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Teaching talent: UK universities recruit more Indian academics, number reaches 5600 in 2017-18

The 5,600 academics include 450 professors, 105 categorised as ‘other senior academic’, and 5045 employed at ‘other contract level’. Indian academics are among faculty staff in almost every British university, conducting research and teaching a range of subjects.

world Updated: Jan 29, 2019 00:02 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
British universities,Indian faculty members,Higher Education Statistics Agency
Oxford University's campus in Oxford, England. The number of Indian faculty members in British universities has been steadily increasing over the years (File Photo)(AP)

The number of Indian students coming to British higher education institutions showed a minor rise in 2017-18, but the recruitment of ‘British Indian’ academics has continued to grow, reflecting expertise across disciplines: they now number 5,600.

The category includes individuals who are Indian citizens as well as British citizens of Indian origin. Of the 5,600 academics in this group in 2017-18, 2,620 were Indian citizens, new figures provided to Hindustan Times by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show.

The 5,600 academics now include 450 professors, 105 categorised as ‘other senior academic’, and 5045 employed at ‘other contract level’. Indian academics are among faculty staff in almost every British university, conducting research and teaching a range of subjects. The numbers have steadily gone up from 3930 in 2010-11 to 5245 in 2016-17 before again increasing in 2017-18.

Previous and current Indian academics include economist Amartya Sen, educationist Sugata Mitra, engineer Kumar Bhattacharyya, cultural theorist Bhikhu Parekh, Sumantra Bose at the London School of Economics, and Jaideep Prabhu at the University of Cambridge.

In 2017, two India-born experts, Parveen Kumar (medicine; based at the London School of Medicine) and Pratibha Gai (electron microscopy; University of York) were honoured with damehood, the female equivalent of knighthood, one of Britain’s highest civilian honours.

Universities with the highest number of Indian-origin academics include Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, King’s College London, Manchester, and the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, the figures show.

Disciplines employing the largest number of Indian academics are Clinical Medicine, Biosciences, Business and Management, Mechanical, Aero and Production Engineering, and Information Technology. Many came from India for doctoral study and later took up academic positions.

The HESA figures complement findings of a 2015 study that said Indian academics in research-intensive universities are preferred due to their “single-mindedness, competitiveness, resilience and work centrality”, as well as their links with Indian institutions and knowledge of India.

The study found that Indian academics are “singled out for jobs over other candidates” partly due to their willingness to “play the game” of prioritising research over teaching.

The study by Dulini Fernando of Warwick Business School and Laurie Cohen of Nottingham University Business School said research-intensive universities in science and engineering departments, which recruit high numbers of international staff, found that “cultural, social and domestic capital” can put Indian academics in a more favourable position than home-grown talent.

Fernando said: “The Indian academics in our study used their valuable social connections to India and important cultural knowledge to obtain highly prized symbolic capital in the form of research partnerships with leading academics in the West, thus challenging the assertion that migrants’ networks and resources do not facilitate upward career mobility”.

“These findings show ‘ethnic capital’ advantages such as cultural knowledge and networks can be used to move up the career ladder.”

She added that the Indian academics surveyed were comfortable with “rules which require academics to prioritise research over everything else”. She attributed this quality to “single-mindedness, competitiveness, resilience and work centrality”, influenced by their early experiences of overcoming challenging circumstances and growing up in a society with limited resources.

First Published: Jan 28, 2019 20:25 IST

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