Somerville College and the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development have announced the appointment of Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt, the former Labour Health Secretary, as Chair of the Advisory Board for the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development.
As Chair of the UK India Business Council for the last eight years, Ms Hewitt worked closely with Indian and British business and government leaders to promote commercial and economic ties between the two countries. She is a long-standing champion of India, arguing that its capacity for innovation, large and youthful population and rapidly growing middle class make it one of the world’s leading knowledge-driven economies. Ms Hewitt is also actively involved with Katha, a social enterprise working with children in Delhi’s poorest communities.
The Oxford India Centre, based at Somerville College, provides scholarships for exceptional students from India and carries out research on sustainable development challenges facing the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
Earlier this year, the centre hosted a high-level panel discussion with the Oxford India Society on ‘The changing tide of UK-India Relations’. The panellists included the Indian Deputy High Commissioner to the UK, His Excellency Dinesh Patnaik; Lord Bilimoria, the chairman and founder of Cobra Beer; the investment banker Lord Gadhia, Sakate Khaitan, senior partner at Khaitan Legal Associates, and Ms Hewitt.
The Centre has also held conferences in Oxford and Delhi on nutrition, bringing together experts from academia, governments and NGOs to identify answers to the challenges of sustainable nutrition.
Alex Rogers, a Somerville Fellow and previous director of the Oxford India Centre, is chief scientist of the Nekton Foundation which aims to embark on a new mission to explore the deep-sea ecosystems of the Indian Ocean.
The Principal of Somerville, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, said:
“We are very fortunate to have secured Patricia as advisory board chair at this exciting time for the Oxford India Centre. Her expertise and her extensive knowledge of India will be invaluable in the period ahead as we expand the centre’s role and impact, and seek to support more Indian students to come to study at Oxford.”
Vivek Nanda, Executive Director of the Oxford India Centre, said: “Patricia, whom I have known as Board Member of the UK India Business Council, has an exemplary knowledge of and affinity for India – we are privileged to have her insight and energy to guide the growth of the centre.”
Ms Hewitt said: “I am delighted to accept the role of chair of the advisory board. I enjoyed meeting some of the centre’s Scholars and Fellows at Somerville recently and hearing their ambitious plans to support India’s sustainable development goals.
“I have no doubt that the Oxford India Centre, which is already helping to develop India’s next generation of leaders, will play an increasingly important role in building broader and deeper relationships between India and the UK, to the great benefit of both countries.”
Ms Hewitt has had a long and distinguished career in government, business and the not-for-profit sector. She was Health Secretary between 2005 and 2007 and before that Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and Cabinet Minister for Women.
She was Member of Parliament for Leicester West from 1997 to 2010 and has close links with Britain’s South Asian diaspora. Ms Hewitt was recently appointed an adviser to a new Board of Trade convened by Dr Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary.