Professor Deep Saini. Courtesy Colleen McColeman.

In his recent trade missions trip to India, professor Deep Saini, vice president of U of T and principal of UTM, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMI).

The agreement aims to develop partnerships between the UTM Centre for South Asian Civilizations and JMI to increase opportunities for exchange of information and resources. Professor Shafique Virani, director of the Centre for South Asian Civilizations, took point and drafted the MoU.

“The Indian and South Asian region is playing such a huge role in the international world right now that the study of this area is absolutely essential whether from cultural points of view, from economic points of view, [or] from religious points of view,” said Virani on the importance of such partnerships.   

The agreement focuses on several areas of co-operation, the first of which is to provide exchange programs for undergraduate students. Students from India will have the opportunity to come to U of T and study; U of T students will be able to go to JMI for course credits. Although such a program is still in the works, Virani believes that “what the MoU does is it allows us to start a conversation about how this might happen.” 

The second area of the agreement pertains to professional development research. Collaboration in this area hopes to open the door for professors from JMI and UTM to teach or carry out research at the partner university. Virani argues that this would assist professors in their research and allow them to bring their learning and experiences back into the classroom, in order to teach students the things they have learnt while at JMI. 

The third area of focus in this agreement focuses on seminars, conferences, and workshops, allowing the two institutions to take advantage of conferences held at the partnering university, which may be attended via livestream. Virani believes that both institutions would benefit: “By pooling resources, we double what we’re able to do.” 

The last area of focus looks at translation, collaborative coursework, and digital humanities. In translating writings and research of professors here, as well as those at JMI, the program aims to overcome the language barrier and allow information to be shared. Thus, Virani hopes that by creating more robust information sharing frameworks, U of T will be able to share those resources with JMI.

“[A]nd by the same token they know what they have there to share them over here, you know. Maybe even collaborative classroom conversation, where we have… students from there and students from here getting together, having discussions with one another, having co-operative blogs together.” 

This is UTM’s first international agreement, which opens up the possibility of similar partnerships in the future. “With the premier’s visit to India right now, we — I have put together a list of major institutions across the country where we already have personal connections… and have tried to establish meetings so that conversations can start,” Virani said. 

The Centre of South Asian Civilizations aims to expand its focus to other parts of South Asia. “India is just one part of South Asia and we would love to establish similar relationships with other countries in the region,” commented Virani. 

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