The University of Wolverhampton has launched a new Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies which will be the first of its kind in the UK.
The new Centre was officially launched by Dr Satinder Sartaaj, renowned Punjabi singer and poet, in the Chancellor’s Hall at the University’s City Campus at a celebratory ceremony attended by members of the local community, University staff and students as well as local dignitaries.
Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhar, Course Leader in Religious Studies in the School of Humanities and an internationally-recognised researcher in Sikhism who has published extensively on the Sikh and Panjabi community, has been appointed Director of the Centre.
The Centre will offer PhDs and Master’s level courses in Sikh studies, as well as continuing professional development (CPD) courses for teachers and managers of diverse workforces such as national and local government, the NHS and the emergency services.
It will also offer training for Granthis and Gianis, individuals taking the religious lead in Gurdwaras, short courses in religious literacy and language to address the loss of the Panjabi language in younger generations, as well as teaching in English to promote bilingualism and skills for life.
The Centre will be involved with the exchange of knowledge on an international platform using the links it has already established with Sikh Studies scholars across the globe.
Opinderjit said: “The Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies will be based around a nationally-leading research hub, with large-scale research projects into Sikh history, art and literature, diaspora, identity, inter-religious dialogue, culture, community and place, all within the context of a 21st century global society.
“To highlight our research we will create an open access peer-reviewed scholarly journal, an annual Sikh Studies research conference, a public lecture series and research-informed exhibitions.
“We aim to be a centre of academic excellence by becoming the national voice for academics active within Sikh and Panjabi Studies and through links with overseas institutions, particularly with universities in Panjab, we will provide opportunities for student exchanges and other collaborative projects to encourage understanding around the world. The focus will be on lifelong learning from both inter-faith and inter-disciplinary perspectives with an aim to increase knowledge and promote dialogue.
“Our aspiration is to create a space for current and future generations in which they can feel comfortable in enquiring about their faith, its principles and ethos. The Centre will be a ‘go-to place’ for any individuals or organisations wanting to know more about the Sikhs and their faith, and it will be the first of its kind in the UK.”
Ninder Johal, Chief Executive Officer of Nachural Group and Independent Governor at the University, said: “The Sikhs are an important part of the United Kingdom and play a substantial role in the global economy. But too often this young religion has not had a voice that represents its views politically, economically and theologically.
“The Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies will correct this with both academic and real-world rigour. It will offer everyone an opportunity to work with a leading university so that we all have a better understanding of this fantastic and globally sympathetic religion.”