On Wednesday the 21st of October, Somerville’s OIC Scholars were invited for a tour of Westminster Hall. Deepa Kurup, who is reading for an Mphil in Development Studies, reports on the events of the day.
A day’s break from the hard academic life at Oxford turned into a unique educative experience for students and fellows at the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development at Somerville College, Oxford University. The day trip to London comprised an exhaustive tour of Westminster Hall, interactions with members and a meeting and dinner reception at the High Commission of India.
The group from Somerville was hosted in London by Lord Karan Bilimoria, Indian-origin British entrepreneur and independent crossbench life peer in the House of Lords. Indian students from Oxford University and Cambridge University were part of the cohort of students visiting Parliament. After an interesting tour of the historic Westminster Hall — among the oldest buildings in London — students also sat in on debates at the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Mr. Bilimoria spoke to students about the history and architecture of the building and shared lively nuggets on the functioning of Parliament and the interesting dynamic between the two Houses.
In an interactive session with students, Mr. Bilimoria spoke about the need for strengthening education and research ties between India and the United Kingdom. He spoke passionately about the need for developing wider scholarship programmes and easing the student immigration process. Deepening partnerships in the education sector can catalyse bonds between the two nations that are enduring and generational, he told students. Virendra Sharma, Member of Parliament for Ealing, South Hall, joined him at the session. He emphasized the need to leave students out of the contentious political debate on immigration to ensure more students get the opportunity to study at some of the top Universities in the world and are able to do so in a safe environment.
The Westminster visit was followed by a meeting and dinner reception hosted by the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Ranjan Mathai. The Oxbridge cohort was joined by students from the School of Oriental and African Studies, Warwick University, King’s College London and University of Brighton, among others. Addressing the students, Mr. Mathai said that the Commission was working on expanding education, research and teaching partnerships between the two countries. Officials and staff at India House asked students to work towards building a network of Indian students in the United Kingdom, and to find ways to liaise more with the Indian High Commission.