Oxford celebrates 400 years of links with India

Last Updated: Thursday, June 16, 2011 - 18:37

Oxford: The University of Oxford has had
close links with India for centuries, but for the first time
the ancient seat of learning will celebrate an `Oxford-India
Day` on Friday by bringing together scholars and a select group
of Indian business, academic and policy leaders.

Oxford - better known by poet Matthew Arnold`s
description as a `city of dreaming spires` - has been home to
thousands of Indian students since the late 19th century,
including leading lights such as Manmohan Singh, Indira
Gandhi, Amitav Ghosh, Cornelia Sorabji and Mansur Ali Khan
Pataudi.

In the current academic year, there are 363 Indian
students, mostly postgraduates studying social sciences.
Indian students are the sixth largest national group
at the university, Ruth Collier, Head of Information at the
university, told said today.

There are 1,100 Oxford alumni currently in India,
while Indian academics at the university number 84, Collier
said.

Besides, there are extensive research and
collaborative links between the university and India.
The one-day event tomorrow will include a cricket
match, presentations by leading scholars on India, a concert
and a reception at the Ashmolean Museum.

Noted historian Ramachandra Guha will present a
keynote address on the topic, `Why India is the world`s most
interesting country`, while Lord Chris Patten, chancellor,
will recount the `enduring relationship` between India and
Oxford.

Patten said the university had four for the day: "to
communicate to invited guests and the wider public the breadth
of Oxford-India connections through people, research, and
historical/artistic treasures; to re-engage with and energise
alumni interested in India, to bring together researchers from
across the university working on India, and to lay the
foundation for new and expanded links with India".

Oxford links with India go back a long way in history.

The first recorded Englishman to arrive in India was
from Oxford (Father Thomas Stephens from New College, in
1579). His letters lay the foundation of Anglo-Indian
literature.

The first Indian paintings given to any Western
library were given to the Bodleian Library (Mughal paintings
given in 1630 by William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury and St
John`s College graduate).

The first Oxford professorship relating to India was
established in 1832; Indian students first came to Oxford in
1871, when entry opened to non-clergy; and Oxford`s Indian
Institute was founded in 1883.

Oxford University Press India is coming up for its
100th anniversary: it was founded in 1912.

More recent milestones include the founding of the
Asian Studies Centre at St Antony`s College (1982); and the
appointment of Oxford`s first Professor of Indian History and
Culture (2002).

In 2008, the university launched the one-year MSc in
Contemporary India, the first of its kind in the world.

The course immerses students in knowledge about
India`s signal achievements and its persistent challenges,
while teaching rigorous social science analysis.

The course has attracted high quality students from
India and worldwide, Collier said.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, June 16, 2011 - 18:37

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