Edinburgh a historic university with a focus on the future
The South Asia head of the University of Edinburgh takes us through several initiatives and collaborations that are strengthening the India-Scotland connect. The University of Edinburgh is one of the six ancient universities in the UK, established in 1583; which has welcomed Indian students for more than 140 years and is today home to just under 400 students from the sub-continent. In the QS World Rankings 2019, Edinburgh ranked 18th in the world and has over 37,000 students. The global standing is based on the highest standards in teaching and research. Research conducted at Edinburgh has laid the foundations of modern economics and sociology, geology, English literature, quantum mechanics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, antiseptic surgery, nephrology and the theory of evolution. Edinburgh-based researchers discovered carbon dioxide, latent and specific heat, chloroform anaesthesia, SARS and developed the Hepatitis B vaccine, the hypodermic syringe, the kaleidoscope, the vacuum flask, the ATM, the diving chamber and in-vitro fertilisation. Edinburgh - where Dolly the sheep was created and where Peter Higgs developed his Higgs boson theory - has always been at the cutting edge of science, medicine, the arts & humanities, and has an ambitious vision to put Edinburgh at the heart of the best of 21st century innovation. One example of this can be seen with Big Data in which The University of Edinburgh is a world leader. By analysing large amounts of information, smart solutions are being developed to improve our health, transport systems, water and air quality, and countless other areas. The recently opened Bayes Centre, named after Thomas Bayes who studied logic and theology at Edinburgh in the 18th century. Bayes' Theorem helped break the Nazis' Enigma code and now underpins much of modern life, such as internet search engines will be the home for research in robotics and artificial intelligence, online security and synthetic voices. Edinburgh's global vision is translated by its network of offices around the world, providing local insights and expertise. India is one of the University's key areas for engagement, underlined by its India and South Asia Liaison Office, located in Mumbai. The office enables Edinburgh to establish mutually-beneficial partnerships with a wide range of groups and individuals in India and the wider region, bringing together the best brains to solve challenges of a truly global nature. I believe our engagement with India reflects the University's firm view that we are better at discovering and disseminating knowledge through research and teaching when we exchange knowledge between people from different places.
The University's commitment to India is reflected in the range of active partnerships: transdisciplinary project on diagnostics for antimicrobial resistance in humans, livestock and the environment; longitudinal studies to detect air pollution in Delhi and tracking effects on human health; marine renewable energy; big data and energy; smart grids; solar-powered water purification for rural households; wildlife protection; clinical veterinary skills; improvement of livestock health and husbandry; LiFi and digital communications; robotics, artificial intelligence and connections in music, architecture and graphic design. Ground-breaking work on the understanding of neurodegenerative diseases is being carried out in collaboration with inStem at the Centre for Brain Development and Repair in Bangalore. Edinburgh academics, like Dr Jamie Cross, are leading transformative projects to help some of the poorest people in India. Dr Cross's work is focussed on solar-powered lamps, which replace traditional kerosene ones. This cuts the risk of fire in people's homes, as well as removing hazardous fumes which can damage people's health. Much of the University's work in India is about deepening connections between Scotland / UK and India. The South Asia Regional Office, based in Mumbai, delivers an immersive interdisciplinary experience - the Sustainable Fashion Trek for third year undergraduate students, drawn from across the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, including the Business School and Edinburgh College of Art. Students travel across Gujarat and Mumbai for a lived experience to understand cotton - from the fields to factory, artisanal crafts such as bandhini, ajrakh and then leading on to the business of fashion. How does an eight-day trek on Sustainable Fashion build bridges Edinburgh students begin to understand the reality of the socioeconomic divide, rural-urban lifestyles, gender issues, lived history; social, economic and environmental sustainability, the dynamics of business in the fashion industry and much more. The Trek first took place in 2018 and again in February 2019. Students have conducted their dissertations with organisations encountered during the Trek, a UK distribution company for BoHeCo has been launched, articles and blogs have been written. The students are, therefore, very much a living bridge between the University and India. The University's renowned Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is engaged with India in animal welfare, livestock health and research via the Roslin Institute. The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education (JMICAWE) team is dedicated to improving the lives of animals and works with the South Asia Office to engage with institutions across India and Sri Lanka. The team is supporting the development of a veterinary nursing training programme at a leading veterinary university in India and is also conducting clinical skills for small animals training workshops in key cities. A major focus for the University of Edinburgh's team in Mumbai is to support the development of research partnerships. The University has a particularly successful track record with the UK India Education & Research Initiative (UKIERI) programme with nine projects currently funded. The UKIERI programme enhances educational linkages between the UK and India and the nine projects between the University of Edinburgh and its partners span data and communication science, climate science, future manufacturing and gender studies. One of these projects is focused on marine renewable energy, an emerging and very promising area of renewable energy. The University's excellence and expertise have been recognised by its partners and government and discussions are currently underway on assessing this technology for underserved coastal regions. D. K. Arvind, Professor of Distributed Wireless Computation at the School of Informatics is working on tracking data on air pollution from a large number of sensors placed across Delhi in collaboration with AIIMS hopes to inform policy. The research not only provides huge amounts of robust data around pollution in real time and space; but also informs around health impacts - lung diseases and long-term cognitive impact. Dr. Till Bachmann, Division of Infection and Pathway Medicine is leading a project on the development of rapid diagnostics to combat antimicrobial resistance in community healthcare, dairy farming and aquaculture, that brings together UK and Indian partners representing medicine, diagnostics innovators, economists and social scientists. This is an interdisciplinary project that aims to address AMR - one of the major global health challenges in India. We are proud of the outstanding University of Edinburgh alumni that we engage with across India, particularly at the annual Burns Night Suppers which celebrate the best of Scotland in India. Conversations at these events are launchpads for referrals, potential new projects and much more. A recent discussion led to a connection between a professor of sociolinguistics and an alumna and about to be published author who collaborated on an event on 'Indian English' that was very well received. India is a frequented destination by many outstanding University of Edinburgh staff, and the local office ensures that public engagement is a key element of many of these visits. Talks on subjects ranging from social innovation, architecture, art history, music, creative design and language have been delivered on public platforms; and many others on more technical subjects to relevant audiences; these engender links between the University and a diverse audience, whose value is impossible to capture but are undoubtedly long-lasting and valuable links between Scotland and India. Amrita Sadrangani is the Regional Director for South Asia, University of Edinburgh.