India can give unique study experience to UK students: Greg Clark, Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities
The UK is entering into various collaborations with India to explore the higher education avenues. The latest is Generation UK Programme that aims at promoting India as a major study abroad destination for the UK students. In a candid interview, Greg Clark, the UK Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities, explains the government’s plan to improve ties with India in higher education. Excerpts from the interview:
Q: The Generation UK Programme aims to promote India as a study destination for UK students. Besides, the higher education institutes do Indian students stand to benefit from the programme?
A: It is a very exciting programme which has mutual benefits by Indian students getting opportunity to study in the UK and the UK students coming to India. There are very less number of UK students studying in India as compared to the Indian student population in the UK. Through this programme we aim at increasing that number. The Generation UK Programme aims at bringing as many as 25,000 students from the UK to India in a span of five years, which will definitely make a huge impact.
Q: How do Indian students benefit from Generation UK Programme?
A: The Indian students also benefit tremendously from the programme. The best research and the best education happens when institutes and countries collaborate and the best brains from different geographical area come together to share their experience. Just as the UK students benefitted a lot from the Indian students who come to study in the country, the Indian students also will definitely benefit from the UK students in their country.
Q: The programme talks about collaboration between UK and Indian institutes. Is the government working on establishing global campuses of UK universities in India?
A: That decision has to be taken by the universities and the government doesn’t have much control over that. There are many UK institutions that have presence in India in the form of partnerships and collaborations. As a government, we feel that collaboration must be promoted in order to strengthen the ties between the countries. We have an international education strategy where we promote the internationalisation of education.
Q: How do you find India as a study abroad destination? Do you think students from UK would be willing to explore India as a study destination?
A: I think India could be really a good study abroad destination. There is tremendous respect among the British for India when it comes to scientific temper, innovations, economic progress and trade between two nations. I am sure that there will be a large group of UK students who want to explore and experience India, which will make the programme a huge success.
Q: The funds for collaborative research developed between UK and Indian Research Councils has grown substantially and now exceeds Â£150m, from just one million in 2008. Do you think initiatives like UKIERI have played a substantial role on deepening the education relationship between the two countries?
A: There has been a huge increase in the collaborations through various programmes. One of such initiatives is to “Train the Trainer” programme which is very relevant when the education sector in India is developing rapidly. The programme helps in improving the standards of thee educators who can impart education to more people.
We are planning to go ahead with the collaborations that would mutually help both the countries where the UK students get opportunity to come to India and the Indian students to get opportunity to go to the UK. I see a bright future in the collaborations as it helps in getting the people, institutes and governments closer.
Q: What are the unique features of Indian education system that you strongly feel that the UK students must experience?
A: First of all, it is the exposure to some of the excellent research opportunities. I paid visit to a school of architecture in India and had a very good interaction with the students there. Urbanism and town planning is something that attracted me a lot, mainly because of the rapid development of India. I feel that architecture and town planning is something the students can learn from India-the way they are planned and executed in India. Another area is climate change. The geography of India makes the country a perfect place to conduct scientific study about climate change. Apart from that, the Indian institutes are far more advanced in handling this subject area. In humanities, Indian culture and literature are so astonishing that every UK student who is interested in history would love to explore.
Q: Does UK have plans to subsidise education to attract more international students?
A: We compete in terms of excellence and value. What UK universities are famous for is for the citations, number of Nobel laureates and the quality of education. In terms of the value for money, according to the HSBC study, the UK is less expensive country when compared with the high quality education. Another important factor is the experience of Indian students who attended the UK universities. It is always a very good investment for them in terms of what they get back once they come back to their home country. The OECD annual report states that the UK is one major country which has taken sustainable approach towards higher education which is good for both students and tax payers. Since the universities sustain by charging the education imparted to the students, they are robust, independent and competent with strong financial foundations. This in turn reduces a huge burden on the government.