Published On: Sat, Jan 21st, 2012

D G Faust, Harvard president focusses on culture of global learning

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Drew Gilpin Faust

Drew Gilpin Faust

According to Drew Gilpin Faust, president, Harvard University, “The effects of internationalization, a term used often by academic institutions, are now visible. The term has matured and grown beyond the single aspect of Western universities attracting students from around the world to their campuses. “

The 28th president of Harvard University, Drew Gilpin Faust, observed in her lecture at the University of Mumbai, “More than three-quarters of scientific articles published in international journals with a product of at least two institutions and one in three articles was authored by a global team.”

Drawn from that idea, vice-chancellor of the University of Mumbai Rajan Welukar said he was “exploring” various way to connect his team of senior star faculty members to travel to Harvard in Cambridge, Boston, to understand how the process of teaching-learning had evolved. “Unprecedented connectivity is complimented by global connectivity held in a borderless age in which students can move easily, faculty connect mobility and ideas flow more freely,” added Faust who was speaking on the ‘Challenges of Higher Education’.

Speaking of the aim that India has set for itself to increase the number of students going for higher education from the current 15% of the population to a “hopeful” 30% by 2020, she borrowed the ideas of the early champions of Indian education. Going back to 1862 when the University of Mumbai awarded its first degrees to eight men, she recollected the words of the first chancellor, and said what he said 150 years ago mattered even more today. “To recollect that you are no longer pupils of any single school but graduates of this university. Your standards must henceforth be that of the whole educated world,” she quoted John Lord Elphinstone.

She went on to applaud the strides that the country had made, “There can be no doubt that India is boldly advancing.” She said how often her university drew so much from the old wealth of religion, literature and poetry of Indian origin.

A course at Harvard introduces the new generation of women and men to enduring texts like the Bhagawat Gita and the Ramayana through the stories of the narratives of the Hindu tradition. She spoke of how proud she was of an alumnus who is building a multi-classical library in India as an appreciation for Indian classical literature. “Scholars will translate 37 titles from 9 languages, each book printed in the original language and in English,” she added.

During her first visit to India, Faust, a historian of the Civil War and the American South, concluded by reminding universities about their core commitment to education: “Education is about necessities, it is about values and meaning, about stepping back from the urgent present, to see it clearly and correctly and thus to be able to imagine a world that is different.”