The University of Oxford has longstanding connections with India, dating to 1579, when Father Thomas Stephens, from New College, was the first recorded Englishman to visit India. Ties have strengthened through time, with the creation of the Boden Chair in Sanskrit in 1832 and the arrival of Oxford’s first Indian students in 1871. The Indian branch of Oxford University Press, established in 1912, has a proud tradition of publishing its own distinguished scholarly list.
Today, Oxford University is a thriving location for the study of India. We have started a new postgraduate degree in Modern South Asian Studies, including language studies, and the new MSc in Contemporary India welcomed its first intake of students in 2008. Elsewhere, Oxford scientists are connecting with their Indian counterparts through unique networks in physics, cancer research and other fields.
Oxford University is a thriving and leading centre for the study of India. There are a number of India-focused courses offered by the University, both at undergraduate and graduate level.
Undergraduate students taking Philosophy, Politics and Economics can choose to study an option in the Politics of South Asia with a strong focus on Indian politics.
Students undertaking the MPhil degree in Modern South Asian Studies can choose to focus on the study of India, including intensive language studies in one of the major languages spoken in ancient or contemporary India including Hindi, Bengali, Sanskrit, Urdu, and Nepali.
The MSc in Contemporary India, launched in 2008, immerses graduate students in the study of India’s signal achievements and its persistent challenges, at the same time as equipping them to conduct rigorous social science analysis. It is the first degree of its kind anywhere in the world.
The Faculty of Oriental Studies also offers a two-year MPhil in Classical Indian Religions.
Oxford is home to more than eighty academics with a South Asia focus, the vast majority specialising in the study of India. Oxford academics study all aspects of India, including its history, language, literature, religions, economy, politics, society and public health. A new generation of postdoctoral scholars are broadening the range of research interests in India, with recent projects on microfinance; energy technology; food distribution; and dalit business among others.
Libraries and Museums
Oxford University has an unrivalled collection of material on India. The Bodleian Indian Institute Library holds over 100,000 volumes in Indian and European languages and one of the world’s most important collections of Sanskrit manuscripts, the largest outside India itself.
The Bodleian Law Library has extensive holdings related to law in India. The Oriental Institute Library, the History Faculty Library, and Queen Elizabeth House Library also hold important collections of South Asian materials.
The Indian collections of the Ashmolean Museum are also of international importance. Displayed in three galleries, visitors can see objects and works of art from the first flowering of the Indus Valley Civilisation (2500BC) up to the paintings of the late Mughal Empire from the end of the nineteenth century.
Collaborations between Oxford University and India are exceptionally broad and rooted in equal partnership. Some of the links between Oxford and India can be seen below:
India-Oxford Cancer Research Network
In the Medical Sciences division, the India-Oxford (INDOX) Cancer Research Network, a partnership established in 2005 between Oxford University and six leading cancer research centres in India, has established itself as India’s leading academic oncology network. It conducts a number of clinical studies in common cancers in India and provides training and fellowships to more than 30 Indian clinicians and scientists.
Professor Stephen Kennedy, Nuffield Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, is collaborating with Indian colleagues on INTERGROWTH-21st, an international consortium which researches healthy growth of foetuses and new born babies. The primary purpose of the project is to develop a new set of international standards describing normal growth and nutritional status of babies from conception to 12 months in eight geographically diverse populations. Such standards have never been created for this age group before, making it very difficult to investigate whether ethnic or environmental factors contribute to the small sizes of babies in some parts of the world. In collaboration with the Department of Nutrition of the WHO, the results will be incorporated into national/international, maternal and neonatal programmes for monitoring maternal/infant health and nutrition.
George Centre for Healthcare Innovation
The George Centre for Healthcare Innovation runs projects in India in collaboration with The George Institute, India to find effective affordable ways to provide essential healthcare to those in resource-poor settings. Both centres collaborate on the Oxford-India Health Research Network; an informal network of researchers collaborating with health research organisations in India. The George Centre for Healthcare Innovation also collaborates with the Centre for Chronic Disease Control, New Delhi and the Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi.
PHFI-UKC Wellcome Trust Capacity Building Programme
In a separate collaboration with the Public Health Foundation of India, Oxford is part of the PHFI-UKC Wellcome Trust Capacity Building Programme (WTP), a consortium of UK universities whose public health departments are teaching and training researchers to populate India's public health institutions.
The Young Lives project is a long-term international study following and documenting the lives of 12,000 children over 15 years in 4 study countries (the state of Andhra Pradesh in India alongside Ethiopia, Peru, and Vietnam).
Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences
Oxford-India Network in Theoretical Physical Sciences
The Oxford-India Network in Theoretical Physical Sciences has strengthened Oxford's links with premier institutions in India including the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata; and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.
Global Jet Watch
Oxford’s scientific collaborations in India are not only with trained scientists and well established institutions; the University also collaborates with school children. Global Jet Watch is an exciting project linking astronomers at Oxford University with schoolchildren around the world in order to carry out cutting edge research. The aim is to create the world's first continuous, round-the-clock, detailed monitoring programme of a black hole named SS433.
