Sir David: Education must ensure jobs

David Eastwood, vice chancellor and principal professor of the University of Birmingham, said universities must make students employable…reports Aparajita Gupta 

David Eastwood, vice chancellor and principal professor of the University of Birmingham
David Eastwood, vice chancellor and principal professor of the University of Birmingham

Given the widening industry-academia gap in India, a good employability strategy and investments towards it by educational institutions can help address the problem, a leading British academician says.

“We produce very employable graduates. We work hard on our employability strategy for our students. We start working on preparing students from the early days about things which can develop their skills like, sporting activities volunteering. We offer all our students opportunity of internship, mentoring, studying overseas and many more,” Sir David Eastwood, vice chancellor and principal professor of the University of Birmingham, said.

The university’s connection to India spans more than a century. In 1909 the first Indian student went to the university to study mining and commerce.

The university currently has 138 students from India. The popular choice of subjects include bio-sciences, business, computer science and engineering. The Indian alumni from the university currently stands at 1,300.

“We have a rich menu of opportunities for our students to compliment academic studies so that students are employable. We engage students in team working, problem solving, communication skills and other activities irrespective of the stream they are studying,” he said. Eastwood was here on his third trip to India.

“We have made major investments in making students employable. Like our staff work with the students to prepare their CVs, how to present themselves in the interviews, to work with them early on to develop their career ambitions. Then we help our students to do internships in various business houses and non-governmental organisations for 6-8 weeks. We also give support to those who need it,” Eastwood said.

Eastwood and Indian-origin Lord Karan Bilimoria, chancellor, University of Birmingham accompanied British Universities Minister Greg Clark on an official visit here.

Many Indian institutions send teams to the University of Birmingham to study the operations of its career service and business engagement teams.

Eastwood said that to successfully bridge the academia-industry gap, universities should have the right kind of dialogue with industry and the government to understand the needs of industry.

At the University of Birmingham, academicians are partnering with business houses and government to understand the need of the industry, he said.

Academicians in the university are “naturally networked”, Eastwood said, as they are mostly engaged in preparing various research reports for the government or working with NGOs. This is considered central to their work.

At present, there are 64 staff of Indian nationality working at the University of Birmingham, of which 41 are academic staff and 23 are administrative staff.

The university has around 5,000 international students on campus from 150 different countries.

The University of Birmingham has several partnerships with various Indian universities like Delhi University, Indian Institute of Science, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research and many more. It is also in talks with the Punjab University to ink two agreements on a joint-research programme and is hopeful of signing this soon.

The university is located in the second largest city in Britain, and one of its most culturally diverse. More than 1,500 Indian nationals arrive in Birmingham every year to work.