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UK will continue to draw the best

Professor Steve Smith, president of Universities UK and vice chancellor of University of Exeter talks about scholarships worth 1,50,000 pounds for Indian students and more

education Updated: Mar 24, 2010 09:11 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi
Vimal Chander Joshi
Hindustan Times

Why should an Indian student need to travel to the UK now that top global institutes might come here?
Indian institutions can not meet the entire demand of its population. It's very huge country and its education requirements are equally high. Moreover, the good universities will continue to attract best students who travel for qualitative education. Even in UK, the best students travel long distance to study at premier universities there. It happens everywhere within a country as well as outside the country.

What was your main purpose of coming to India?
I met HRD Minister Kapil Sibal in London in January and he was of the opinion that we (India and UK) should work together. Now when we are here, we aim to build partnerships with Indian institutions rather than drawing students to British universities. We aim to enter into collaborative research with institutions like IIT Delhi, IIM Bangalore and IISc Bangalore.

Why are you looking at only research collaborations with Indian institutions?
Research leads to capacity-building of each other's country. If you look at the past trends, most research papers are written by scientists based out of more than one country. We always say that this is the time of knowledge economy and India has enormous potential. We not only want Indian researchers to go to UK for joint research programmes, but would also want the British scientists and teachers to travel to India. They can learn a lot at the universities here.

How will Indian students stand to gain from these partnerships?
For the first time, we have allocated 1,50,000 pounds for scholarships to Indian students. They can come for a one-year Master's programmes or for some part of their PhD programme while they are still studying at IIT Delhi or IIM Bangalore or IISC. Initially, we are limiting ourselves to these institutions and later, we would expand. We are also looking at the possibility of setting up an Indian office, (which might come up either in Delhi or Bangalore).

After what happened in Australia, Indian students are looking at destinations where they are safe. How safe are Indian students in UK?
UK is a safe country, and we have huge ethical diversity with students from 138 countries studying there. I have never come across any significant issue of racism in university campus. UK is the second country in the world after US which has the maximum number of international students. They make 11.6 percent of the total population of students in UK. And interestingly, 92 per cent of the international students feel satisfied of the entire experience of studying there.

Besides a one-year Master's degree, what other advantages do UK universities have?
Yes, it's an advantage that UK offers one-year Master's programmes. Besides that, the whole experience of one year (at the time of Master's) or three year (in case of graduation) is very enriching. A student not only gets tremendous opportunity to learn but also to take part in several sports events and voluntary activities. In Exeter, there are around 107 societies to choose from. There is a vibrant campus life almost everywhere in UK. And moreover, teaching is research based which makes the act of learning quite intellectually stimulating.

First Published: Mar 23, 2010 11:12 IST