Editor’s Note: Since the article’s original date of publication, Virginia Tech’s partnership with MARG Swarnabhoomi has dissolved, ending plans to inhabit the 6,000-square-foot lab in the Amrita Research Park. Virginia Tech’s major enterprise has since moved to Maduravoyal, Chennai, about two hours away and close to Mahindra World City. In Chennai – and at a new site at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg – Virginia Tech researchers and scientists are collaborating with Mahindra engineers to create next-generation “smart” farm equipment.

Virginia Tech is taking a significant step toward establishing a new campus overseas through the execution of an agreement with a large private sector group. The proposed Virginia Tech, India campus will be located on at least 30 acres in the state of Tamil Nadu in southeast India initially encompassing a 70,000-square-foot campus facility. Master's and Ph.D. programs are planned for approximately 300 students in engineering and the sciences.

The institution – called Virginia Tech MARG Swarnabhoomi, India – fulfills Virginia Tech’s desire to have a credible presence in India with ample land for future growth and proximity to a major metropolitan city. The proposed campus will be located within a two-hour drive of Chennai (formerly known as Madras), India’s fourth largest city and the capital of Tamil Nadu.

“This is a historic moment for Virginia Tech,” President Charles W. Steger said. “Virginia Tech, India will create a place in India where engineers, students, and high tech science professionals from the United States and India will work together and learn from each other. Together, they will create things that none of them could do alone. Equally important, I envision this campus as a springboard to further partnerships with the private sector as well as research institutes throughout India and south Asia.”

“Virginia Tech, India contributes to Virginia Tech’s becoming a truly global university,” said S.K. De Datta, associate vice president for international affairs. “We are committed to an international strategic plan that envisions centers in all regions of the world. We believe this strategy is vital to educating our students, preparing them for the global job market, and enriching our faculty.” Sound bites from S.K. De Detta are available online.

The agreement represents more than three years of research and preparation on the part of a high-level team involving Steger, representatives of several of Virginia Tech’s academic colleges, and John E. Dooley, vice president for Outreach and International Affairs. The enterprise is expected to draw on Virginia Tech research resources such as the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech also will be involved.

“Learning, discovery and engagement – the three pillars of scholarship at the Blacksburg campus – will be in force at Virginia Tech India,” Dooley said. “Graduates with master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Virginia Tech India will help fulfill the country’s need for quality faculty members to teach in ever-expanding engineering and science colleges in India.”

Virginia Tech will manage the campus and design its academic programs, research facilities, and labs. The university will also promote the idea of education abroad at the new campus and arrange for faculty exchanges. The new campus is expected to become the site of high tech seminars, workshops, and symposia.

On Tuesday, De Datta and Dooley are scheduled to accompany MARG Limited representatives including G.R.K. Reddy, MARG Limited’s chairman and managing director, to Danville to tour the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research as a potential model for the new campus. “We want to see if they like the architecture and design,” De Datta said. “The size is about right.”

In 2007, a government commission in India urged that the country increase its number of universities from 350 to 1,500 by 2015. In 1999, Virginia Tech became the first U.S. institution to offer a degree program in India – a master’s in information technology offered in conjunction with the S.P. Jain Institute. Harvard, Yale, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology are also pursuing centers in India.

In other India-based activities, Virginia Tech researchers have been involved with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in using biotechnology tools to develop pest-resistant eggplant.

Virginia Tech has a presence on five continents. The most developed centers are in Switzerland and the Dominican Republic.

Virginia Tech’s Outreach and International Affairs supports the university’s engagement mission by creating community partnerships and economic development projects, offering professional development programs and technical assistance, and building collaborations to enrich discovery and learning – all with the overarching goal of improving the quality of life for people within the commonwealth and throughout the world. Outreach and International Affairs leads Virginia Tech’s presence on five continents; its regional research and development centers across the commonwealth focus on graduate education and professional development. Blacksburg-based centers are dedicated to student engagement, language, policy, and governance.

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