Professor Gina Quin, president of National College of Ireland, was honoured to be invited by Ambassador Akhilesh Mishra to speak at the Indian Embassy in Dublin as part of the India-Ireland Friendship lecture series 2022/23. On Tuesday 28 March, she was accompanied to the event, which was also live-streamed, by a number of colleagues and NCI's own student ambassadors. Here is the transcript of her address.
A shared journey from colonisation
For all the disparity in size and population, India and Ireland have much in common. We have a shared experience of colonisation: a shared history of governance by Britain and of the embedding of British systems and values, a shared struggle for independence, and a shared experience of meeting the challenges of a younger nation in a 20th and 21st century world.
Did you know that our revolutionaries communicated? That our Home Rule movements asked for the same things? That the Irish Constitution was one of the references for the writers of the Indian Constitution? I think it is no coincidence that our flags share colours, that our societies celebrate diversity while also centring on unity and truth.
Last year, 2022, was the centenary of the establishment of the Irish Free State, and the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. One year after India’s declaration of independence, the Irish Free State became known as the Republic of Ireland. The birth of our two nations occurred in the same global environment, and now our remembrance and celebrations are also mirroring one another.
Worldwide cultural influence
I would like to think that, even though the scale of India dwarfs Ireland, that the emergence of our two nations as modern, independent countries have many similarities - and not least by the impact many of our citizens have had on the world.
One of the symbols of success of a Nation has to be the global recognition of our artists, our musicians, our sports people, our writers, and this world stage of success, of our sporting and cultural icons, is common to both Ireland and India - although I might have to concede that the award for success in the movie industry, despite Ireland’s recent foray into the nominations for Oscars, must go to the Indian Bollywood industry!
These successes and other factors show the very positive influence both of our nations have upon the wider world. And while evidenced by those who receive international recognition, I believe that this success is born from our shared values of the importance of education.
Education - a shared value
What happens to those who are educated? They go out into society, into the wider world and, with their education, make our world a better place for themselves, their families, their communities their nations and our planet.
India and Ireland both hold education in the highest esteem, from the very establishment of our constitutions to our continued expansion and evolution of the sector today. In both countries, education is not just a right of every citizen, but is seen to inform democracy, underpin law, encourage civic participation, and provide a route to social mobility and prosperity for the individual and society.
For every successful business, remember, there are not just founders with vision, but also a highly-skilled and highly-educated workforce, employees with ambition and skills thanks to education, and commitments to life-long learning.
To change lives through education
Let me tell you a little about National College of Ireland and how we seek to live the values of education, and our connections with India.
Our mission at National College of Ireland is ‘to change lives through education’. Simple; and profound.
I must also reference our commitment to social justice - NCI is the only Higher Education Institute in Ireland founded by the Jesuits. I note that India has 52 university colleges and 17 institutes of business administration founded by the Jesuits, as well as many high schools.
Founded in 1951, the Workers’ College was established to educate union representatives, to better prepare them for their negotiations with management. Many employees in Ireland had little or no formal education, as it was legal, then, to leave school at 14. Before ever the phrase took on significance in the education sector, NCI was providing ‘lifelong learning’.
To this day, it is true that workers need to be better qualified and have problem-solving and decision-making skills in order to survive in the world of work.
So successful was the Workers’ College, that Employers soon came knocking, seeking a similar standard of education for management, and the National College of Industrial Relations was formed. The responsiveness of the College to the needs of BOTH employees and employers saw the College develop programmes in other areas; and the expansion of the levels of education from undergraduate through to doctoral level.
In the year 2000, the College moved to a new, purpose-built campus in the nascent International Financial Services Centre in Dublin’s North inner City, and with a new identity, National College of Ireland, to better reflect our wide higher education offering. We continue at this site, and the International Financial Services sector has since been expanded to include many multi-national employers of Dublin’s Silicon Docklands. And this is us now, 6,000 students in the disciplines of Computing, Business, Psychology and Education, delivering highly skilled graduates to today’s employers.
Embracing change, underpinning the future
We all know that the jobs market is constantly transitioning. As progressive educators we need to be ahead of these changes and leading from the front in talent development, equipping students with both the hard and soft skills to excel in this ever-changing world. NCI aims to produce graduates of distinction, with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and an emphasis on invention.
Our faculty combines high academic achievement with deep industry experience, and we strive to provide opportunities for our students, at all levels, to bring their learning to bear on real world challenges. Critical thinking is as important as the latest theory, and our pedagogic approach encourages true engagement with both the content of each module and the processes of enquiry, presentation, influence and problem solving: all the skills needed in a real-life employment situation, the skills required to succeed and to make a change. It is no accident that the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals are embedded into our pedagogies and our values as a higher education institution.
At NCI, we have a diverse student body that is reflected in the diversity of our staff – not just in terms of age, gender, religion, background, and subject-speciality, but also many nationalities – 50 different countries are represented at NCI, according to our most recent count.
We take a whole-person approach to education, so that the well-being of our students is valued as highly as their exam results. There is a strong student support system at NCI, complemented by our smaller class sizes, which creates a learning community that encourages cognitive flexibility and emotional intelligence as well as academic excellence.
In pursuit of our mission ‘to change lives through education’, NCI makes Higher Education as accessible to as many as possible and works with students to help them reach their full potential and achieve their highest aspirations.
I hope you will appreciate that it is this philosophy and value system and this focus on personal success, academic achievement, employment opportunities and global responsibility that makes NCI attractive to our International students and, in particular, our International students from India, who make up the largest group of international students at NCI.
We are delighted to be building on the 2006 Ireland and India agreement on scientific and technological cooperation, (to promote cooperation between research centres and Higher Education Institutions), and on India’s signing up to the International Strategic Cooperation Award, funded by Science Foundation Ireland. We are also pleased that Ireland’s Third Level Graduate Programme for students from outside the European Economic Area allows those who earn a Higher Education qualification to live and work in Ireland for up to two-years. With NCI’s unique focus on access to education skills and employment, it is gratifying that more than 1,100 students from Indian have chosen to study with us making up 65% of our International student body.
I was delighted in January of this year to visit our Team in Delhi and Mumbai to experience at first hand the wonderful country that India is and to meet both prospective students and those representing students who wish to come to National College of Ireland. With the support of Educate Ireland and the Irish Trade Board, it was wonderful to talk to journalists about the opportunities for students coming to Ireland and National College of Ireland. But perhaps the most exciting part of my trip was meeting with the secondary school students of VIBGYOR High in Mumbai and listening to their ambitions for a future that clearly included a period of international education.
I believe that the future of Ireland and India’s cooperation in education and all things commercial is well secured.
Many major Irish companies have a presence in India, including CRH, Aer Rianta, Globoforce, ICON, Kerry Group, Diageo and Glanbia.
And major Indian companies that have a presence in Ireland include HCL, Jain Irrigation Systems, Wipro, TCS (Tata Consultancy Services), Infosys, Amneal Pharmaceuticals and Zomato.
We share a home for many multinational companies that have a presence both in India and in Ireland including Google, Microsoft, Citibank, Paypal, AirBnB, Twitter and LinkedIn.
All of this, I believe, gives us not just a foundation for a continuance of our shared ambitions around education, but also real potential for the continued growth of our economies and the genuine friendships between Ireland and India.
I would like to end with a quote that dates the early 1900’s, from the great poet Rabindranath Tagore, a message that holds true to this day:
"Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time."
At National College of Ireland, we continue to respond to the changing needs of education, and we are delighted to do this with our many students and friends from India.