QS In Conversation 2015

There was a record attendance of more than 200 academics and university administrators at the fourth QS In Conversation conference, held in India in February.

The event, at Noida, on the outskirts of New Delhi, broke new ground for a ranking organisation by focusing on best practice in research and innovation. Speakers from a dozen countries shared their experience of research partnerships, the commercial application of work carried out in universities, and the development of a research culture.

Dr W Selvamurthy, Director General for Science and Innovation at Amity University, QS’s lead partner for the conference, outlined India’s plans to revive its ancient status as a “cradle of innovation”. He said India already competed strongly in information technology, space science and biotechnology, and would add other areas in the next few years. Only China and the United States now had more students.

Dato Zulkarnain Hanafi, Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Brunei Darussalam, showed how progress could be made even in a relatively small university. His institution, established only in 1985, now has nine research institutes and a strategy that looks as far as 2035. Its research partners already stretch from India and Bangalore to Singapore and the US.

Dr Hanafi’s advice to delegates was not to try to “reinvent the wheel” but to seek partners with a synergy in areas of strength. At the same time, the university was encouraging entrepreneurship through an Entrepreneurship Village and collaboration with business.

Professor Nesreen Ghaddar, Associate Provost at the American University of Beirut (AUB), described how her university had introduced a stronger research culture. The university had reduced academics’ teaching loads, offered long-term contracts, created research clusters, improved laboratories and encouraged international collaboration. In the past seven years, AUB academics had published more papers than in the previous 93 years of the university’s existence.

Delegates came from every continent, their fees contributing towards QS’s scholarship fund. The next awards will be made at the QS Maple conference, in Doha, from May 5-7. Registration for the conference is taking place at  http://www.qsmaple.org/.

A separate rankings workshop took place the day before the conference, which concentrated on QS’s BRICs ranking and the performance of Indian universities more generally. Dr Anders Karlsson, Vice-President for Global Academic Affairs at Elsevier, whose Scopus database provides much of the data for QS rankings, said India was now second for research output among the BRICS nations, but still a ,long way behind China.

In addition to analysis of the results, the workshop heard proposals from Dr Balasubramanyam Chandramohan, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, for a new university that would span the BRICs nations and carry out joint teaching and research.

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