University News

University partners with Indian tech school

Contributing Writer
Friday, October 22, 2010

The University formalized a two-part partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay Oct. 5, according to a University press release.

The partnership is based on two memoranda establishing an undergraduate exchange and promoting “academic and faculty collaboration,” the press release said.

The idea of academic and faculty collaboration is not specifically defined, but it will probably include joint research, President Ruth Simmons said. Vice President for International Affairs Matthew Gutmann said collaboration may also include joint papers and faculty exchanges.

“We think there are lots of different ways we can collaborate,” Simmons said. “The one thing we didn’t want to do is define it too clearly, because there may be opportunities we cannot foresee for department programs, for scholar-to-scholar programs and so on.”

The student exchange, which Gutmann called “the heart” of the partnership, is targeted to start next fall, when two students from Brown will study for a semester at IIT-Bombay, while two from IIT-Bombay will come to Brown.

Gutmann and Simmons said they hoped the exchange would benefit science and engineering students, who Gutmann said might be less likely to study abroad because of concentration requirements.

“This will provide our students an opportunity to go to one of the world’s best science and technology universities,” Gutmann said.

Simmons said that the plan to form a partnership in India began before last year’s Year of India initiative.

“We needed to develop a stronger understanding of the strengths of the higher education system in India, and we needed to have stronger relationships with institutions in India,” Simmons said.

Brown currently has partnerships with over 100 institutions in dozens of countries, as formal agreements or as collaborations, Gutmann said.

The origins of the partnership came out of a meeting at IIT-Bombay when Simmons and other administrators visited India last March. Though the terms of the partnership were not determined then, the meeting established a “commitment” to developing such terms, Simmons said.

Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron said the process for selecting students for the exchange has not yet been determined. Other details to work out include residential aspects of the exchange.

“Normally when we have Brown programs that send students abroad, we have on-site contact people,” Bergeron said. “We want to establish some of those services to make sure that students don’t get lost in a system that’s unfamiliar to them.”

IIT-Bombay Director Devang Khakhar said he expected the international aspect of the exchange to be valuable to students.

“The students come from very different cultures, and I think this kind of experience is useful,” Khakhar said. “More students that come out of institutions like ours, they end up doing something that has an international element to it.”

Given the selectivity of IIT-Bombay, Simmons said, the University is fortunate to have established the partnership. Bergeron said IIT-Bombay receives about 450,000 applications per year, and that the school accepts less than 1 percent of its applicants.

“It’s a credit to them that they want to see this exchange because every place and university in India is very precious, because the proportion of spots that are available to the population are relatively restrictive,” Simmons said. “I think that the involvement in the international community is very important for all universities — their interest in this indicates very strongly their interest in being an international university.”

Though the Times of India reported in August that Brown had plans to set up an office in Mumbai — the site of IIT-Bombay’s campus — Gutmann said the University has not established any plans to do so yet.