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Somerville’s deepening ties with India

15th May 2017

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The first half of 2017 has seen a variety of events with the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development (OICSD), raising its profile both in the UK and abroad and furthering its core mission of advancing sustainable development in India.

On 27 February 2017, delegates from the OICSD at Somerville College attended a reception at Buckingham Palace to launch the UK-India 2017 Year of Culture. Her Majesty the Queen invited people from a variety of different industries including performing arts, fashion, food, literature and sport, to celebrate the deep cultural ties between the UK and India, after seventy years of Indian independence.

Acting Director of the OICSD and Somerville’s Biological Sciences Fellow, Professor Alex Rogers, Principal Dr Alice Prochaska and Director of Development, Sara Kalim, had the great privilege to meet Her Majesty and other members of the Royal family, in recognition of the Centre’s work to advance India’s sustainable growth. The celebration was a perfect precursor to the OICSD delegates’ trip to India.

The Principal and a delegation including Sara Kalim, Alex Rogers, Professor Daniel Anthony (OICSD management committee member and Somerville’s Fellow and Tutor in Medicine), Dr Alfred Gathorne-Hardy (OICSD Research Director), and Debottam T. Bose (Legal Consultant to the OICSD) left for Mumbai and Delhi on 13 March to collaborate with India’s leading academics, policy-makers and lawyers on the country’s most pressing sustainable development issues.

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The Principal was invited by O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU), in Sonipat, Haryana, to speak on a panel of many distinguished guests, chiefly the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, who inaugurated the event. The 3-day international conference was on the theme of ‘Universities of the Future: Knowledge, Innovation and Responsibility’. It covered a wide array of topics including Evolution of the Modern University, Universities for Building a Knowledge Society, Higher Education Challenges, Internationalisation of Higher Education, Making Universities Responsible, and Institution Building for Nation Building.

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The ‘Universities of the Future’ conference was the Principal’s last appointment in India, as unfortunately she fractured her arm while travelling to India and needed emergency treatment when she arrived in Mumbai. Sadly, she had to cut her trip short in order to return to the UK for further medical attention.

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On Tuesday 21 March a conference was hosted jointly by the OICSD and the Tata Trusts at the Habitat Centre in Delhi. Nutrition, Power and the Environment: Delhi 2017 was a follow-up event from A Complex Recipe, the inaugural conference of the OICSD which took place in July 2016 in Oxford.

At the inaugural conference the notion of social power had been brought to the fore of the debates on nutrition and the environment. Participants formed groups and then went away and carried out different actions in areas that were of interest to them. Three of these groups were invited to present their work at the Delhi conference in an event designed to simultaneously break down sectorial silos, and productively drive forward practical policy measures.

Too often individuals, companies and departments simply progress their narrow areas. This conference took over 60 experts from across the food system, and generated a list of the 10 most important steps that governments, academics, industry and NGOs need to do now if we want to achieve sustainable nutrition. The outcomes can be found here 10 Priorities.

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To end the trip, Somerville alumni in India were invited for a Delhi drinks reception which took place in the Willow Room of the India Habitat Centre. 25 Somervillians attended, taking the opportunity to share their news, reunite with old friends and to hear about the latest developments at the College. Attendees included OICSD alumni, Shahana Munazir (Contemporary India, 2013), who is currently working as a Legislative Assistant to a Member of Parliament Fellow in India; and Shriman Sai Raman (Geography and the Environment, 2013) who is a technical expert in the Land Use Planning and Management department with GIZ. To close the night, guests were invited to light traditional Indian lanterns.

The OICSD, established at Somerville College, advances India’s sustainable development by bringing different academic disciplines and sectors together. We develop future leaders by supporting exceptional Indian scholars to study at Oxford; we carry out multidisciplinary research on sustainable nutrition, the environment and health; and we translate academic ideas to the ground.

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