Boundless Education in India

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UC Santa Cruz’s central administration has taken the lead in an international creation. Special adviser to the Chancellor for International Initiatives (SACII) Anu Luther said with UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal seeking to raise UCSC’s international profile and to support faculty, students and programs interested in global engagements, India is an obvious focus among others.

Chancellor Blumenthal traveled to India and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Punjab Technical University (PTU) this past December to establish an undergraduate institute, the Institute of Excellence (IOE), in Chandigarh, the capital city of the state of Punjab.

Associate Chancellor Ashish Sahni expects UCSC will benefit from the initiative not just through gaining experience in international relations, but also through further enriching the student body, faculty and curriculum as a whole.

“Benefits for UCSC include furthering its diversity and enrichment in the student body, gaining more opportunities for international exchanges for faculty and students, gaining more revenue to develop new programs and expanding existing programs and possibly growing graduate enrollments — a long term goal for the campus,” Sahni said.

India has a large, talented population of students with lively interests in participating in world-class research and teaching initiatives, and families who can afford to pay for a U.S. university education.

The timing of Anu Luther’s appointment in October last year coincided with PTU’s search to find a U.S. partner for its aspiration to set up an Institute of Excellence that would provide quality undergraduate engineering education in northern Punjab.

“We were impressed with the state’s dynamic political leadership committed to making Punjab a destination for higher education,” Luther said. “A strategic partnership of this nature can support all aspects of UCSC’s internationalization effort — recruit bright international students, facilitate faculty and student exchanges and encourage meaningful research collaborations.”

Many students in India aspire to be part of a skilled labor force in the country and abroad. UCSC director of admissions Michael McCawley, who also accompanied the Chancellor in India, was enthralled by the ambitions of the intellectual community.

“I was struck during our trip to India by how the students there flocked to me and Chancellor Blumenthal to ask questions after panel discussions,” McCawley said. “They were very interested in a visitor term, summer session, earning a master’s degree or a possible transfer. You can tell there’s certainly a demand there to expand their education portfolio.”

The signing of the memorandum is a big step forward for India, not only in expanding its education, but also in satisfying its demands for higher education, a strong part of Indian society, Sahni said.

Luther expects in the coming decades, India will find long term solutions to such demands, but will collaborate with UCSC to satisfy the current demands.

“India is a very large country and has a tremendous amount of demand for higher education, but the supply of high-quality education is fairly limited,” Sahni said.

“In the coming decades,” Luther said, “India, with its growing economy, a population of 1.2 billion with over 50 percent below age 25 and a network of excellent high schools, has the potential to provide a huge pool of skilled labor for many parts of the world. But these individuals must be equipped with the necessary skills and learning to become productive in a global workforce.”

McCawley, having worked with the admissions office for over 30 years, feels it is the duty of all educational programs to open students to such learning from the world.

“The world has changed and is connected more than ever in a global sense,” McCawley said. “If you don’t expose students to other ways of thinking from around the world and other cultures, you really are doing them a disservice.”

Punjab Technical University (PTU) is among the top-tiered universities in India, consisting of around 400,000 students, but is seeking ways to further develop and train its top students. Its goal is to create a high quality institution for its most academically challenged students. Sahni said ideally, the top 3-5 percent of students from PTU will attend the Institute of Excellence (IOE).

In developing the IOE, UCSC provides what Luther calls “software support” while PTU provides the “hardware.” The memorandum states UCSC is obligated to give advice on hiring the best faculty, developing a curriculum, possible majors to offer and overall knowledge on running the institute. PTU is responsible for paying for all infrastructure and any other operating parts that may arise.

The IOE’s completion and opening for student move-in would happen in two to three years, Luther said.

The IOE will provide education in specific selected areas of engineering and computer science appropriate for the state of Punjab and for India as a whole. The whole curriculum will be taught in English.

“Its beneficial for us all to get our best minds together — they have the resources and will to make this happen and we have the knowledge and experience to make it happen,” said Associate Chancellor Ashish Sahni.

Both universities expect and hope professors at UCSC will travel to India to teach at the Institute, and students from both universities will spend time studying in the other as well. More importantly, the signing of the MoU signifies the start of UCSC’s stepping out into the world to have global influence, Sahni said.

“UCSC could not be a global leader or have global influence without global presence,” Sahni said. “What we are trying to do with PTU is the first step to having global presence.”