The members of the Indian delegation participated in the event and had the chance to learn about the projects underway in the field in Barcelona
The Indian Leaders’ visit to Barcelona included a roundtable at Casa Asia, a patron of the Spain-India Council Foundation and a public consortium which forms part of the ‘Casas’ network coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation as a tool for public diplomacy. In the words of Ramón Moreno, a diplomat and Managing Director of Casa Asia, the goals of the institution involve “promoting cultural and educational exchange, as well as international relations between Spain and Asian countries, with numerous activities throughout the year.”
Casa Asia organised a roundtable with education experts to receive the delegation. The speakers included experts like Marc García, a technician and part of the Board of the 13th International Conference on Educating Cities, who introduced the event to be hosted by Barcelona on November 13-16. “The conference promotes the development of cities in all areas to make people’s lives easier, it is not only about educational institutions,” he emphasised. According to García, “the event is a chance to connect with cities which are making progress in the fields of inclusion, innovation and creativity, which favour an excellent environment for education.” In line with the idea of opening up the city of Barcelona to the world, the Director General for Universities of the Catalan Regional Government, Lluís Jofre, gave an overview of higher education in Catalonia. The region is populated by 7 million people and has 12 universities, 7 of which are located around the city of Barcelona. “In the past few years we have been committed to internationalisation through a number of exchange programmes.” According to Jofre, Barcelona’s appeal is one of the keys to success. He ended his address by saying: “We have links with the US, Europe and Asia… and now we are going for India!”
Casa Asia’s Managing Director, Ramón Moreno, pondered the issue of which strategies should be adopted in order to attract students. According to Ajay Pandey, from an Indian point of view it is necessary to “reduce language barriers, on the one hand, and increase the presence of Spanish institutions in India, on the other, by promoting those institutions and inviting Indian students to visit Spain.” Deepti Golani, intercultural communication coach and teacher of Hindi, specified that “in Spain people seem to believe that Indian students only excel in Engineering and Maths, but there are students with a lot of potential in other subjects.”
The opportunities for foreign nationals studying in India to find a job there was also discussed; this is an important issue which attracted a lot of interest across all the different activities included on the Programme’s agenda. The Indian participants agreed that “there is plenty of work, but foreign nationals need to understand that salaries are lower,” noted Anustup Nayak. He also admitted that his company needs “higher education experts and currently has two people from Singapore and one from the US. The company is a start-up, but the wages are decent. We are committed to retaining talent, no matter where it comes from.”
The panel also included Montserrat Riba, Secretary General of Casa Asia; Miquel Mateu, Head of the Asia-Pacific Programme at Barcelona City Council; Monsterrat Serret, Managing Director at Barcelona Centre Universitari and Beatriz Martínez, Business Development Manager at EADA.
The new offices of Casa Asia are located at Sant Pau, the world’s largest complex of Modernist buildings, and were recently inaugurated after a long refurbishing process. The main purpose of this was to turn the old hospital designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner into a large knowledge hub to host salient institutions in the fields of sustainability, health and education.