UKIBC Virtual Higher Education Delegation 2021

By Emma Lynch

The UK India Business Council (UKIBC) hosted its first virtual higher education delegation from 23-24 February 2021.

UKIBC’s first virtual Higher Education delegation aimed to highlight new opportunities for UK universities in India’s rapidly evolving Higher Education sector and lay the foundations for new institutional and corporate partnerships between UK and Indian universities and Indian companies.

Accordingly, the key sessions focused on policy updates, government interactions, industry-academia collaborations, and future skills.  The delegation also included the launch of our new report on University Corporate Partnerships as well as participation in the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s (FICCI) online Higher Education Summit (25th-26th February). Our delegates comprised of 9 of our member universities – Universities of Bristol, Durham, Edinburgh, East Anglia, Essex, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester Metropolitan, and Nottingham.


Welcome Briefing

We had an excellent briefing led by British Council colleagues in India who shared the following updates:

  • The latest trends shaping the Indian education sector
  • Implementation of India’s National Education Policy (NEP) with a focus on developments around online education
  • How MOUs with various States such as Karnataka and Telangana are opening new doors for UK universities
  • Progress of policy dialogues around the Mutual Recognition of Qualifications (MRQ) between the UK and India
  • Outcomes of the British Council’s recent student sentiment survey

Key takeaways:

  • The Indian online education sector is accelerating at an exponential rate;
  • Many Indian States are keen on internationalisation, especially with the UK;
  • The first meeting of the Joint Task Force on Mutual Recognitions has taken place, with the next one lined up for May.
  • The survey revealed that students are increasingly opting for previously overlooked courses such as Arts, Social Sciences, Law, and Architecture, and that more than half of Indian students are still very keen to come to the UK.
  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) announcement about dual degrees, joint degrees and twinning programmes being allowed (though not yet for online degrees) was also very positively received.

Meeting with the Association of Indian Universities (AIU)

We were fortunate to secure an exclusive interaction with the Secretary General of the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), Dr Pankaj Mittal, and her colleague Mr Kuldeep Dagar.

Dr Mittal has always been keen on greater collaborations between UK and Indian universities and was very supportive and forthcoming in her updates to our delegates. She also pledged her ongoing support and commitment to the good work being undertaken by our University Social Responsibility (USR) Consortium.

Key Takeaways 

  • It was mentioned that new regulations for collaborations between UK and Indian universities have been included on the UGC website. UK universities are invited to submit their inputs into this ongoing consultation. UGC has invited comments and suggestions from all the stakeholders on the draft regulations and requested that these be sent to by 5th March, 2O21. (
  • Dr Mittal confirmed that joint degrees, twinning programmes, and dual degrees will soon become a reality – the UGC has finalised the draft regulations for these programmes which will be announced very soon.
  • Credit transfer from foreign universities is now allowed which is a very promising development. Credit mapping and credit evaluation will replace duration of degrees and will pave the way to granting equivalence and Mutual Recognition of Qualifications more easily.
  • In an effort to promote greater internationalisation, the AIU is in the process of setting up an ‘Indian Network of International Educators’ for all higher education stakeholders (universities, researchers, colleges and academics) to join as members and help each other with internationalising their organisations. UK universities can join this once it is ready to be launched so more details will be shared soon.
  • The AIU is also in the process of setting up an ‘AIU Collaboration Portal’ in association with Universities UK International (UUKi) which will act as a matchmaking platform for UK and Indian universities.


UCP Report Launch

We were delighted to be able to launch our latest report titled ‘University Corporate Partnerships: Connecting Universities and Corporates in the UK and India’ and present its key findings with our delegates and survey respondents. The report collates the outcomes of a survey we conducted in October last year to gauge the appetite and potential for UK universities and Indian businesses to explore new mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations with each other.

Going forward, the plan is to segment respondents into smaller groups, matching needs to capabilities, and organise monthly interactions to encourage dialogue and build the foundations of new partnerships. We will organise these showcase events on a monthly basis from April onwards.

Key takeaways of the report:

  • Indian companies should expand the number of UK universities they work with by overlooking the overall global rankings and focusing instead on their specialist subject ranking
  • UK universities should prioritise developing personal relationships with Indian businesses and leverage their alumni as ambassadors
  • There is a huge scope to explore research collaborations, graduate placements, internships, online training programmes, and vocational qualifications between Indian corporates and UK universities and training providers
  • Gaps in understanding exist on both sides, so regular dialogue and interaction between Indian industry and UK academia will help both stakeholders overcome their challenges, build resilience, and achieve sustainability in the years to come.

Roundtable with Pearson The Changing World of Work in India: Needs, Challenges and Opportunities

The second day of our virtual delegation concluded with a very insightful roundtable in partnership with our member, Pearson plc, which focused on the skills gaps that Indian employers face, the changing needs of a 21st century workplace, and the innovative steps that can be taken by industry and academia to address these challenges.  We had an excellent speaker panel which consisted of:

  • Jane Baker, Vice President of Higher Education Qualification, Pearson
  • Phil Myers, Head of Product, International, UK BTEC & Apprenticeships Qualification Development, Pearson
  • Premila Paulraj, Director, Employability and Qualifications, Pearson South Asia
  • Dr V M Bansal, Chairman, New Delhi Institute of Management
  • Mr Mussarat Hussain, AVP HR, Maruti Suzuki India Pvt. Ltd.
  • Dr Jatinder Singh, Director, PHDCCI
  • Mr Sameet Gambhir, Joint VP and CS, DCM Shriram Ltd
  • Mr D V Shastry, Executive Director (Training, R&D and Start Ups), GAIL (India) Ltd
  • Dr Sanjiv Mittal, Vice Chancellor, Sambalpur University, ODISHA
  • Dr W C Singh, Professor of Management, Manipur Institute of Management Studies (MIMS)

Our corporate speakers shared their experiences of hiring and training in a rapidly evolving workplace, the challenges they face leading to skills shortages in their workforce, the importance of holistic skills, and the solutions and best practice measures they undertake to upskill their staff and stay ahead of the curve.

Pearson shared a presentation which highlighted the current trends impacting education and skills in India, opportunities and challenges for learners, Indian businesses and HE stakeholders, the importance of socio-economic skills, how technical skills have evolved in 2020, and Pearson solutions such as their globally renowned BTEC qualifications.

Throughout the discussion, there was much said on the topic of hard and soft skills and how the pandemic has affected the need for each.  There was universal agreement that while students can be trained in technical skills upon hire, educational institutions should take on the responsibility of developing the right attitude in students and enhancing their adaptability, communication, and leadership abilities – skills which all employers look for from new recruits.

Many thanks to all who participated in our virtual higher education delegation, we hope our next one will be in person with you all!

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