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UK: Indian academics in demand, cross 5,000 mark

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. 

world Updated: Jan 19, 2018 23:49 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Indian-origin academics in UK,British Indian academics,Higher Education Statistics Agency
Indians have long taught various subjects in British universities.(Reuters File)

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.

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).

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 ofa2015 study thatsaid Indian academics in research-intensive universitiesare preferred due to their“single-mindedness, competitiveness, resilience and work centrality”, as well as their links with Indianinstitutions and knowledge ofIndia.

Thestudy 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 ofWarwick Business School and Laurie Cohen ofNottingham 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.

First Published: Jan 19, 2018 23:27 IST