7 december 2012

Indian government seed funds Somerville centre

Somerville College
The Indira Gandhi Centre for Sustainable Development will be part of Somerville College

The Government of India has provided around £3m in funding to help launch a UK-based centre on sustainable development named after Indira Gandhi and based at her alma mater, Somerville College.

Drawing on the research expertise of Oxford University academics to address some of the most pressing issues for India and the world in the 21st century, the Indira Gandhi Centre for Sustainable Development will strengthen the existing relationship between Oxford University and India, and provide scholarships for Indian postgraduates.

The Indian government's contribution is matched by a further £5.5m from Somerville College and Oxford University. In total Somerville College is looking to raise £19m. The centre will support India's future leaders in sustainable development and forge lasting partnerships between Indian institutions of learning and the University of Oxford.

Central to the project is interdisciplinary research into areas directly relevant to India’s development in the 21st century, including food security, environmental sustainability and international governance.

The University contribution to the start-up funding is from Oxford's new Graduate Scholarship Matched Fund, which matches funding provided for postgraduate scholarships on a 60:40 basis (the donor providing 60% and the University 40% of the eventual total).

Ensuring the best postgraduates from India and around the world can study at Oxford regardless of means is a top priority for the University. Five fully-funded scholarships will be available to Indian students studying at the centre, with scholars encouraged to return to India to put their expertise into practice.

In addition, postdoctoral positions and fellowships will be established. The new centre will ultimately be housed in a new building on Oxford University’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter in the heart of the city, adjacent to Somerville College.

A spokesperson for the Government of India said: 'The Indira Gandhi Centre will be a leading centre for research on environmental issues that were especially dear to Indira Gandhi’s heart and are of vital, and increasing, relevance to India's, and the world’s, future. It will play a major role in supporting India's efforts in sustainable development as well as forging lasting partnerships between Indian institutions of learning and the University of Oxford.

'It is fitting that the centre is being named in honour of Indira Gandhi, one of the most prominent world leaders of the 20th century, who showed unprecedented and pioneering leadership on the issue of sustainable development, far ahead of her time. She did so within India as well as internationally. As the only foreign Head of Government to address the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, Mrs Gandhi brought the development agenda into the mainstream of the environmental discourse. These challenges resonate today more than ever before.'

For more than six centuries, the University of Oxford has treasured its links with India. Building on these strong historic foundations, Oxford is committed to deepening and extending strategic collaborations in India, particularly in areas such as food security, environmental sustainability, international governance and global culture.

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: 'Oxford research aims to address some of the biggest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century, and sustainable development is vital to India and to the world. We are proud to count Indira Gandhi among our alumni, and proud of our longstanding 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.'

The centre was formally launched today in New Delhi. Speaking at the launch, Dr Alice Prochaska, Principal of Somerville College, said: 'Somerville College is extremely proud to have contributed to the education of Indira Gandhi, the first female Prime Minister of India and one of the most important statespeople of the 20th century. This new Centre for Sustainable Development will honour Indira Gandhi’s legacy to the world by addressing key issues of global significance.'

The Indira Gandhi Centre for Sustainable Development is expected to be fully established in time for the centenary celebrations of Mrs Gandhi’s birth on 19 November 1917.