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Opposed to revised visa laws as Indian students are important to us, says Cambridge VC

Posted on September 25, 2014
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Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the vice chancellor of the University of Cambridge, is in the city for a series of meetings and events. On Tuesday, the vice chancellor will be presenting the Cambridge Outstanding Learner awards to principals of schools across the country where outstanding learners have been identified at the IGCSE and A-level, at an event hosted by Cambridge International Examinations at the Oberoi Hotel. He took out time from his packed schedule to speak to Tanea Bandyopadhyay about the various hurdles faced by Indian students applying abroad.

What brings you to India?
This visit is with regards to our PhD programs. We do not intend to have a campus outside of the UK for undergraduates as our curriculum and method of teaching are very different from those in other countries. We are, however, interested from the post-graduate level. We’d like to partner with Indian institutions and research in the fields of nanotechnology, food and health security, etc. We’re also looking to set up Cambridge and Indian fellowships for about five years wherein various research projects can be undertaken.

How have the revised rules regarding student visas affected the inflow of Indian students?
There has definitely been a considerable decline in most British universities. However, being a top varsity where one in six applicant gets in, Cambridge has not seen a reduction. At the moment we have around 250 Indian students studying with us, which is the third highest after China and the US. Although, no student who has gotten a seat at Cambridge has faced any problems acquiring a visa. In fact, I’m opposed to the revised visa laws as Indian students are very important to us.

Many Indian students are picking Australian and American universities over British universities. Why do you think they have become such popular alternatives?
Degree education in Britain is quite different. An undergraduate course runs from 3 to 4 years and the aim of curriculum is to create interest to synthesise knowledge. So while in American varsities, a student may study Greek mythology and graduate with a physics degree, here we offer a more disciplined learning. We want our students to assimilate and understand a subject in the most optimum manner.

But the Masters program in other universities is held over a period of two years while their UK counterparts only run for a year.

Yes, this is because the program is extremely intensive and classes are conducted through nearly 47 weeks. There are no long vacations during the program.

What are the some of the interesting programs that you are currently working on?
We’ve been trying to bring the science, the arts and humanities together. For instance, the Tuberculosis research program by Lalita Ramakrishnan looks into the drug-resistant strain of the bacteria, but also looks into the stigmatization of TB patients. It’s important that both the scientific and humanities aspect of the problem is addressed. We have many other such programs like the establishment of a centre of international education with particular interest in the primary and secondary fields of education.

What are your future plans for India?
This is the sixth year that I’ve been visiting India and I look forward to working jointly with these institutions to maintain the enviable global position Cambridge has. I look forward to receiving more Indian students to our university, where they’re a very important component and bring a certain vibrancy to the campus.

Tanea Bandyopadhay

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