In its more than 100 years of existence, the University of Birmingham has developed into a world class institution which promises a holistic learning environment and a global platform based on research partnerships. Currently, the university boasts of one of the largest international student communities in the UK with over 5,000 international students from 150 different countries. Taking its international status a step further, the University of Birmingham also has around 6000 members of its academic staff from outside the UK and frequently engages in joint publications with universities across the world.
In an interview with Careers360, Professor Adam Tickell, Provost, University of Birmingham, speaks about the research initiatives of the university and the direction it is taking towards being a really truly global university. Professor Tickell also talks about the admissions criteria, popular courses and the admission cycle of the University of Birmingham.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. University of Birmingham is among the largest public research universities in the United Kingdom. How do you encounter the performance of private universities that dominate the global ranking space? What are the typical challenges that you face?
A. The university, and the sector as a whole, remains flexible in our approach as market forces, technological advancements and other external factors require us to be. The emergence of more private institutions is an interesting time for higher education, but we still believe our holistic offering for both researchers and students to be sector-leading across a broad range of subjects.
Further, we have been working hard to change inaccurate perceptions concerning UK immigration policy and student visas by participating in high-profile UK delegations to India, talking to the Indian media, to our Indian partner institutions, businesses and, of course, our 1,300 Indian alumni.
We have also invested in additional resource to aid our prospective students, which includes support from our UK-based staff but also in-country assistance offered through our India Office in New Delhi.
Q. How do you visualize a ‘World Class University’? Which aspect of any university in India do you think has the potential to contribute to the character of a global university?
A. The University of Birmingham is ranked among the world’s top 100 universities and we expect to be among the top 50 global universities in the years ahead. We will achieve this through the quality of our research, the success of our students and the innovation that springs from our partnerships at home and abroad.
As modern technology increasingly makes the world smaller and students have greater mobility than ever before, education provision is now delivered in a global marketplace. Birmingham already has permanent representation in India, China and Brazil, and we are using these links to build partnerships and collaborations that enhance our research, internationalise the educational experience that we offer, and develop a global perspective amongst our staff and students.
Q. How can India’s higher education system become more robust? Do you think China and India are making inroads in refereed publications globally?
A. We know that over the last two decades, India has remarkably transformed its higher education landscape. More than 20 Indian universities are among the global top 200. We believe India will continue to work on the reform of higher education governance and structure, place more importance on learner-focus approach and encourage the wider use of technology in education, to make India’s higher education more robust.
Our researchers work with researchers from China and India, and their work is making an impact in tackling global challenges. Birmingham is ranked third in the UK by RCUK for the joint publications with Chinese academics. India is among the top five countries in globally cited research output, and the number of joint publications by Birmingham and Indian researchers has continued to increase in the past few years. We look forward to collaborating more for research with Indian scholars.
Q. What are your views on knowledge capitalization by universities? In India, very few universities engage in the same one because there is lack of IP creation but also because knowledge is still treated as public good. How far has your university succeeded in doing the same? Did you face any resistance from faculty members on the same?
A. To fully realise the potential of our research, both economically and for the public good, we continue to work alongside industries and businesses – whether that is developing the latest drugs to combat infection or identifying new, greener technologies to combat global warming and air pollution.
Q. What is the strength of the international student community in the university? What about Indian students?
A. The university has more than 30,000 students, 5,000 international from 150 different countries, which is one of the largest international student communities in the UK. Our Guild of students has more than 200 different societies representing various volunteer, activity, political and cultural groups, including Bollywood dancing, Bharat Parivar and the Indian Society.
We currently have 138 students from India on campus: 42 undergraduate students, 61 postgraduate taught students and 35 postgraduate research students
Q. What is unique about your university in terms of academic culture and overall student experience?
A. The University of Birmingham was established by Royal Charter on the 24th March 1900 and was England’s first civic or ‘redbrick’ university. The university is also a founder member of the Russell Group, which represents the 24 leading UK research intensive higher education institutions.
Birmingham is truly a global university. It is consistently in the top 100 universities in the world according to the QS World Rankings, and the Birmingham Business School is highly placed in the global top 100 MBA rankings. More than a quarter (27%) of our 6,000 members of staff is from outside the UK.
Students who come to the University of Birmingham enjoy world-class facilities and historical buildings e.g. the Bramall Music Building, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts (featuring works by Monet, Renoir, Degas), the Shakespeare Institute, Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage and Winterbourne Manor. Birmingham is among the top 5 universities for sport, providing more than 55 different types of sporting activities and a soon-to-be-opened £55 million sports complex with 50m swimming pool.
Q. What are some of the popular programmes among students? What about Indian students?
A. The University of Birmingham has a broad spectrum of popular courses across our 5 colleges; College of Social Science, College of Arts and Law, Medical and Dental College, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, College of Life and Environmental Science. Programmes that are popular with Indian students include biosciences, business, computer science and engineering.
Q. What are the admission criteria for international graduate students?
A. The admission criteria vary depending upon the course and country that the applicant is from; for India the criteria are as follows:
Postgraduate Study: Degrees awarded by all institutions recognised by University Grants Commission (UGC) and/or NARIC would be considered. Also, holders of three-year BA/BBA/Bcom/BSc/LLB or four-year BE/Btech from a recognised university may be considered for entry to taught postgraduate programmes. For a standard offer, Birmingham requires 60% or higher. Students who achieve 55% or higher may be considered as borderline cases.
Applicants with appropriate grades in Standard XII English (English Core/English Elective/Functional English in CBSE) do not require additional SELT qualifications.
Q.Do you consider the social media presence of a student while considering him/her for admission?
A. No. We do not take social media as a factor for admission
Q. How important is work experience in your selection process?
A. This will depend upon the course criteria e.g. The MBA programme requires a minimum of three years’ managerial work experience.
Q. When do applications open?
A. Undergraduate applications open in September for entry into the following year.
Postgraduate has a rolling admissions cycle.
Q. Does your school offer financial aid to international students? Please elaborate.
A. Yes, the university offers a wide variety of scholarship opportunities for students at all levels. Like the Chevening-Birmingham Partnership scholarship specifically for Indian students with leadership potential. Awards are typically for a one year Master’s degree.
The university also offers a number of MBA scholarships, including one specifically for Indian students, which is co-funded by the British Council. The GREAT scholarship is allocated on the basis of academic ability, relevant experience and clarity of future plans as determined by the selection committee.There are up to four scholarships available, worth up to £10,000 each, part-funded by GREAT and part-funded by the university. GREAT is a part of the UK Government’s campaign to show the world the best of the UK.
Q. Many foreign students are worried about leaving the country because they do not know whether they will be able to find work to pay off theirstudent debts. Do you guide your students in finding internships and jobs?
A. The University of Birmingham was named The Times and Sunday Times University of the Year for Graduate Employment 2015/16. We are acutely aware of the importance placed on employability and work opportunities in the UK for Indian students. We have invested heavily in Careers Network, a careers and employability department, to support our international students who want work in the UK in graduate jobs, take internships and placements during their studies and be well placed in the employment market when they return home
Prospective students should be in no doubt about the opportunities available to them at Birmingham and must not be put off by the starting salary requirements of the work visa, as the threshold is well below the expected starting salary of most graduates.
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