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India’s minister for primary, secondary and higher education visited Somerville College on 21 January to meet with Dr Alice Prochaska, Somerville Principal, to hear about the development of plans for the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, and to meet with Somerville’s first Indian graduate scholars in sustainable development.

Dr Pallam Raju, who was appointed Indian Cabinet Minister for Human Resources Development in October 2012, visited the College alongside Dr Virander Paul, Deputy High Commissioner of India, Lord Bilimoria, co-founder and chairman of Cobra Beer, and Professor Ved Prakash, Chairman of the Indian University Grants Commission. Dr Paul and Lord Bilimoria are members of the College’s Implementation Committee for the Centre.

“I am delighted to welcome Pallam Raju to Somerville to see how our plans to establish the Centre are proceeding,” said Alice Prochaska, College Principal. “It was an excellent opportunity for him to meet the Indira Gandhi scholars who joined us last October and to hear at first hand what receiving these scholarships to study at Oxford means to them.”

The Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development is expected to be fully operational in 2017, but has already begun work with the appointment of Dr Alfred Gathorne-Hardy and its first Indira Gandhi scholars and fellows. This is due to the generosity of the Indian government, who are donating £3 million to fund new scholarships for Indian graduate students and for fellowships in sustainable development.

The new Centre will be housed in a flagship building on the University’s Radcliffe Observatory site, adjacent to the College.

The Centre will conduct interdisciplinary research on areas of critical importance to India and the wider world, drawing on the expertise of academics at Somerville College and across the University of Oxford.

The target date for the Centre to be fully operational is 2017. But it has already started work with the appointment of a Research Director, Dr Alfred Gathorne-Hardy, and the first Indira Gandhi Scholars and Fellows. This is due to the generosity of the Government of India who are donating £3 million to fund new scholarships for Indian graduate students and for fellowships in sustainable development. The University of Oxford and Somerville College are matching that grant.

Somerville plans that the Centre will be housed in a flagship new building on the University’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter site, adjacent to Somerville.

Indira Gandhi, India’s first female prime minister, was an undergraduate at Somerville College. But the first Indian woman to attend Somerville College was Cornelia Sorabji, who was also the first Indian woman to study at any British university. She would go on to become India’s first female barrister, and a lifelong champion of the rights of sequestered women in India.

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