Indian Institutes of Technology set to open UK branches

University of Birmingham chancellor ‘very open’ to partnership

February 10, 2022
A man waters an island which has been designed in the shape of the United Kingdom to illustrate Indian Institutes of Technology set to open UK branches
Source: Getty

Negotiations are under way to open branch campuses of Indian Institutes of Technology in the UK, Times Higher Education can reveal.

Proponents of UK-India education partnerships, including former universities minister Lord Johnson of Marylebone, have long been advocates for opening outposts of the prestigious IITs on British soil. As trade negotiations between the two countries continue, the idea appears to be creeping closer to reality.

Speaking at an event last month, India’s high commissioner to the UK, Gaitri Kumar, said she was “pleased” with the responses she received when “we shared [the] desire of our IITs to open branches in UK” – adding that she would be working on developing plans “immediately”.

Academics and policymakers with knowledge of the issue said discussions were starting to take place but were at an early stage.

Nevertheless, at least one UK university has expressed an interest in hosting an IIT outpost. Lord Bilimoria, chancellor of the University of Birmingham, told THE that his institution would be “very open” to such a partnership.

“India is literally churning out world leaders – and the IITs have some of brightest students anywhere in world,” said Lord Bilimoria, the Hyderabad-born founder of Cobra Beer.

Although he cautioned that plans for IITs to come to the UK were still “up in the air”, Lord Bilimoria said one model would be for a “physical presence” in Birmingham jointly staffed by local and IIT researchers.

Lord Bilimoria stressed that Indian students should be able to come to the UK to learn at any joint venture, with British students able to go the other direction.

“It should be both ways…so it becomes a real partnership,” he said.

Rittika Chanda Parruck, director of education for India at the British Council, said current exchanges between the UK and India – such as the British Council’s Going Global partnerships grant, which helps institutions in both countries co-create joint programmes of study – could be a starting point for future branch campuses.

Such exchanges would be a “natural first step towards more intense engagement, such as setting up campuses or more elaborate partnership arrangements”, she said. “It’s a complex area, so you start from the simplest unit before you move on,” she explained.

Although Birmingham is the first institution to express an interest, Lord Johnson told THE that he was confident that others would soon be “making a beeline to the Indian High Commission to see if they can explore it”.

He emphasised that a “more balanced relationship” in higher education between the UK and India was “long overdue”, with India’s overall inward to outward student mobility ratio at 1:10 globally, but more than 1:300 for the UK.

“Over the years, the IITs have produced legions of world-class software engineers and a crazy number of Fortune 500 CEOs. They are huge education global brands, and opening up to international students in India and around the world is a logical move that will complement and reinforce their domestic mission,” Lord Johnson said.

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