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The empire chalks back

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making their way to India for higher education? Thanks to LSE's recent tie-ups with Indian educational institutions, it's all set to happen.
British citizens coming to India for may cease to raise eyebrows in another few years. On September 6, 2005, Prime Ministers signed an MoU to further bilateral relations. Among the clauses was one that proposed "significantly enhanced student exchanges and academic relationships at the University level".
So, what's new? This is regular MOU talk, innit? Nice words, that is, that serve to contribute to the warm all-is-forgiven atmosphere of post-Raj bonhomie (with memories of Singh's Oxford speech still buzzing about).
Well, the difference is that this time round, this is not just about diplomacy, or even Indians leaning on British scholarship to have their grey cells charged. For once, "educational exchange" actually does mean exchange "" in the sense that Britons will also be encouraged to study for advanced degrees in India.
This was inconceivable just a generation ago (or not so inconceivable many many generations before that, if you listen to William Dalrymple). Also, academic exchange so far has been limited largely to natural and physical sciences. Now it will involve the social sciences.
An enthusiastic participant is the (LSE), which in accordance with the MoU, has struck alliances with premier Indian institutions in the fields of banking, finance and economics. The benefits, of course, shall accrue to all.
"The Indian higher education system is insular," says Ruth Kattumuri, Head, LSE-India, who is co-ordinating this endeavour, "We've learnt about other countries through books. In a truly global community, we must have practical interaction. This will come through foreign nationals studying at Indian universities."
Kattumuri adds, "The LSE is a key player in the social sciences and we're looking to set up a mutual academic community in these fields. We're pushing intellectual partnerships at a structural level. So far, academic exchange has only been at an individual level and not at an institutional level."
R. Kannan, Director, Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR), Chennai, is equally excited about his institution's tie-up. "We offer a unique focus on microfinance in emerging markets," says Kannan, "From next year, students from the LSE in the field of development economics will come here for their masters dissertations.
At LSE, they would learn development theory, but not have had a chance to conduct applied research. IFMR is a unique experimental station. This would benefit our country as well, as LSE students would conduct research on policy relevant problems in India."
Ashish Saha, Director, National Institute of Banking Management (NIBM), Pune, is in the process of formalizing a tie-up with the LSE to bring in faculty and research scholars from LSE.
The banking institute has already invited Professors Charles Goodhart and John Danielson of LSE to take one-week programmes on central banking and risk management, respectively.
Says Saha, "A tie-up offers benefits to NIBM and the LSE. NIBM students will not have to go abroad to get an international perspective. The LSE professors will gain an understanding of the Indian Banking system. There will be a 'complementary knowledge domain'. Further, the Indian Banking system has never faced extreme situations in the financial markets like East Asian economies. The datasets for these extreme situations are very costly... these professors have access to the datasets and can make their analytic research on them available to NIBM students."
Among the other institutions that LSE is cosying up to: Delhi School of Economcs (DSE), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi, and the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B).
As the gains become more and more apparent, expect the trend to gain momentum. Says Saha, "In the next ten years, if this continues, educational exchange can become a foreign exchange earner for India like it is in the UK and the US." It could be some time before the phenomenon chalks up some serious money, but the prospect is no longer laughable. That in itself is worth writing home about.


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