PROFESSOR ATUL K. SHAH www.atulkshah.co.uk
Globally renowned expert advisor and broadcaster on culture, accounting, finance, business ethics, holistic education and leadership
Today I am in the historic city of Oxford where there is a unique conference on U.K.-India higher education partnership, organised by the dynamo that is Pratik Dattani of EPG consulting. I learnt that every year 125,000 students come from India to U.K. paying at least twice the local fees plus accommodation all in sterling. In return we send 950 students a year who pay in Rupees. A fair exchange in a global world?
Some speakers noted that Britain having an ‘international’ education brand is very patronising when it deals with India. A few British Professors noted the profound intellectual history of India and suggested that is should be incorporated into British curricula. The general feeling was that British Higher Education is in a sorry state and needs to adapt and change fast to meet the global challenges and truly embrace diversity instead of exploiting it for money. Even the local Indian diaspora are treated as sources of fee income instead of ambassadors from a globally vibrant diaspora.
Indian Universities are changing fast and innovating too. Ashoka University in Delhi has in a decade awarded fifty million dollars in scholarships to students. British Universities offer hardly any scholarships to students from India in spite of Empire and its history of looting. Another speaker noted the huge urgency of teaching young people social, trust and relationship skills, given their tech isolation. If some of them went to India they would see how in spite of technology there are still markets and guest hospitality too, with fresh food available all the time at very affordable prices.
As Indian Universities teach in the English medium, language would be no barrier. And the facilities can beat many of our U.K. campuses, including accommodation for Visiting Lecturers. If our Indo-Brits spent a year abroad in India they could come back very cultured too! Instead they often choose to go to China or North America or Europe for their year abroad. Why avoid home?
My personal reflection is that the Neo-liberalism and a Platonic Materialist, Utilitarian, Secular and Positivist approach to the social sciences have removed culture and values from the syllabus, at a desperate time for humanity when we need a cultured education the most. No wonder diversity is seen as a photo opportunity and avoided in the content of the curriculum where everyone is colonised by equations and profit maximisation. Furthermore, India’s unique Dharmic Sciences have a huge amount to offer the modern world in a creative and inspirational way, as my research writings have demonstrated. The British HE institutions have not even begun to scratch the surface of this vast intellectual opportunity for sustainable growth and development. Paradoxically, due to its history with India, Britain has the most to gain from such a reformed education and research strategy.
The Climate Crisis and Inequality is forcing us to NOT sit on the fence when it comes to ethics and values but most academics are not changing the syllabus content or behaviours. Care, compassion, meditation and trust need to be ignited in the classroom. India can teach us a thing or two about that. If we stay arrogant, our mental health pandemic will keep spreading far and wide.