Good evening to all. I’d like to say a particular welcome to all the British students here this evening. I’m delighted that so many of you are here in India as part of the Study India programme. You follow in a strong tradition: over 900 students from the UK have visited India under the auspices of the programme. I’d like to thank all those who have contributed to making this scheme the success it is.
I did a speech a few months ago listing the Top Ten Reasons why Indian students should come to Britain to study. They included things like quality of education (4 of the world’s top 10 universities are in the UK), choice (in the UK you can study anything, anywhere), value for money (a UK education is the best single investment you can make in your future worth), strong ties to home (1.5 million Indians in the UK), and lifestyle (the UK is just a great place to live).
So when I was asked to do this speech tonight, to this audience, it got me thinking about another Top Ten list: the top ten reasons why UK students should come to India. You may have a different list, but let me share mine with you, and with other UK students thinking about coming here who may see this speech online.
Reason #1 why UK students should come to India: India. It’s amazing! No other country has India’s combination of history, culture, colour, diversity, landscape, cuisine, art, architecture. It really is the world in one country. If you get a chance to come here, come. You do not want to miss it.
Reason #2 why UK students should come to India: what you will learn about the UK. Here’s a quote from the British author Terry Pratchett: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
Reason #3: The welcome. Indian hospitality is famous, and the British are made particularly welcome. The Brits and the Indians have a lot in common. You will surely feel at home here. I do.
Reason #4: A chance to see the future. India is becoming one of the great powers of the 21st century. To see it rising is a great privilege. You are witnessing history in the making.
Reason #5 Excellence. Many of India’s educational institutions are world class. Their research and teaching is cutting edge. As students, you want the best. A lot of it is here.
Reason #6. Talent. India has some of the most talented people in the world. Many of them are still students. Meet them now, before they become famous!
Reason #7. Friendship. The friends you make as a student stay with you. UK visitors to India will make international friendships for life.
Reason #8. Your career. We live in a globalised world. Students with experience of living abroad are better prepared for any career than those without. So congratulations: simply by coming here you have boosted your employability and your market value.
Reason #9. Your studies. Whatever you are studying in the UK, India can teach you something relevant.
Reason #10. Last but not least, what you will learn about yourself. The travel writer Bill Bryson said: “I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again.
You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
I invite all of you UK students here tonight to make those interesting guesses. And I encourage you to enjoy every minute of your remaining time here.
I am sure that when you return to the UK you will be Ambassadors for India. I hope that while you are here you will be Ambassadors for the UK. In particular please make sure you tell your Indian hosts about our national food (marmite), our national religion (football), and our national hobby (complaining about the weather).
Finally, and more seriously, I hope you will encourage other UK students to follow in your footsteps. We can’t do too much of these exchanges: they are good for you, good for India and good for the UK. Let’s keep them going.
Follow James Bevan on Twitter @HCJamesBevan