UK: Indian academics in demand, cross 5,000 mark | World News - Hindustan Times
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UK: Indian academics in demand, cross 5,000 mark

Hindustan Times, London | By, London
Jan 19, 2018 11:49 PM IST

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 latest HESA figures showed. 

The number of Indian students coming to British higher education institutions has dwindled since 2010, but the number of academics categorised as “British Indian” has crossed the 5,000 mark for the first time, reflecting their expertise across disciplines.

Indians have long taught various subjects in British universities.(Reuters File)
Indians have long taught various subjects in British universities.(Reuters File)

The category includes Indian citizens and British citizens of Indian-origin. During 2016-17, the 5,245 academics in this group included 2,185 Indian citizens, according to new figures provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). 

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Indians have long taught various subjects in British universities, including economist Amartya Sen, educationist Sugata Mitra and engineer Kumar Bhattacharyya, but this is the first time their figure has crossed 5,000 across the United Kingdom.

In 2017, two India-born women 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 latest HESA figures showed. 

Clinical medicine is the discipline employing the highest number of such academics. Other subjects using their expertise include biosciences, business and management, mechanical, aero and production engineering, and information technology. Many of them came from India for doctoral studies and later took up academic positions.

The HESA figures complement the 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 Indian academics are “singled out for jobs over other candidates" partly due to their willingness to “play the game” of prioritising research over teaching. However, they were said to be unsure about the future due to growing focus on teaching.

The study by Dulini Fernando of Warwick Business School and Laurie Cohen of Nottingham University Business School said research-intensive universities with 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.”

Fernando 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.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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