The Education Innovation Conference 2023 brought together more than 30 higher education and skill development institutions from across India and over 90 of their counterparts from across the UK, to talk about how the two countries could work more closely together. It culminated in the Education Leaders’ Awards at the prestigious Oxford Town Hall, which awarded some of most innovative private sector educationalists from India.
The event started with Siddarth Yog, Co-founder and Member of the Governing Body at Ashoka University, in conversation with Pratik Dattani, Managing Director of EPG. Yog articulated Ashoka’s vision to become India’s leading liberal arts and sciences university, home to the most diverse student body and a hub for independent thought, and how it started in 2010 with commitments of ₹1,574cr (£158m) raised from 160 founders and 45 donors.
Prof Sonal Minocha moderated a panel discussion entitled Where is UK higher education headed in the coming decade? A shift in European research funding, widespread university strikes, Covid impacting learning experiences for students, and a huge increase in Indian students coming to the UK to study post-Covid are just some of the trends that have defined UK higher education recently. Former Director of Apple Education in Asia, Alan Greenberg, COO of UKIBC Kevin McCole and COO of exam invigilation market leader Dragan Mitrovic outlined what they saw as the future in the sector.
Co-founder of microcredentials provider Employability.Life Supriyo Chaudhuri moderated the next session on the evolution of India’s higher education sector. Former Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu wrote recently that the University Grants Commission’s encouragement of governors and chief ministers across the country for the promotion of mother tongue education in colleges and universities is welcome. In a survey conducted by India’s vocational education regulator, AICTE, in February 2022, 44% of over 83,000 students surveyed voted in favour of studying engineering in their mother tongue. At the same time, business leaders and the Prime Minister has insisted that future education be industry-orientated, with a focused on employability.
Tom Joseph, Executive Director of Strategy and Development for ISDC Global, spoke about new trends and regulatory changes in India, as well as a trend towards internationalisation, while Pro Chancellor of REVA University Umesh Raju spoke about leading the digitisation of the university has helped ensure student engagement and experience on the campus.
The Keynote Address was from Rakkam A. Sangma, Education Minister for Government of Meghalaya, who was joined with other senior education officials from the state. The North East state of Meghalaya borders Bangladesh to the South and Assam to the North, with a population of just over three million. The Minister spoke about the skills and education opportunities in his state, and collaboration opportunities for UK institutions. He also held bilateral meetings with edtech companies present at the event, who are seeking to explore partnerships in India. One of EPG’s major focus areas is to help foreign companies enter and success in the Indian market.
Tara Panjwani from the UKIBC hosted a session on UK-India collaboration case studies. The session included discussion on the challenges faced in the development of the bilateral partnership and ways in which they were overcome. This included UK’s role in capacity development in India, particularly faculty training in embedded soft and employability skills into the Indian curriculum, as well as greater equity and mutuality between UK-India partnerships.
The Awards featured a Keynote Address from Naimat Zafary, who was introduced on stage by University of Sussex Business School Dean Prof Steven McGuire. Naimat graduated in governance, development and public policy from Sussex University this year and spoke about how, as a refugee, he was evacuated by British troops from Afghanistan when the Taliban took over, with his wife Saima and four children in August 2021, bringing only a backpack to the UK with him. He spent four months in a hotel in London before the Home Office arranged a permanent move to Hove just before Christmas, which Sussex University helped to organise.
As we celebrated global education leaders at the event, Naimat provided an excellent example of what a student-centric, world-leading education system developed with empathy and a recognition of what makes Britain great, can achieve. The Awards were attended by the Lord Mayor of Oxford, PVC of Oxford Prof Jonathan Michie OBE, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Shaunaka Rishi Das and several other senior attendees from Oxford.
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