Result of the Obama-Singh knowledge initiative.
By Niharika Mookerjee
NEW YORK: The Ohio State University (OSU), one of the four winners of the highly competitive and prestigious Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative, has teamed up with the much-acclaimed Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to launch a pilot project in establishing STEM training faculty for education and research at world class levels. OSU will receive $250,000 in grant money from the award for a period of three years to set up the project.
The Obama- Singh Initiative is an agreement between governments of India and the US, who have committed $5 million each, to bolster academic institutional partnerships between the two countries.
“This OSU-AMU endeavor, set against the larger backdrop of a global educational expansion program, is aimed at bridging the educational gaps in faculty anticipated at institutions of higher education in emerging nations,” said Christopher Carey, director of Global Gateways at the Office of International Affairs at OSU, in an interview to The American Bazaar.
To streamline the overarching mission, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) Universities in the U.S. has formulated a proposal for training Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics (STEM) faculty members abroad through Inter-Institutional Partnerships.
Anil Pradhan, senior adviser to the Vice-Provost for Global Strategies and International Affairs at OSU and professor at Department of Astronomy, Chemical Physics Program, and the Biophysics Graduate Program, said in an interview that the OSU-AMU initiative would be part of a larger picture of interlinking other Indian institutions with US universities to lay the ground work for training faculty in STEM research in India.
As an accelerated and intensive program, it is projected to be a two-year degree that will be given on completion to selected students who are currently enrolled at the doctoral programs at AMU.
“The benchmark for qualification would be candidates with good academic credentials and track record of exceptional research work. They would also need to satisfy the graduate requirements set by OSU. Of the two years, one year would be spent in OSU after which they would be required to go back and continue teaching in India. They would further be assisted with e learning and digitized infrastructure,” Pradhan said.
At OSU, the College of Education, College of Engineering, College of Arts and Sciences along with College of Natural and Medical Sciences will work in alliance with AMU, which is ranked ninth among top 10 institutions of higher learning in India by Times Higher Education Magazine, UK.
“The team at AMU, headed by the Vice-Chancellor Lt. General (retired) Zameeruddin Shah, gauged the tremendous potential in the offer and expressed their eagerness to get the project started,” Pradhan said.
The training of its faculty members in India’s premier institutions is an imperative as perceived by the Government of India to provide its citizens with scientific and technological edge over other competing countries such as China and Brazil. At present, only 18 percent of its youth receive higher education, according to a report by The Christian Science Monitor.
“However, despite the gaps in education, the Indian government has been slow in passing educational bills or coming up with projects that would be an exemplar of how higher educational needs will be met in the country. The IIT’s, no doubt, have their impressive accomplishments, but they train only a few thousand students a year. The question facing those, who are truly serious about India’s development in the global stage, is the accessibility of education to its further 50 million students, combined with a strident expansion of its scientific and technological infra-structure,” said Pradhan.
Although the proposal is still in its preliminary stage, the OSU-AMU collaboration strives to be a role model in creating an excellent hub of highly trained STEM faculty. To minimize the chances of misuse, such as the possibility of students seeking residency in US, the students would be under contractual agreement. Furthermore, their degree requirements will not be completed until they return to AMU and complete the course.
In view of the current state of dwindling economy in India, Pradhan assured that the candidates, equipped with a Ph.D. in their home institution and Masters from OSU, would have a promising future waiting for them with regard to job availability.
The major flow of revenue will be directed from US-India Education Foundation, as proposed by State Secretary, John Kerry, at India-U.S. Higher Education Dialogue in New Delhi on June 25.
“Additionally, as part of cost-sharing of direct and indirect resources, the sum will be further matched by shared contributions from OSU and AMU, including tuition and fee waiver from OSU for admitted AMU students, ”said Pradhan.
“Eventually, we expect University Grants Commission (UGC) and Department of Science and Technology (DST) to step up and enlarge the program by actively encouraging partnerships with other universities in US and India, and funding these projects on a regular basis. The objective should be to establish STEM training centers in as many universities as possible in India,” he said.
A global STEM education and research faculty will generate a steady revenue stream for OSU for registrants not only from India but also other global institutions.
Carey emphasized that India has been of strategic importance for Ohio State University (OSU) for the past fifty years. Recently, it celebrated its 50 years of alliance with Punjab Agricultural University and was, incidentally, one of the nine institutions influential in funding Kanpur IIT.
OSU has a Gateway Office set up in Mumbai, India which acts as an embassy to help facilitate and support the university in academics, encouraging students to seek internships with multi-national companies and assisting faculties with research programs.
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