The PIE: How have you found student sentiment in the last six months given so much uncertainty? How would you characterise it?
Athulya Aravind: From what I observe, students are very much disappointed with the travel ban, because they’ve been very enthusiastic with the new post-study graduate route in the UK. After the pandemic, I see the interest still living because, you know, students are keenly pursuing their plans. Those things are still very much alive.
“Student unions have been really reaching out to the students and kind of giving them moral support”
Some students, using these flights under the air bubble agreements between India and UK – were able to reach the campus. They managed to reach the campus. That willingness [to travel] portrays student sentiment.
Obviously there are difficulties and challenges, which students had to face during the Indian international travel restrictions. But I mean, they they are a resilient bunch – and they are looking forward.
One thing that amazingly I saw in the UK was the student groups, the student societies, the student unions have been really reaching out to the students and kind of giving them moral support that ‘you’re not alone’. It’s beautiful. Many people over the last few days [at The PIE Live] spoke about the empathy factor and cultural sensitivity. These are key things that the pandemic has highlighted.
The PIE: Could you tell me more about your role? What do you do for Kings in India?
AA: I manage the partnerships for Kings in India. My remit is exclusively pan-India. I look after all the nine faculties’ interests in India: this encompasses research, academic, industry, outreach… I’m kind of a bridge between King’s and Indian institutions, managing the institutional relationships.
The PIE: And what do you think about the new national education policy in India? What does that mean in terms of your role working with UK?
AA: It’s a very ambitious plan which came after 34 years. Internationalisation in India – the dominant strand had been outbound mobility all these years. With this policy, they are trying to make it a level playing field by giving the regulators flexibility and inviting more foreign collaboration.
“It’s a very ambitious plan which came after 34 years”
Because in India, regulatory frameworks are very tight, which was one of the roadblocks to the collaboration part. But now, I think the mindset is shifting towards more collaborative partnership opportunities, you know, more models of twinning programs or joint initiatives.
There is a new national research foundation that the government is proposing to build, to bring up the research component in India using all of the stakeholders’ inputs.
It’s a really good policy coming at the right time. I just want to wait and see how it is getting implemented.
The PIE: The King’s legacy is really prestigious university name here in the UK. Does that translate into India?
AA: Yes, definitely. I have been an international student, and I did my PhD in Japan. So I’ve always been aware of that trend: Indians have a big affinity towards international degrees, and quality education, education is a matter of prestige in India.
The PIE: What do you think are some of the most interesting partnerships that you have going on in India at the moment?
AA: Oh, we have a several collaborative academic, research projects and capacity building initiatives with the some of the premier institutions, pan-India.
The PIE: Last question: do you have a lot of British students from King’s coming out to India to take part in exchange?
AA: There is interest. This year, we had some students who were funded through bilateral government projects, but unfortunately, because of the pandemic, we had to put them on hold. But you know there is definitely interest for specialised programs or courses which are funded; that funding is something which makes it attractive.