‘Dartmouth College looking at partnerships in India’
The Indian government’s push for global academic collaborations will provide immense opportunities to international higher education institutions and open new avenues of partnerships for them, top officials from the prestigious Dartmouth College has said.
The Indian government’s push for global academic collaborations will provide immense opportunities to international higher education institutions and open new avenues of partnerships for them, top officials from the prestigious Dartmouth College said on Thursday.
Barbara Will, vice provost of academic initiatives and a professor of English at Dartmouth, and Bob Lasher, senior vice-president for institutional advancement at the Ivy League university, who are on a week-long trip to India, told HT in an interview that Dartmouth is also looking at student exchange programmes and social entrepreneurship collaborations in India. Edited excerpts:
The Indian government is taking various initiatives for global educational collaborations. Is Dartmouth looking to engage with any Indian university?
Will: We are currently working with 40-odd institutions around the world. We had a programme with the University of Hyderabad in gender studies and anthropology that had to be discontinued amid the Covid-19 pandemic. We want to do more such programmes in India and create flexible study-abroad experiences. We are exploring collaborations with social entrepreneurs in India and bringing some undergraduate students from Dartmouth to work with them. We are meeting officials from various universities during our trip to discuss possible collaborations.
India has recently come up with guidelines for foreign higher education institutions to set up campuses in the country. Would Dartmouth be interested in setting up campuses in India?
Will: At Dartmouth, we are not yet at a stage to set up a campus in a foreign location and I do not know if we will be in the near future. We still have to explore the longevity of such campuses. But we will certainly be interested in exploring more collaborations with Indian higher education institutions.
Lasher: In the same way your government is saying, let’s explore partnerships and collaborations. Universities globally, including Dartmouth, see opportunities at this moment [in India] both in terms of attracting talented students or avenues of potential partnership with Indian universities.
Dartmouth is known for its liberal arts and multidisciplinary approach. Why do you think it is important for students’ overall growth?
Will: At Dartmouth, we include science and mathematics in liberal arts courses. We include a wide spectrum of courses, from English to biology.
Liberal arts gives you a sense of possibility and openness and a better grasp of what is at stake when you confront things. It’s where technical education falls short. If technical education gives you a vocabulary for the world, a liberal arts education gives you the terms and grammar for understanding the world.
According to me, learning should take place in between disciplines. For example, at Dartmouth, students get to study English, science, and psychology together, and then they think about how everything connects. It gives students a flexible mind.
How do you provide flexibility to students to pursue multiple disciplines?
Will: Dartmouth has a year-round flexible plan for students. We have four semesters in a year — summer, winter, fall, and spring. The students can choose which of those terms they want to study. That’s a real innovation. Within that flexible structure, there is room to study abroad. Dartmouth is known for its study-abroad programmes. It is possible for students to study in India during the summers, come back to Dartmouth in the winters, and go to any other country and do internships in spring. Students can put together their own calendar according to their interests. We believe in making education experiential.
We have leave-term and off-campus programmes, under which students can study for a term at the university campus, and at the end of the term, they can go to a country or another site and put the idea they have studied into practice. For instance, last fall, there was a course on German Studies on the Holocaust. The students went to Berlin for three weeks to talk to people, to visit museums, and get an in-depth experience.
Lasher: At least 60% of undergraduates at Dartmouth participate in some sort of foreign study experience.
Do you think students pursuing liberal arts and multidisciplinary degrees are job-ready?
Will: Yes, they are very much job-ready. I think the job market is hungry to hire students with degrees in multiple disciplines. They acquire skills of flexibility, leadership and communication.
Lasher: For a long time, universities as a whole, at least we at Dartmouth, educated students and then let them decide their career perspectives after that. But then came corporate culture. I think we have not served our humanities students well by illuminating the paths for them to pursue after university. We have got a new commitment to that.
What kind of shift has Dartmouth witnessed in its policies amid the Covid-19 pandemic? Any notable challenges for students?
Will: The university has recently become “need-blind” for its candidates regardless of their citizenship. It means applications are reviewed and accepted based solely on a student’s qualifications, and not on their ability to pay. In the past, international students were treated differently from domestic students. Now, any student applying from anywhere in the world can be considered independent of need... Among students, we have witnessed enormous mental health issues. There were lots of concerns about what has been lost in terms of their social education and sheer uncertainty about the future. We have introduced several initiatives to address that.
There has been an increase in the number of students going to the US for higher education in recent years. Has Dartmouth witnessed the same trend as well?
Lasher: We have around 200 Indian students studying at our undergraduate campus, and they are the second largest cohort of international students. A majority of the students are pursuing undergraduate courses.
Will: A majority of Indian students come to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) courses. But many of them switch to different disciplines, including humanities and social sciences, during their stint. We are eager to see more Indian students to apply in non-STEM fields.
What do you think Indian higher education institutions can do to attract more international students?
Will: At Dartmouth, we have admission officers who are globally oriented. They visit different countries and cover different types of schools and spend a lot of time with students and their counterparts there. They give extensive presentations to students. That’s one area Indian universities can really work on. Besides, the Indian universities can work more on branding. For instance, everyone knows about IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology), but what about other good Indian universities? They may set up some kind of offices and centres in different countries for this.