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India Shows Us The Way To Develop The Engineers Of The Future

Cranfields links with India are highly valued and hundreds of Indian professionals have furthered their careers by undertaking study and research here

India Shows Us The Way To Develop The Engineers Of The Future

I'm delighted to be here in India learning from your success in inspiring the next generation of engineers, meeting our partners in universities and industry and catching up with Cranfield University alumni. I feel at home here, in a country where women engineering professionals are the norm. In the UK — as a senior, high-ranking female engineer — I'm still quite unusual. So we look to India for examples of what's possible, amazed at the talent this country is producing, and the potential global careers that engineering leads to.

But there's a bigger issue here that needs exploring, and that's about making sure that we have the right skills to support the transition to net zero and adapt to the impact of climate change in our world. In a recent survey, the Institute of Engineering and Technology found that globally 75% of engineering employers say they don't have the skills to deliver their sustainability strategies.

This is a big gap and only by working together internationally can we overcome the false boundaries that stand between people and their ability to collaborate over the huge engineering challenges facing the world. This is something that is particularly important for us at Cranfield University where our expertise in training generations of engineers is becoming increasingly focused on delivering the step changes required to decarbonise important sectors like aviation, automotive and manufacturing.

And this world-leading approach has led us to be ranked in the global top 30 for Engineering – Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing in the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject. There's no denying that we need new technologies to find ways of life that are sustainable: to transform the nature and network of energy supplies, provide low-impact transport, and protect supplies of water and food, for example.

At the same time internationally, we need to inspire a new generation of highly skilled engineers who can deliver the full potential of those technologies: to keep on improving, adapting and rapidly implementing innovation as widely as possible. Every stage involves working together — to ensure academics, industry and governments find common ground on priorities, and funding is targeted to the technologies with the greatest potential — so that smart ideas can turn into workable, commercially viable propositions as quickly as possible.

Of course, this is dependent on the free flow of people, their knowledge and expertise and ambition to deliver change. And this is where Cranfield University, as a specialist postgraduate university in the UK, has a vital role. It is our aim to keep developing the people who will become leaders in technology and management around the world, and make a truly positive global impact. Cranfield's links with India are highly valued and hundreds of Indian professionals have furthered their careers by undertaking study and research at our university.

People like Samriddhi Pandey, who went on from studying Aerospace Vehicle Design with us to a job at Rolls-Royce before founding Defy Aerospace, an amazing aviation tech startup with a mission to develop the Indian drone ecosystem for good; and Krishnanjani Velivela, who used her MBA experience at Cranfield to develop crucial business skills for her career in technical engineering management.

I feel a huge sense of pride knowing that their experience at Cranfield has been a key part of their journey towards making positive change. At Cranfield, we are doing what we can as an institution to campaign for easier access to the UK for India's students, whether that's in terms of initial visas or the post-study visas that allow Indian nationals to stay and work with UK organisations. It remains that international students studying in the UK on a graduate visa can work in the country for at least two years after completing a course of study.

We're also trying to protect what makes a university like Cranfield unique, with students from over 50 countries on campus creating a truly international environment. Our industry links are second to none, with major businesses like Airbus, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Unilever bringing valuable experiences to our students who work on real-world problems alongside leading companies. And in what can be a frenetic, intensely urbanised world, we all need the right kind of space to think clearly. The campus here is in the English countryside, but near to vibrant towns and cities.

The laboratories and teaching and research facilities are surrounded by green space, fields and wildlife (including a cricket pitch) and yet we are also well connected to London, with Oxford and Cambridge nearby. The university has many state-of-the-art facilities, including a working airport, and an airplane which we use for research and testing. We have a special community at Cranfield - a mature, professional body of staff and students joined together by a shared purpose, working together on development and real-world delivery.

We always return from India with new enthusiasm. Because of its energy, the quality of its people, the scale of its potential — and the lessons it has for the UK around women and the engineering sector; still such an important and untapped resource.

Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor, Cranfield University ( is currently visiting many of the major cities of India with Professor Dame Helen Atkinson DBE FREng, Pro-Vice Chancellor. Both are Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

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