Bridging Borders and Boundaries through GFOL-I

Another month, another country, another global Festival of Learning! This week the Festival Flame was taken by over 30 BU staff and students to the fastest growing economy in the world – and my home country – India.

The Festival Flame

Why India this year? Well, the country is thriving – between 2002 and 2015 GDP per capita in India more than tripled from $461 to $1,580, and by 2015 the Indian economy reached over $2,000bn. India has been one of the largest contributors to global growth over the last decade, accounting for about 10% of the world’s increase in economic activity since 2005. However, there is a flipside to this kind of rapid growth. On the education front alone, the Indian higher education system is facing an unprecedented transformation in the decades to come. Currently, over 50% of India’s population is under 25 years old (that’s about 600 million); by 2020 India will outpace China as the country with the largest tertiary-age population. The education system is under huge pressure. India’s skill development and capacity building efforts are in jeopardy – 10% of India’s youth are unemployed and as many as 75% of Indian graduates are considered unemployable.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a week-long Festival is going to impact on any of the above, BUT, I do believe that the point of our Global Festival of Learning is to connect with our counterparts and to start conversations which we hope will lead to collaborations across our campuses, communities, and countries. The Festival is our attempt to provide a catalyst for co-creating education and research to deliver a future policy and practice impact.

So, our students arrived in Pune first and spent over a week working with students from our hosts at Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts on their projects. They all worked so hard and produced a fantastic exhibition which included a photo gallery raising awareness of the issue of stray animals in India’s cities through to a short film that looked at the cost of Pune’s urbanization through interviews with local people.

Students presenting their research projects

GFOL-I has also helped me connect to the impactful and magnificent work our staff are engaged in – ranging from exploring the lifestyle issued faced by Nepali migrant workers, why citizens participate in political campaigning, and how we nurture creative talent through our unique BFX Competition…just to name a few!

Peter Truckel – Nurturing talent through VFX

Everyone was of course expecting India to be hot at this time of year, but it turned out that we were in India during an unexpected heat wave – not many people wanted to venture outside! Nevertheless, over the week we had over 250 visitors across a diverse week of talks, exhibitions, and workshops.

In addition to sharing the work of our BU staff and students, we also had fascinating and lively panel discussions – from Pune’s ‘Sticky floor, glass ceiling and stone walls: leadership challenges for women in HE’ to the highly topical ‘Trump, Modi and May: media in the new world’ held in Delhi – a very passionate debate!

We also had some amazing keynote speakers. We heard from Dr Anupam Saraph, Adjunct Professor at Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research; Zaki Ansari, MD and CEO of Cinestaan; Ambassador T. P. Sreenivasan; and Pratik Dattani, MD of EPG Economic and Strategy Consulting. All so different and yet all so thought provoking. In Pune, Dr Saraph for example reminded us that technology might be able solve so many of our problems these days but perhaps we need to pause a moment and take time to reflect why we have these problems in the first place…In Delhi, Pratik Dattani extended this debate describing how ‘the robots are coming’ and what this means for our education system reminding me that we need to start working now to prepare our young talent for this unknown future.

Pratik Dattani – Getting India employed

Of course, we didn’t stop in between sessions either. We managed to squeeze in some meetings with industry giants Prime Focus and the Higher Education ministry– I’m excited about the possibilities that have emerged this week.

The week closed in style at the British Council on Friday night with the Connect India Mobility Awards. Our worthy winners and finalists were:

Young India Award

Samridhi Khanna – Winner
Aarushi Bhardwaj – Finalist
Anavi Chander – Finalist

BU Alumni Award

Vidyut Patra – Winner
Parth Mahendra Patel – Finalist
Pradeep Shetty – Finalist

Journalist of Change Award

Snigdha Poonam – Winner
Rhythma Kaul – Finalist
Priyanka Dubey – Finalist
Nikita Saxena – Finalist
Shafaq Shah – Finalist
Pallavi Rebbapragada – Finalist

We look forward to seeing all the winners in Bournemouth soon!

So, it’s fair to say, I am exhausted. I bow to the organising committee headed by Dr Sreedharan and Dr Leahy-Harland and importantly to all the staff and students who worked together to deliver a high impact series of conversations and collaborations. I’m looking forward to GFOL India 2018 already! Let’s just do it in February next year though…

So, all is left for me to say is that the Festival flame is now handed over to China – starting on the 14th May – check out the programme to see what we have lined up.

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