Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: Creating Sustainable Global Partnerships in Education

Colleges and Universities are a microcosm of the larger world. We live in a diverse and increasingly multicultural world where simplistic definitions of either national or cultural identities are no longer valid. International exposure at the college level enables students to learn team building across cultures, to deconstruct stereotypes and generalisations about other people and cultures and prepares them for increasingly complex and interdependent work and living spaces. International collaboration will prove to have benefits beyond the academic sphere and will impact both the student and teacher to move towards better global citizenry.

In addition, the teaching- learning experience needs to be attuned to and evolve with the generation that lives in an age of instant communication, web- generated information and social networking through technology. The role of the teacher has changed from being the transmitter of information to a facilitator. As facilitators, teachers need to learn from each other how best to cope with the rapidly changing demands of the present generation and evolve new strategies to grapple with the challenges of education today.

Delhi University under its dynamic Vice Chancellor is looking outwards and “reaching out to fraternal institutions in different parts of the world for collaborative programmes, research networks, student exchanges and so on”. In the 2014 QS Rankings of Asian Universities, Delhi University stands at rank 81. This evaluation is based on a variety of criteria, and while it fares well as far as academic reputation and research parameters are concerned, the most glaring losses for Delhi University are in terms of international students, international faculty and foreign exchanges (both inbound and outbound). There is hence a palpable space in the university’s internationalization approach. For its’ own part, Lady Shri Ram College has had some experience of collaborative ventures and has tried to evolve methods to navigate through the infrastructural and technical hurdles in these ventures. The time seems ripe now to embark on new initiatives that can add value to and strengthen links with other institutions of higher learning.

Collaborative ventures can add value to both institutions – whether in the form of creating more opportunities for the students, increasing research possibilities, enhancing brand value and increasing student diversity. However, each potential partnership is fraught with several challenges including differing undergraduate systems of education, economic inequalities and differing cultural norms and expectations. The aim should not and cannot be to replicate academic systems that exist globally and create monolithic academic structures based on them. Each system has its own strengths and weaknesses and collaborative ventures need to be mindful and accepting of difference. To give just one example, the Indian education system is not as rigidly structured as many Western systems and time-tables and schedules are not a sacrosanct. This can be a challenge for students from some cultures but can also provide a unique opportunity to explore alternate ways of functioning.

In conclusion, the goals behind this project are to forge better and strengthened international collaborations as well as review, revise and learn from existing international collaborations at university level. This in effect will not only enhance the utilisation of the resources of the University but will also reinforce the academic relationship between teacher and student. The need of the hour is to fashion new platforms in accordance with the changing times while also not losing the essence of ‘change’ itself. This wholesomeness is the essential rationale behind Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

What we have endeavoured to achieve in our careful examination is a continuum between these two extremes, innovation and design so as to create navigational pathways in order to negotiate the hurdles that the Delhi University is facing in terms of in terms of international students, international faculty and foreign exchanges at the moment.

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