“Diverse partners across India”

EducationWorld April 2020 | Interview

An alumnus of Osmania, Hyderabad and Cambridge (UK) universities and founder-chairman of Cobra Beer Partnership Ltd, a premier brewing company in the UK, India-born Lord Karan Bilimoria CBE, DL, is chancellor of the University of Birmingham (UoB), UK — a Russell Group (i.e, research-intensive) varsity. Sarah Berry interviewed him in Delhi.

Excerpts:

You are visiting India as chancellor of UoB. What are the main objectives of this visit to India?

UoB is one of the Top 100 universities of the world, according to the QS World University Rankings 2020. Our India connection dates back to 1909 when we welcomed the first students from India to our Edgbaston campus. Since then, more than 1,000 Indian alumni have been awarded degrees by UoB with many having had illustrious careers in government, industry and the professions.

The prime objective of my visit to India is to nurture existing relationships and partnerships and build new ones across diverse sectors — with alumni, government, education institutions and Indian industry. UoB is scheduled to sign partnership agreements with Punjab Sports University, Patiala and the National Sports University, Manipur. Both partnerships will include an active exchange of knowhow covering a wide range of areas including sports nutrition, physiotherapy, psychology and performance evaluation. In UoB, we have a state-of-the-art sports and fitness centre, set up with a budget of £55 million (Rs.477 crore) to provide excellent sports and fitness education. These partnership agreements will enable the two Indian sports universities to contemporise their curriculums and infrastructure and produce world champions in the near future.

Another high-potential partnership we will be signing is with the National Rail and Transportation Institute, Vadodara, India’s sole logistics university to modernise its curriculum, especially in the areas of signalling and simulation. This institute is a subsidiary of Indian Rail ways, one of the largest rail networks in the world. Therefore, this partnership has huge potential for learning and exchanges. Our UoB Centre for Railway Research and Education is proud to work closely and collaboratively with the Indian Railways. 

The University of Birmingham traces its origins to the Mason College (1843), a pioneer in medical education in the UK.  How satisfied are you with the modernisation and contemporisation of UoB?

In UoB, we believe that continuous innovation and preparedness for industry and technology changes are essential. Our university campus has beautiful old buildings but also a very modern library that seamlessly integrates high-tech with old world learning and houses 1.8 million volumes. Similarly, our sports and fitness education centre is among the world’s best. Ditto our Centre of Excellence for Evolving Engineering Education Research… I could go on giving many other examples. Therefore, I am very satisfied. The University of Birmingham also has an International Development Department.

What are the objectives of IDD?

The main objective of the IDD is to facilitate research to design responses to global challenges across
a breadth of interests, and to bridge ideas and practice. It’s pertinent that the university’s IDD has over half a century of experience in ground breaking research, teaching, and policy advice and offers Masters and Ph D programmes through correspondence and on-campus classes.

How deep is the engagement of the University of Birmingham with India? What are your major initiatives and collaborations in India?

We have signed research collaboration agreements with diverse partners across India to develop solutions in the fields of health, urbanisation and energy, among others. For instance, in the area of medical surgery we have partnered with India to develop low-cost, affordable innovations in surgical care for patients in developing countries.

Moreover, since Delhi is ranked the world’s most polluted national capital by WHO, UoB researchers are working with IIT-Delhi to understand the causes and levels of poor air quality in India’s major cities and find practical solutions to address this challenge. Moreover, our Prof. Philip Davies, a leading authority on water purity and recycling, is collaborating with India for a project titled India H2O, to find solutions for addressing critical water shortages in rural India and ways and means to cleanse and recycle water.

You have had a successful career in business and industry. How deep is the connect between UoB and British industry?

We have a proud history of working with British industry since 1900. In UoB, we believe in building partnerships that impact and transform businesses as this is vital for sustainable national growth and development. Over the past century and more, UoB had worked closely with industry to develop responsible business practices, bring lifesaving medicines and technologies to market and to develop greener and more efficient energy sources. Moreover, UoB was the first university in the UK to offer a degree in commerce to help create a productive and innovative workforce for British industry.

Currently, I am vice president of CBI (Confederation of British Industries) and scheduled to take over as president in June. As president, it will be my endeavour to further strengthen partnerships between UoB, British universities and UK Inc with India.

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