The University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies is the first of its kind in the UK, founded in the home of the second largest UK-based Sikh population. It’s these families – and the local organisations that work together to support them – as well as the wider community that make Wolverhampton the ideal place to create the Centre.
The first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, is heralded as the pioneer of Inter-faith relationships, and the Centre is based on his principles around inter-religious dialogue and mutual respect.
To ensure our research is always open and inclusive, we will work closely with Wolverhampton’s Interfaith Council, which was one of the very first in the country, formed in the aftermath of Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech. The ‘Inter Faith Wolverhampton’, as it has become known, is also supported by the Mayor of Wolverhampton, and it is from this cross-institution collaboration that our Centre takes its inspiration and pedigree.
The University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies
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. We will also offer training for Granthis and Giani’s, and 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.
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.
The Centre will also help to combat the misuse of religion and faith in national identity politics that currently threatens the right to freedom of religion and belief through the negative stereotyping of religion and religious communities. Situating the Sikhs and Sikhi in modern society is of vital importance to bring greater awareness and understanding of the Sikh faith to the public sphere.
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.
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 Panjab Studies. The Centre will also be involved with the exchange of knowledge on an international platform due to the links it has already established with Sikh Studies scholars across the globe. Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhar, Director of the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies, is an internationally-recognised researcher in Sikhism and has published extensively on the Sikh and Panjabi community. Using her knowledge and relationship with the community, she is uniquely placed to lead and inform the research programme conducted by our students and academics.
Researchers already working with the Centre are covering a wide variety of culturally significant disciplines including religion, philosophy, mental health and discrimination in the workplace, with new avenues of interest regularly emerging. Each new piece of work enriches us all as we connect our shared heritage to our present and our future.
Collaborating with the Sikh community in Wolverhampton, the UK and around the world is vital to the work of the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies. Our research and teaching will be for everyone with an interest in Sikhism, shared using the most appropriate platforms and seeking feedback in an open dialogue where all parties learn together. Our goal is to promote community cohesion, engagement and cultural understanding both locally and nationally. At our core is the determination to keep Sikh heritage alive for future generations, and to achieve this we will organise an annual programme of events and activities to engage, entertain and educate our global community.
Activities will include workshops, public events (such as ‘SikhFest’ and Turban Days), sports clubs and work around supporting diverse workforces so that we can improve conditions and solve problems for everyone. The Centre will also offer prizes for significant contributions to society, which will include ‘The Guru Nanak Prize for Interfaith Dialogue between Sikhs and non-Sikhs’. From an artistic and heritage perspective, we will work alongside community initiatives such as Jaikara and Rooh Panjabi to organise regular South Asian poetry recitals (Kavi Darbars) at the University. As a part of our commitment to international engagement, the Centre is in talks with a number of highly reputable Panjabi universities to work in collaboration to provide training for Indian and British born Giani’s in order to address issues around engagement with the younger generation.
All of these programmes combined will seek to revive the Panjabi language and the Sikh identity before they are lost in the diaspora.
“It’s very broad because it’s about acceptance and tolerance and you’re engaging with people from vastly difference backgrounds.” Sean, WLV student
“Being a student of Religious Studies has taught me key aspects of numerous world religions and I've extended my learning on wider religious issues effecting society. I’ve visited several places of worship including churches, gurdwaras, mandirs and many more. I’ve learnt the importance of engaging with religions by participating and speaking to people rather than focusing solely on books.” Priya, WLV student
“Coming to the University of Wolverhampton has allowed me to understand that no matter who you are, everyone is the same. Humanity comes before anything else.” Nadia, WLV student
“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.“ Ninder Johal, CEO of Nachural Group
Where we aim to be by 2022
Through our five year journey, we hope to:
- aid cultural understanding and community cohesion
- offer new perspectives on the Sikh faith – religion, history and politics
- break down misunderstanding and misidentification by addressing negative stereotypes
- enable inter-faith understanding and dialogue
- work locally and globally – helping those on our own streets, as well as on the other side of the world
- attract talented academics and students from around the world
- provide religious literacy toolkits for diverse workplaces such as the police, NHS, journalists etc
There are many ways to volunteer your time with the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies. You can:
- take part in academic research
- share your experiences as a Sikh or Sikhi
- be part of a focus group
- suggest a community event
- be part of a community event
- help us fundraise for the Centre and the events we run
You can support our work by making a charitable donation to the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies.
To fund our academics, the research and PhD students alongside the community events and engagement opportunities will cost £100,000 per year.
The University of Wolverhampton is the University of Opportunity, and we are committed to ensuring that students from all walks of life can study with us.
We are seeking charitable support to assist with the costs of running the Centre as well as contributions to our Student Scholarship Programme. We will be delighted to discuss the benefits of making a donation with you.
To discuss a gift to the Centre for Sikh and Punjabi as an individual donor or corporate sponsor, please contact Terry Gibson, Development Manager, by calling: 01902 321 536 or emailing: email@example.com
Alternately you can give online at: wlv.ac.uk/donate
The majority of funding for the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies is provided by the University of Wolverhampton.
Dr Takhar, the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies and the University of Wolverhampton work in collaboration with a variety of organisations including research funders, commissioning bodies and philanthropists for further funding.
Dr Takhar and the Centre do not receive external funding from any government agency, domestic or international, and the long-term ambition is to assist the costs of running the Centre through charitable support and philanthropic donations.
All funding is subject to due-diligence checks and policies to ensure the academic freedom of speech of our students, staff and guests, and the University of Wolverhampton and the Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies reserves the right to pursue funding from a variety of sources subject to these due-diligence criteria being met.
Find Out More
For further details please contact Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhar