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With the aim of concretizing the transformation of Mauritius into a knowledge hub, the government has reiterated its commitment by putting Rs 1 billion in the International Institute of Technology Research Academy (IITRA) project.

The institute was inaugurated on Wednesday July 23, 2014 at the University Campus in Bel Air, Flacq and will operate with the support of the Mauritius Research Council (MRC) and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi.

Out of the Rs 1 billion allocated to the project, Rs 228 million will be invested over five years at the University Campus, whereas some Rs 250 million will be invested in the knowledge park being built in ‘Montagne Blanche’.

The IITRA will offer a world class research platform in this side of the world in the field of scientific and technological research.

Mauritius tertiary education minister Rajesh Jeetah spoke at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, thanking the Indian Government for this collaborative venture, which, he said is another symbol of the very special and unique bond between the two countries.

He also expressed his appreciation to the Director of IIT, Delhi, and the Board of Governors of the Indian Institution for their support in the setting up of IITRA, which, should become a flagship institution by the next decade, in the minister’s views.

The minister also highlighted the ways in which the IITRA will transform the education sector. First, it will be a research platform capable of attracting the best students of Mauritius, Africa and Asia, and beyond, in the field of scientific and technological research. It will create a new platform for scientists to develop their ideas and will, in addition, provide employment opportunities with the creation of some 250 jobs expected by next year, he said.

Finally, he added that the IITRA will place Mauritius in the international forum as a provider of higher education of IIT standards.

Jeetah stated that the launch of IITRA represents a memorable milestone for the development of science, research and technology, and will contribute, hopefully in the near future, in achieving the ambition of having a Mauritian Nobel laureate.

However, these symbolic partnerships were not always honored in complete transparency. In November 2013, a Memorandum of Understanding was supposedly signed between Mauritius Tertiary Education Commission and Association of Indian Universities (AIU).

The agreement was apparently signed when India’s Human Resource Development Minister, Pallam Raju went to Mauritius along with University Grants Commission (UGC) chairperson, Ved Prakash and others.

However, a closer look shows that it does not consist of signatures of officials of both countries, as no official of AIU was part of the delegation, yet the agreement was signed.

While AIU has not given any explanation as to why agreement was renewed with the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) in 2013 when the existing agreement was actually valid till 2015, AK Bakshi, TEC director said “since Mauritius wants to position itself as a knowledge hub, it felt the need to revisit the agreement.”

In the meantime, the HRD ministry that is looking at TEC-AIU and TEC-UGC agreement has gone slow and a decision is likely to be taken only after the Parliament session, posing an obstacle in Mauritius’ path as it moves towards a robust higher education system with India’s cooperation.

Image (Wikipedia): The sum of Rs 1 billion allocated to the project includes Rs 228 million to be invested over five years at the University Campus as well as Rs 250 million to be invested in the knowledge park being built in Montagne Blanche.

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