A joint contribution of £8.3 million by the Government of India, Oxford University and Somerville College will fund the establishment of an International Development Centre which hopes to strengthen the already existing ties between the University and India, as well as supporting Indian postgraduate students who wish to study at the university.  

The centre is named after Indira Gandhi, the first female Prime Minister of India, who played an important part in the development of the country in the 20th Century, and is a Somerville alumna. The project was officially launched last week in New Delhi, where the Government of India pledged £3 million towards the establishment of the centre. 

An important aspect of the initiative aims to engage in research concerning the issues surrounding India’s development in the 21st Century, including food security and environmental sustainability. The new centre, which will be located in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, hopes to shape India’s future leaders by stressing the important role of sustainable development, and aims to become one of the most inter-disciplinary institutions within the university. 

The project will also provide five fully-funded scholarships for Indian postgraduate students who wish to study at Oxford. The hope is that scholars will return to India in order to put their expertise into practice, providing the intellectual capital to further India’s future developmental prospects.

Somerville College hopes to raise £19 million in total before the centre is fullyestablished in 2017, to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s birth. The project will also profit from the University’s Graduate Scholarship Matched Fund which matches funding provided for post-graduate study on a 60:40 basis. 

Alice Prochaska, Principal of Somerville College, told Cherwell that new centre “will commemorate Mrs Gandhi’s commitment to the world environment and her enduring concern for improving the lot of the poor.’ She continued, ‘The Centre will bring more postgraduate students from India to Oxford, and will draw on the research expertise of academics across the University of Oxford to address some of the most pressing issues for India and the world in the 21st century. This is of great significance to the academic community both in Oxford and at Somerville specifically, where our students will benefit from the presence of an inspirational and interdisciplinary new research facility.”

Somerville was the first Oxford college to receive an Indian student, when Cornelia Sorabji, the first Indian national to study at any British university, was accepted to study there in 1889. 

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, commented, ‘We are proud to count Indira Gandhi among our alumni, and proud of our long-standing relationship with India. The new centre and the generous support from the Indian government are the latest testament to that relationship and its development in this century.’

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