University of Birmingham seeks expert for Guru Nanak Chair

Prasun Sonwalkar
Filed on July 6, 2021

Applications for the post, which was previously advertised in February 2020, close on August 15.

The University of Birmingham has advertised to appoint an expert with an outstanding research profile in the field of Sikh Studies with a record of world-leading publications to the new Guru Nanak Chair funded by the Indian government, which is due to begin from January 2022.

The post was announced by India’s Minister for Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri during a lecture at the university’s India Institute in November 2019 to coincide with the 550th birth anniversary of the founder of Sikhism.

Applications for the post, which was previously advertised in February 2020, close on August 15.

Puri said while announcing the chair: “Setting up a prominent chair in a prominent university is one of the most cost-effective ways of carrying forward Guru Nanak’s message. It will be identified with a place where researchers can send their research, where they can turn to.”

He added: “We are spending a fair amount (on the chair). It is a question of continued support. When you set up a chair, you have to plan for a number of years. I think, the initial funding is for five years but it is likely to be extended and the university has committed itself for an even longer period.”

It is anticipated that the appointed expert will extend and develop the university’s work in Sikh Studies, Interfaith Relations, Religion and Politics, and Peace and Reconciliation, the university said, adding that the successful candidate will also engage in international networking and public engagement, raising the profile of Sikh Studies in terms of research, education, and impact.

The university’s Department of Theology and Religion, it said, has a longstanding engagement in Sikh Studies, reflecting the size of the Sikh community in Birmingham. Birmingham was the first British University to establish a lectureship in Sikh Studies, offering a Masters’ degree in Sikh Studies.

Academic Jagbir Jhutti-Johal, who leads Sikh Studies in the university, was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List for her services to Higher Education, Faith Communities and to the Voluntary Sector.

The university said: “This Chair has been generously funded by the Indian Government and represents an exceptional opportunity to strengthen the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion in key areas of specialisation where the School already has a record of successful research and funding (e.g., Interreligious Relations, Sikh Studies and the Public Understanding of Religion)”.

“Moreover, given the University’s rich history and connections to India, the University of Birmingham India Institute was launched in 2018 and is helping to forge new academic, industrial and intellectual connections between Birmingham and India. The University has numerous research projects and partnerships in India, and this Chair will complement existing portfolios and develop new collaborations”.

The person specifications for the role includes a good first degree together with relevant higher degree relevant to the research/teaching area (usually Ph.D.) or equivalent qualifications; an international reputation in Sikh Studies; experience in collaborative and interdisciplinary research projects; evidence of experience and leadership in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching; and experience of teaching to undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The Guru Nanak Chair is the latest of Indian government’s funding and support to centres and chairs in British universities. They include the IG Patel Chair at the London School of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru Professorship at the University of Cambridge, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Imperial College London, the Tagore Centre for Global Thought at King’s College London and the Oxford India Centre at Somerville College.

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