UK university and India’s IIT agree joint first degree

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In a unique deal, an Indian institute of technology and an overseas university have agreed to offer a joint degree, Times Higher Education can reveal.

The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) and the University of Birmingham will partner for two-year masters programs in the fields of energy systems, data science and biomedical engineering.

Proponents of UK-India education partnerships, including former universities minister Lord Johnson of Marylebone, have long sought to establish outposts of prestigious IITs on British soil. But the deal marks the emergence of the first such partnership since India backed away from plans to open IIT branches overseas earlier this year.

It comes as New Delhi and Westminster seek to strengthen ties via a post-Brexit trade deal, with outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently saying he aims to put in place a bilateral treaty as Indians mark the holiday. of Diwali in October. .

Birmingham pro-vice chancellor Robin Mason said THE that he had high expectations for the new educational partnership, emphasizing the benefits for both countries.

“I think it will indeed prove very popular – and not just with Indian students,” he said, adding that “there is every chance” that the first students admitted will start their studies at the fall 2023.

According to Professor Mason, under the Birmingham-Madras scheme, students would spend around a year each in India and the UK, with faculty from both sides also moving between institutions.

After graduation, students would receive a “single degree certificate with both university crests on it” rather than two separate degrees, he said.

The proposed topics would match national priorities and also play to complementary strengths of the institutions, he said.

“IIT-Madras is very strong in devices for biomedical engineering, whereas we tend to be stronger in terms of synthetic materials, membranes and fabrics. IIT-Madras does not have a medical school – for these purposes we do a lot of translational science and have a medical school [and] clinical facilities to conduct trials.

Although he is reluctant to specify how many students could go on to study under the scheme, Prof Mason said he ‘could see’ each of his three schemes ‘being easily attractive to 50 or more students per year’ .

He stressed that universities would prioritize quality over quantity, keeping the curriculum “very selective”. “They’re not volume programs, so they’re not going to be huge,” he said.

But even if admission remains low, partners will face the huge difference in cost between Indian and British university degrees, he conceded.

‘Students would pay comparable fees for both years – it won’t work if IIT Madras costs £2,500 per year and Birmingham £25,000 per year,’ he said. “I would expect students who enroll in these programs to receive significant scholarships that will help make up the difference in fees.”

Although the financial details had yet to be worked out, Professor Mason was confident that the program would be accessible to students from both institutions.

“We anticipate that the majority – if not all – of students will receive merit-based scholarships, although the amount of these remains to be seen,” he said, adding: “We are aware that we will have need to invest in the program to make it a success”.

Besides costs, universities will also have to deal with quality assurance and governance issues. “Joint programs are difficult – there’s a reason there aren’t many of them,” Professor Mason said. “But I don’t think those are insurmountable obstacles.”

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