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Hannele Ahti: Scholarships for India co-operation available just on time

From the very beginning, the Sitra Fellowshisp programme aroused a lot of interest in inviting Indian researchers to Finland, which shows that researchers have many contacts across national boundaries. Mobility, too, is now increasing.

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From the very beginning, the Sitra Fellowshisp programme aroused a lot of interest in inviting Indian researchers to Finland, which shows that researchers have many contacts across national boundaries. Mobility, too, is now increasing.

Sitra assigned 200,000 euros to CIMO for the Sitra Fellowships in order to launch the exchange of research experts between universities and research institutes in Finland and India as of the beginning of 2007. This expert exchange programme is largely based on the same principles as CIMO’s own fellowship funding, with the exception that Sitra’s funding is also available to master’s-level students and postdoc researchers. Representatives of Finnish institutions wishing to invite an Indian researcher to Finland or send a Finnish researcher to India are applying for funding to enable mobility among researchers.  

The best universities in India, such as the Indian Institute of Technology and Indian Institute of Science, are globally renowned for their expertise in a variety of fields. However, Finland has not traditionally been a country that students from these universities would prefer, or compete over, as a place for doctoral or post‑doctoral studies. It is hoped that the Sitra Fellowships programme will contribute to evoking a change in this, too.  

An important supporting action in the programme during its first year was the presence of the head of Sitra’s Indian programme in India, visiting many of the country’s most important universities and research institutes and increasing the local researchers’ awareness of Finland and the Sitra Fellowship Programme. The visits resulted in many enquiries, which shows that people are interested in Finland but that this interest first needs to be roused through active efforts.  

In Finland, the pilot funding provided by Sitra for the exchange of experts has attracted surprisingly wide-spread interest in Indian co-operation. Although the most active applicants for a Sitra fellowship have so far been representatives of hard natural sciences, biomedicine and molecular medicine, information technology and other technical sciences, they also include several representatives of the environmental sector, and economists and social scientists, for example.   

Applications began to flow in at a fast pace immediately when the programme was launched, which in several cases was a sign of already existing research co-operation and the fact that the projects pending in the various departments have also begun to assume concrete shape as the financial support for Indian co-operation becomes known more broadly. In total, 80 applications were received, from 11 universities and state research institutes, in 2007, and 20 applications during the first three months of 2008. The Indian co-operation is being pursued at several departments in the largest universities, such as the University of Helsinki and Helsinki University of Technology, and several instances in smaller universities, including those of Jyväskylä and Kuopio, are engaged in co-operation of this kind.  

Slightly over 1,330,000 euros of Sitra Fellowships funding was applied for in 2007. Scholarships were given to 13 persons, of whom six were doctoral students, six post-doc students and one a Finnish student completing fieldwork for a master’s thesis in India. In addition, the CIMO Fellowships scholarships were awarded to five excellent applicants to Sitra Fellowships who unfortunately could not receive Sitra funding, due to the keen competition. Funding was thus awarded to 18 applicants out of a total of 80.  

Sitra’s pilot funding has provided a good start for attracting Indian researchers to Finland, though in many cases universities and research institutes are only beginning to build co-operation. To ensure that the aim of the programme, which started as a pilot project, to assign experts to long-term Finland–India co-operation can be reached, the financial base of the programme should be established more permanently – e.g., in accordance with the Asia survey conducted by the Ministry of Education.      

Hannele Ahti
Senior Specialist
Centre for International Mobility (CIMO)  

Theme

India

Along with China, India has become a world power. The India Programme (2004–2008) showed modern India to be an interesting partner and well worth knowing.

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