THE forum to consider prospects for Indian higher education

Event to focus on teaching, research and internationalisation

January 19, 2021
Students go to campus through the park of Bannares Hindu University
Source: iStock
Students go to campus through the park of Bannares Hindu University

On 10-11 February, prominent academics and industry leaders will convene at the virtual Times Higher Education India Universities Forum, co-hosted with KIIT University (Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology), to discuss how India can cement its position as the world’s largest higher education nation.

Despite exponential growth in the country’s sector, India’s student population faced a uniquely difficult set of circumstances in the wake of Covid-19. Many of those who weathered the pandemic restrictions from family homes saw their newly remote education suffer from a lack of access to the resources they utilised on campus. There were numerous reports of discrepancies in the quality of digital learning depending on a student’s location, with urban areas typically delivering a more stable internet connection than their rural counterparts. THE’s two-day forum will explore how Indian universities can enhance their standing by strengthening their core curricula, research excellence and options for international expansion, thus placing them on the world stage among the more desirable study-away sites and positioning them as attractive global partners.

Joyce Lau, THE’s Asia editor, said: “2020 proved that India has the ability to work its way out of a crisis despite having the public health challenges of a massive and developing nation. A few months ago, it was home to Asia’s worst Covid epidemic. By the beginning of 2021, it had flattened the curve to one-fifth of its peak infection rate, thanks in part to the wisdom of its academics and experts. The Serum Institute of India is now preparing hundreds of millions of vaccine shots, for its own people and others in the developing world.”

At the India Universities Forum, Ms Lau will lead a session alongside Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Oxford, investigating the promises and pitfalls presented by the launch of the new National Education Policy to transform Indian universities at a structural level.

“It seems like life will return to some semblance of normality soon, which will allow the country to embark on its ambitious National Education Policy, a blueprint to double the size of the higher education sector in 20 years. If India succeeds, it will greatly expand education access to millions, including young women, minorities and other marginalised people,” added Ms Lau.

Delving deeper into the humanitarian ambitions included in the forum’s agenda, Duncan Ross, THE’s chief data officer, will deliver an exclusive analysis of the THE Impact Rankings. These rankings remain the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Mr Ross will align the session objectives with those set by the Indian government’s SDG India Index, which is oriented towards reaching global targets by 2030. The final discussion of the day will explore India’s growing presence in the Global Innovation Index, with Sandeep Sancheti, vice-chancellor of SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Mini Thomas, director of the National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli, and Anders Karlsson, vice-president of global strategic networks at Elsevier, offering insights into the country’s innovation performance and its potential to establish a reputation of global excellence within Indian universities.

The forum’s second day will begin with a panel examining the disparities in digital learning acutely felt by students with limited resources. Sasmita Samanta, pro vice-chancellor of KIIT, and Trish McCluskey, interim pro vice-chancellor of teaching and learning at Victoria University, will provide strategies for ensuring digital advancement and quality education for all students, regardless of the remoteness of their set-up.

“The closure of university campuses in March prompted the government to quickly set up centralised online learning platforms. Even when schools reopen, this will be seen as an important first step in closing the country’s wide digital divide,” concluded Ms Lau.

The forum’s penultimate conversation will debate how Indian universities can capitalise on their existing assets to join the ranks of world-class institutions on a nationwide scale, with contributions from C. Raj Kumar, founding vice-chancellor of O.P. Jindal Global University, Pankaj Mittal, secretary general of the Association of Indian Universities, and Ramgopal Rao, director of the Indian Institute of Technology. Phil Baty, THE’s chief knowledge officer, will also present an exclusive preview of the THE World University Rankings 2021, focusing on the trends and movements apparent in India’s higher education development.

“Indian higher education faces the largest and most complex set of challenges of any system in the world, without exception,” said Professor Marginson. “Yet consider the prize to be won. Like all of south Asia, India has a leading role to play in the human story in future, and knowledge and learning in higher education could be the beating heart of that role.”

Find out more and register for the Times Higher Education India Universities Forum on 10-11 February.

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