Indian studies gain traction in New Zealand varsities

Hyderabad, Dec 20: Indian studies is attracting more and more students in New Zealand, where seven out of the eight universities offer these courses, said head of a consortium of universities who hoped to “develop linkages with Indian universities and research institutes”.

New Zealand India Research Institute (NZIRI) at the Victoria University of Wellington has brought together scholars actively engaged in research on India in the New Zealand universities.

As many as 50 full-time academics are the fellows of the institute, pooling together their synergies.

NZIRI Director Sekhar Bandyopadhyay told IANS: “It is the largest such group outside India.”

Established last year, the institute aims to promote and facilitate research on India and New Zealand-India relations.

“We intend to develop linkages with Indian universities and research institutes and are looking forward for concrete proposal for joint research projects,” said Sekhar, who was earlier this month in Hyderabad to attend an international conference on ‘society, religion and modernity in India’.

The conference was organised by the NZIRI at the University of Hyderabad as part of the relationship it has built with the Indian university. It already has a linkage with the Jawaharlal Nehru University and is negotiating similar agreement with the University of Calcutta and others.

Six academics from New Zealand attended the international conference, the first such event organised by the NZIRI in India.

“Twenty papers were presented which was followed by intense debate. There was interaction between academics from New Zealand, the University of Hyderabad and other universities and institutes,” said Sekhar, who teaches Asian history at the Victoria University of Wellington.

NZIRI, which is currently funding 12 research projects on India, plans to hold similar conferences in other universities for a long-term collaboration with Indian academics.

Sekhar pointed out that the Indian studies in New Zealand started in 1960s. The demand has gone up in recent years due to the growing importance of India.

New Zealand has an Indian diaspora of 112,000 and the two countries also share the history as both gained independence from the British and are members of the Commonwealth.

“India is very important for various reasons all over the world. India is strategically important,” said Sekhar. He also pointed out that New Zealand is currently negotiating free trade agreement with India.

NZIRI is also trying to promote postgraduate studies on India in New Zealand universities, promote academic exchanges between India scholars in New Zealand, India and other parts of the world and contribute to academic capacity building in New Zealand and India.

By organising the conferences, the institute also plans to inform Indian students of the quality education New Zealand offers. “New Zealand is a small country with eight universities but all are among top 500 universities in the world. New Zealand offers world class education and this is not well known in India,” he said.

He sees a huge potential of educational linkages between the two countries. More than 12,000 Indian students are currently studying in New Zealand, which offers world-class education.

Being an English-speaking country, low fee and better living conditions are among many advantages to the Indian students.

When New Zealand Prime Minister John Key visited India in 2011, education was identified as an important part of relation-building between the two countries. The two countries decided to establish an India New Zealand Education Council (INZEC) to carry forward cooperation in the education sector.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at m.shafeeq@ians.in)

IANS