the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management of Jammu University is partnering with the University of West London to examine how tourism can be a development tool for communities in a conflict region.

“A partnership of this kind is beneficial for the students, faculty and institutions in many ways,” says director Parikshat Singh Manhas. “There will be student exchanges involved. From my own experience of being part of such exchanges, I can say that learning increases manifold.”

Still the biggest partner

Though UK gave way to the US as the education destination for Indians decades ago, and is now in third place, behind Canada, as far as research partnerships are concerned, ties between the two remain the strongest.

There is no other country with a partnership that is nearly as significant, and the UK has spent over £35 million since 2006 on UKIERI alone, says education consultant Malik. The exposure helps students build a network that gives them a headstart in their career, adds Surajit Borkotokey, head of the department of mathematics and chairperson of the Centre for Computer Studies at Dibrugarh University, which is partnering with Queens University, Belfast, on a project on game theory. Such opportunities are also a great boost of confidence for Indian students.

“Our students are not exposed to many advanced and sophisticated methods of research as found in the top universities of countries like the UK,” says Borkotokey. “A visit to a university like Belfast makes them aware of what to even aspire to. And when students from these universities come to India, working with them enables an exchange of ideas with a much wider group.”

Myths and reality

“I believe part of the concern about Brexit is misplaced,” says Sriram Venkatachalam, assistant professor in the department of ocean engineering at IIT-Madras, who will be working with City University, London, on a project on climate change

Academic consultant Karan Gupta however points out that though UKIERI being unaffected is a positive sign, the major concerns remain unaddressed.

“The number of students who wish to study in the UK has been steadily declining over the past few years. A majority of students wish to work in the UK after they complete their education and the UK in general has made it extremely hard for international students to find employment there,” he says. “Brexit has only added to the perception that a British education will not help you find a job abroad and will land you back home instead.”

First Published: Jun 07, 2017 16:10 IST