Maharashtra-UK higher education conference: UK HE sector explores transnational education and bilateral collaborations

Mumbai, 23rd September 2023: The Department of Higher and Technical Education, Government of Maharashtra, and the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities organised the Maharashtra – UK Conference on Higher Education, with a delegation of senior representatives from the UK higher education sector organised by the UK Government. The conference, hosted at the prestigious Mumbai University’s Kalina campus, saw participation from senior representatives of the state and 30 higher education institutions across Maharashtra.

The UK Government has supported the largest ever delegation of senior leaders and stakeholders to India, representing some 31 UK institutions and apex bodies including Universities UK International (UUKi)and Pearson. Over the week from September 18-22, the delegation has met central and state government officials from India, policy makers and senior university leaders from 19 Indian states, in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Mumbai. In Mumbai, the delegates visited the Indian Institute of Technology and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences to discuss partnerships and collaborations aimed at internationalizing higher education through the promotion of transnational education (TNE) and initiatives for research and innovation.

The Maharashtra – UK Conference on Higher Education was conducted in the presence of Shri Vikas Chandra Rastogi, IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Higher and Technical Education, His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for South Asiaand Deputy High Commissioner for Western India Harjinder Kang, Alison Barrett, Director India, British Council, Rittika Chanda Parruck, Director Education India, British Council and Rashi Jain, Director West India, British Council.

India-UK joint degrees have been a success in promoting international education and promoting cross-cultural collaboration. However, challenges include ensuring uniformity in quality standards, addressing logistical complexities, and navigating diverse regulatory frameworks in both countries. Discussions between Maharashtra based universities and visiting UK universities took place on two thematic areas. The first theme included points on ‘Open, Distance and Digital learning’ as well as ‘Technology, Computer Science, and Interdisciplinary Areas.’ On the other hand, the second theme focused on ‘Social Science, Liberal Arts and Media’ in addition to ‘Healthcare and Medical Science’. The UK and Indian universities spoke about their thematic areas of preferences for partnerships. The delegates called for recommendations to take the partnership conversations forward.

The Mumbai conference aimed to strengthen collaborations between Maharashtra and the UK to address global challenges across the two nations. Additionally, it focused on identifying potential higher education partnerships, aligning closely with the goals outlined in the National Education Policy (NEP) and the UK-India 2030 Roadmap as well as the declarations made at the G20 under the education priority. The leaders also shared insights on the opportunities and scope of the Mutual Recognition of Qualifications (MRQs) and the Foreign Collaboration Regulation of the UGC.

The delegation was keen on forming partnerships for esteemed UK educational institutions with emphasis on TNE through initiatives like the Going Global Partnerships and UKIERI – the largest bilateral programme between in India and the UK. The conference delved on further strengthening ties between educational institutions between the state and the UK, fostering two-way mobility of educators, researchers, and students, and exploring new policies and activities to promote internationalisation, quality assurance, and collaboration, including industry-academia partnerships and opportunities for UK institutions to establish campuses in India.

Shri Vikas Chandra Rastogi, IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Higher and Technical Education, “Maharashtra’s rich educational ecosystem, with prominent institutions and top-notch research facilities, positions it as a hub for innovation and technology. The UK is a natural partner in our efforts to internationalise higher education across the stateunder the guidance ofHon’ble. Minister Chandrakant Patil, Department of Higher and Technical Education. We are looking forward to continuing our collaborations and dialogues with the UK higher education delegation to the state, to expand the horizon of the youth in the state with bilateral collaboration for mutual benefit. We anticipate this delegation will lead to fruitful partnerships in the field of Transnational Education (TNE).”

Harjinder Kang, His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for South Asia and Deputy High Commissioner for Western India said: Building strong partnerships in education has long been an important element in the UK-India relationship. That’s why it’s been excellent to bring 13 UK higher education institutions to Maharashtra, as part of the UK’s largest ever higher education delegation to India. This visit was headed up by Sir Steve Smith, the UK Government’s International Education Champion. Across India, the scale of the opportunity in the field of education is huge, including here in Maharashtra. We see the potential for closer collaboration between UK and Indian universities who are working together to help tackle global issues. Industry, academia and government partners each have a key role to play as part of this collaboration.”

Alison Barrett, Director India, British Council said, “Maharashtra has several ongoing partnerships between its institutions and those in the UK, showcasing the trust and collaboration that exists in higher education on both sides. It is already among the top four Indian states participating in the GGP programme with 14 partnerships across nine universities. Institutions from the state and the UK are engaged in pioneering programmes, and we are confident that our discussions will pave the way for even more mutually beneficial initiatives. This is a moment to celebrate the deep and extensive links that exist between our universities and the numerous avenues for collaboration.”

The Maharashtra government had also recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the British Council to strengthen educational and cultural exchange for promoting the state’s aspirations for knowledge and economic development. The partnership also lends support towards internationalisation of higher education in the state of Maharashtra, including research and mobility and this delegation from the UK provides a fantastic opportunity for higher education institutes across the state and the UK to work together and internationalise education.