The project plans to deploy small telescopes, strategically separated in India, Chile, Australia and South Africa. These telescopes—with specially designed instrumentation built in Oxford—will be placed at girls schools in each location, each with a local professional astronomer. Each night, the schoolgirls will obtain a spectrum of the high-speed jets which are emitted from SS433, and the data they collect will be processed in Oxford.
Indian students are the second fastest growing nationality group at Oxford. The majority of Oxford’s Indian students are graduate students with a particular concentration in the social sciences. Top subjects studied by Indians at Oxford include business administration, civil law, biochemistry, contemporary India and engineering. Indian students contribute to student life through many societies, including the Oxford Indian Society and the Oxford University Hindu Society.
The University is very pleased to be able to offer Indian students a range of scholarship funding to facilitate their study at Oxford. Since 1947, over 180 Rhodes Scholarships for graduate study have been awarded to Indian students. Over 60 Indian graduate students have held the prestigious Clarendon scholarships since they were launched in 2001. Other prestigious scholarships include the Felix Scholarships, Commonwealth Scholarships and the Chevening Rolls-Royce Science and Innovation Leadership Programme scholarships.
Oxford continually seeks to expand the range of scholarships available for Indian students even further, and in 2012 the University was delighted to welcome five of the British Council Jubilee Scholarships holders. These one-off scholarships celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee were offered to Indian students to study at UK universities at the postgraduate level. These five scholars are now studying for a master’s degree at Oxford: three are studying at the Saïd Business School, and two are studying clinical embryology at Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
India Student Societies
Once students arrive at Oxford, there are a number of student societies and support networks.
The Oxford Majlis Asian Society is the second oldest student society at the University and the oldest Asian student society in the world. It brings together students from all over Asia, the Middle East, Iran, Central Asia, China and the Far East. Former members and Presidents include Benazir Bhutto, Manmohan Singh, Indira Gandhi, and K.P.S. Menon.
The Oxford Indian Society aims to celebrate India and its diversity. As a society, they strongly believe in the idea of "Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam" (global oneness). Their activities are centred on promoting Indian culture (music, food, festivals) and contemporary intellectual thought through organising a range of talks and debates. They regularly run events to support/raise funds for charities, particularly those active in India.
The Oxford Hindu Society aims to cater for the needs of the Hindu, and by extension Indian, population in Oxford by providing a range of high quality religious, social, and cultural events. The society also tries to inform Hindus and non-Hindus alike of the main teachings and philosophy of Hinduism.
In addition to the growing number of students from India, there are over 80 academics from India working at Oxford. They include lecturers, professors, and full-time researchers, across all disciplines.
Many distinguished Indians have been academics at Oxford over the years, including Amartya Sen, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics (1998); Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, President of India (1962-67); and C.N.R. Rao, Head of the Science Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India (2009-Present).
Dr Nandini Gooptu
Dr Gooptu is a specialist in Indian urban development, poverty and politics. She currently focuses her research on the social and political consequences of economic liberalisation and globalisation in India. She was the recipient of a University of Oxford Teaching Excellence Award, in 2008, for “Outstanding teaching and commitment to teaching”, nominated by her students. In October 2012, she became Head of Oxford’s Department of International Development.
Dr Gooptu took her bachelor’s degree in History at Presidency College, Calcutta, and her PhD in History at the University of Cambridge. Her thesis, which was subsequently published as a monograph by Cambridge University Press, was entitled 'The Politics of the Urban Poor in Early Twentieth Century India.'
Professor Aditi Lahiri
Professor Aditi Lahiri is the first chair of the faculty of linguistics, philology and phonetics which was newly formed in 2008 and is one of the country’s biggest linguistics faculties. She is the first Indian-born woman to hold a chair at the University. She specialises in the Germanic and Indo-Aryan language families.
Professor Lahiri has been awarded a number of highly prestigious prizes and awards including the Max Planck Research Prize for International Cooperation (1994), the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize (2000) and the Professor Sukumar Sen Memorial Gold Medal (2008.) In 2010 she was elected to the Fellowship of the British Academy.
Professor Lahiri was educated at the Bethune College, Kolkata and later at the University of Calcutta. She earned two doctorate degrees; the first in comparative philology from University of Calcutta and the second in linguistics from Brown University, USA.
The University of Oxford has over 1,300 alumni in India. There are a number of active local alumni groups across India. The Oxford University Society has branches in New Delhi and Mumbai, and there are joint Oxford and Cambridge Society groups in Bangalore, Kolkata and Pune to keep former students in touch with each other and the University. Diwali
These groups hold meetings and events throughout the year including annual dinners, stimulating talks from academics, professional & personal development events, and lunches for new students preparing to go to Oxford.
Oxford has an illustrious history of educating some of the most prominent Indian public figures including politicians, businessmen, actors and novelists:
- Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister of India
- Indira Gandhi, India’s first woman Prime Minister
- Cornelia Sorabji, India’s first female lawyer
- Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, former captain of the Indian cricket team
- Soha Ali Khan, actress
- Amitav Ghosh, award-winning novelist
- Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission
- Deepak Nayyar, member of the National Knowledge Commission
- Mukund Rajan, Vice-President of Tata Sons Ltd.
- Vikram Seth, award-winning author