NEW DELHI: Indians are welcome to study and work in Great Britain, says UK's Minister for Science and Universities Jo Johnson even as Europe grapples with issues on migrants.
In an exclusive interview during a visit to India to announce the 'UK-India Year of Education, Research and Innovation for 2016', Johnson says that going to study in the UK is brain gain and not brain drain.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q) Is the Indo-UK education scene revving up?
The crème-de la-crème of British universities are here in India with me to showcase that if you want to study in higher education, then UK is the place. There is no place in world where you can do higher education better than in the UK. If you want to gain the skills to compete in the global economy, British universities are ready and want to help.
Q) But one hears so much about visa issues and denials to Indian students?
A) There is no limit on the number of Indian students we will give a warm welcome to. Every year we want more Indian students to come and study in the UK. We want them to stay on after they finish studying. To stay on and find graduate jobs, this is now permitted under our system. I want to make it very-very clear that Indian students are warmly welcome to UK.
Q) How closely aligned are the education systems of the countries?
A) We are working closely with the Indian government to ensure that our systems of higher education, our universities and our scientists can collaborate to mutual advantage.
Q) What is the state of cooperation on science between India and UK?
A) We see a huge potential for doing science between Britain and India and I am amazed at the limitless opportunity for collaboration that exists. In the past 6 years, we have seen the value of our scientific research collaboration go from just one million pounds in 2008 to 200 million pounds today. We want to see that rate of growth continue. Hence, the universities in Britain are seeking to work with Indian universities to accelerate the number of collaborations.
Q) Any highlights from the Indo-UK S&T collaboration.
A) This week the Newton Program got a new fillip this is our 50 million pound cooperation platform for science collaboration with India. Overall, the Newton Program will now run until 2021. The India component for that the Newton-Bhabha program which has a value of 50 million pounds has been a huge success. The flagship of our science collaboration will bring together our scientists. ISIS, the world's leading centre for research in the physical and life sciences at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford in the United Kingdom, is collaborating with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai and that is an exciting partnership and a long-standing collaboration. Here ISIS's suite of neutron and muon instruments give unique insights into the properties of materials on the atomic scale.
The renewed Newton program will also be able to address issues like the Ganga clean up based upon the emblematic experience of the Thames clean up. UK is also an expert in the area of air pollution and the two countries can collaborate on that as well. We can address the most pressing challenges of India through collaborative S&T work.
When the UK and India collaborate, there is force multiplier, which is very-very strong. The force multiplier with India is much stronger than with many other countries. We get much greater impact and valued research papers when British and Indian scientists co-operate.
Q) What about the inter-university collaboration?
A) Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has recently focussed his aim of increasing the number of universities in the top of the global rankings of universities. Towards that, collaboration and impact of research makes an important part of the rankings measurement process. More collaboration with British scientists will help move India's university rankings higher in the lead tables and meet Mukherjee's objectives.
Q) You yourself recently said 'teaching in UK is 'lamentable', so why should Indian students go to Britain to institutions you yourself described as 'lamentable'?
A) No, No. UK institutions are world class, we have four universities in the top 10; 38 in the top hundred. That our system is world class is demonstrated by the fact that we have hundreds of thousands of students who come from around the world to study in UK and we have the highest satisfaction rates of any education system in the world.
Q) Britain is very expensive for Indian students to go to, there are other places that are cheaper and good value for money?
A) There is no better system in the world than the UK education system that offers better value for money. It is a terrific investment and people leave highly satisfied.
Q) A lot people feel that British colonial rule killed the innovation potential of India?
A) I think India is an incredibly innovative society and economy. The technological solutions which India has devised to all manner of problems are impressive. When you think of countries who have contributed to our Internet age, one would point first of all to India.