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A little bit of Norway in Ahmedabad

Norwegian economist Dr. Vegard Iversen is currently a Professor at the prestigious Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA). There are several Norwegian academics and researchers working in India on short and sometimes long-term basis, however they are mostly linked to Norwegian universities. Iversen has lived in India for more than a decade.

Sitting down for a chat with Iversen here at the embassy, he tells us that he pursued an academic career because of his passion for research. Being a Professor at IIMA means that he does research, teaches and undertakes some administrative work. Doing mostly applied (using large data-sets) microeconomic work on development, Iversen has covered a wide range of India-related topics. A few thematic headlines would be social mobility, caste and inequality, women in politics, the impact of large dams, colonial origins of contemporary development, migration and labour markets.

We asked Iversen to share some thoughts on the Indian educational systems seen with Norwegian eyes. He explains how he believes that India's higher education landscape is in transition with new private universities coming up. “This development is a response to the surge in educational aspirations and the need to fill the gap between a rapidly growing demand and capacity constrained government institutions. The tough entry requirements this squeeze creates are percolating through the school system and increasing the already intense competitive pressures on children from a very young age”.

The way to living in India came naturally for Iversen who left Norway in 1996 to do his Phd in the UK, as the opportunities within the South Asia fields were greater there. Iversen explains that since his wife is an Indian citizen and they both work on South Asia, returning to India after 10 years in the UK seemed like an obvious option. “It was a bit of a gamble but things have worked out well”. Giving up attractive academic posts in the UK (Shalini is an anthropologist) to move to India was partly also to achieve a better work-life balance.

The couple has two sons who are born in India, have studied in Indian schools and been raised in a house where four generations lived on separate floors and interacted with each other daily. This proximity to their grandparents has been precious. “These years have also, as you can probably imagine, provided material enough to fill a book on cross-cultural comparisons of living arrangements and the raising of children”.  The family visits the Norwegian part of the family every summer: the boys are learning Norwegian through the web-based Globalskolen, love the outdoors opportunities that Norway offers in abundance and look forward to their first skiing trip in April next year.

“I enjoy the teaching here and appreciate the opportunity to be transformative that teaching in India often offers” Iversen shares with us.  Before Iversen joined IIMA he started his career in India with the International Food Policy Research Institute, spent four years at the highly regarded Indian Statistical Institute and moved from there to one of the new private Universities, Jindal School of Government and Public Policy. Since 2012 he has been the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of South Asian Development. He is also on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Development Studies.

Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad is India's most well-known management institute. In the QS 2018 global ranking of master programmes in management, IIMA is 23rd in the world, ahead of all programmes in Australia and New Zealand and with Copenhagen Business School as the only Scandinavian school with a higher rank.