India in the global age

The University of Cambridge hosted a major international summit in New Delhi last week which brought together opinion leaders in global business, politics, academia, journalism and the arts in India and the University of Cambridge, to address India’s key issues and challenges in the changing global order.

Building on the recognition of our shared past and a rapidly developing future, Cambridge is committed to enhancing its engagement with India.

The Vice-Chancellor

Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Parliament of India, Honourable Smt. Meira Kumar was the Chief Guest, and inaugurated the proceedings. The Guest of Honour was the Honourable Kapil Sibal, Minister for Human Resource Development, Communications and IT, Government of India.

Both highlighted the importance of collaboration with world-class institutions like the University of Cambridge as well as the need to develop education in India in new and inclusive ways so that it meets India’s enormous vocational/ skills development requirements, and the needs of the 220 million children who go to school in India today.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, leading the Cambridge delegation on a twelve-day visit, reiterated the central role of collaboration in meeting global challenges in education.

In her inaugural address, Smt. Meira Kumar said, “for the last 800 years, the University of Cambridge has constantly excelled as a centre of higher learning with uncompromising standards of education, transforming knowledge to generate ideas for the benefit of our world. Cambridge undoubtedly has been a game changer. Many of its alumni have played a leading role in India's struggle for independence and later in guiding the destiny of this young nation with ancient roots.”

Union Minister, Kapil Sibal, spoke on the need for a change in mindset, as countries “assess the need for global skills within their economy”. He said: “In a truly globalised world, you need a globalised mindset. In that mindset, education is at the heart.” The Union Minister praised the University of Cambridge’s unparalleled ability to “absorb and interact with those who recognize excellence,” saying that institutions like Cambridge are crucial for the future, but that education must now be developed in a decentralized fashion and “move to where the child resides”.

The Vice-Chancellor spoke of the commitment of the University of Cambridge, which currently has 250 ‘bottom-up’ research links with India, to working with and within India.

"For more than 150 years the University of Cambridge has valued its close relationship with India. From the mid-nineteenth century, when the first students from India arrived in Cambridge, scholarship and lasting friendships have been the foundation of academic partnership.”

"Building on the recognition of our shared past and a rapidly developing future, Cambridge is committed to enhancing its engagement with India. The inter-connected modern world presents challenges of unprecedented complexity.  Addressing them requires intellectual strength, breadth of discipline, and international co-operation between enthusiastic partners.

“Universities like Cambridge have a mission to make a difference in the world.  The India-Cambridge Summit allows our academics in the social sciences and humanities to engage in the best way with Indian colleagues, and to make that critical difference.”

Of his recent visit to Panjab, the VC said he “saw a flowering of [the Indian Government’s] commitment to a totality of education.”

The Vice-Chancellor and Professor Sir Chris Bayly also spoke about the larger purpose of  higher education, not only its remarkable research capacity and ability to aid in global decision making, but to inculcate fundamental human values. The latter is achieved through the humanities and an interdisciplinary approach to education.

“As a repository of knowledge, the onus is on Cambridge to take a long term perspective [regarding global issues]”.

Professor Sir Christopher Bayly commented on the importance of interdisciplinary instruction and said that educators are custodians charged with “preserving democracy through the expansion of knowledge” – transcending “instrumental uses,” the humanities teach us vital lessons about “being human”.

Keynote speakers included Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Government of India, Naina Lal Kidwai, Group GM and Country Head of HSBC India, Professor Prabhat Patnaik, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Manish Tiwari, Congress Member of Parliament and Secretary of the All-India Congress Committee, Brinda Karat, Politburo member CPI (M) and former member of Parliament, Professor K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India, Prakash Jha, Film Producer, Director and Screenwriter, and National Film Award winner, Swapan Dasgupta, Writer and Columnist, Tarun Tejpal, Editor, Tehelka, M.J Akbar, Editorial Director, India Today, Subodh Gupta (contemporary artist), and Rana Dasgupta (author), amongst others.

Through 6 dynamic sessions titled ‘The Future of the University’; ‘India and Global Financial Crisis’; ‘Evidence, Social Policy and the Challenge of Development’; ‘Capital Century: Delhi 1911 and Delhi, 2012’; ‘Contemporary Indian Art and cultural politics’ and ‘Ideas of India’s Democracy’, the day-long summit invited a diverse and influential audience to explore the key challenges India faces today,  employing a multidisciplinary framework which addresses the central importance of the humanities and social sciences in understanding the origins and potential of India’s growth and increasing global influence.

The Summit ended with a reception sponsored by Cambridge University Press India.

The India-Cambridge Summit marked the start of a twelve-day visit to India by the Vice Chancellor and University of Cambridge delegation to New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to celebrate the University of Cambridge’s long standing ties with India, and strengthen important academic partnerships, industry collaborations, and the university’s strong alumni network in India.

Picture credit: Bibash Chakrabarty

Caption: L - r: The Vice-Chancellor; Dr Jennifer Barnes, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for International Strategy; Honourable Kapil Sibal, Union Minister, Government of India; Honourable Smt. Meira Kumar, Speaker of the Lok Sabha; Professor Sir Christopher Bayly.

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