OXFORD University hopes a proposed £19m centre will help tackle food problems in developing countries, including India.
Plans to build the Indira Gandhi Centre for Sustainable Development were officially announced in New Delhi on Friday.
The centre will focus on research into issues surrounding the availability of food for people in developing countries.
Professor of Conservation Biology and fellow of Somerville College, Alex Rogers, said: “For us it is very exciting. We have been doing a lot of research in the field.
“There are many serious issues in terms of development, like managing to process enough food to feed everyone, so it is an opportunity to address these issues in a growing economy like India.
“This scheme as a whole is going to help us get to grip with these problems elsewhere in the world too.”
Indira Gandhi was born Indira Nehru on November 19, 1917, in Allahabad, India.
She won a place at Oxford University where she studied at Somerville College.
She failed to complete her studies but was later given an honorary degree.
While in the UK, she met and married Feroze Gandhi, and the couple had two sons, Rajiv and Sanjay.
She was the first – and to date only – female prime minister of India, serving from 1966 to 1977 and 1980 until 1984 when she was assassinated.
Mrs Gandhi was killed by two of her own bodyguards, while on the way to be interviewed by the British actor Peter Ustinov.
To date she is the world’s second longest serving female prime minister.
Both her children died in tragic circumstances.
Sanjay was killed a flying accident in June 1980. Rajiv Gandhi, also went into politics and became India’s sixth prime minister (1984–1989).
He took office after his mother’s assassination but was himself assassinated in 1991.
In 2010, Oxford University chose Mrs Gandhi as one of 10 Asian graduates to be included in an exhibition.
She was not related, by marriage or blood, to Mahatma Gandhi.
If funding is secured, the centre, to be named after the former prime minister of India, will form part of Oxford University’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter now taking shape on the old Radcliffe Infirmary site next to Somerville College.
A £3m cash boost from the Indian government for the centre was announced at the New Delhi launch.
A further £5.5m is coming from Somerville College, where Mrs Gandhi was a student, and Oxford University.
The rest of the £19m is still to be raised, but the university hopes to have the centre up and running within five years.
The aim is to have it finished in time for the centenary celebrations of Mrs Gandhi’s birthday on November 19, 2017.
Five fully-funded scholarships will be available to Indian students, as well as postdoctoral positions and fellowships.
Prof Rogers said: “It is also a fantastic opportunity to get very bright graduates to come and study from India.
“The education of these students at one of the foremost teaching facilities in the world is a wonderful opportunity for them, and for us to teach and do research with wonderful students.”
Speaking in New Delhi, Somerville College principal Dr Alice Prochaska said: “Somerville College is extremely proud to have contributed to the education of Indira Gandhi, the first female prime minister of India and one of the most important statespeople of the 20th century.
“This new centre will honour Indira Gandhi’s legacy to the world by addressing key issues of global significance.”