02 September 2009

India opens door to Australian universities

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Australian universities could soon set up campuses in India, a market that other big names in international higher education are also keen to court.

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Indian students make up the second largest nationality of those studying in Australia on an Australian Student Visa, and now there are moves for Australian universities to set up programmes in India.

Currently, Indian students make up the second highest international student population in Australian universities, studying in Australia on Australian student visas.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard is in India and recently met with the Minister for Human Resource Development, Shri Kapil Sibal, who talked of plan for Australian universities to open campuses in India.

Ms Gillard's office released a statement saying the prospect of a new partnership for Australian universities is an important step.

"The Indian education system is growing rapidly as a result of government reforms and population growth. This new dialogue creates a major opportunity for Australia and Australian education institutions to be partners and collaborators in this growing sector," the statement said.

However, most Australian universities may find it too expensive to build campuses in India and may have to develop more cost-effective ways to enter the region.

Other strategies could include developing a number of key strategic institutional partnerships with Indian universities and create joint-degree programs, double badge programs, especially PhD programs, as well as other post-grad programs.

Larger universities who have significant capital reserves may consider opening a campus in India, but estimates suggest only up to three universities in Australia could afford to do so.

Another difficulty is that university fees in India are very low in the market, and would inhibit the ability of an Australian university to charge fees that could cover costs. 

Monash University, Australia's largest, is currently in a partnership with IIT Bombay, which last year built a $10 million facility in Mumbai.

As part of the new partnerships plan, Ms Gillard says Australia and Indian officials will meet annually to discuss development.

"In an important step to achieving greater collaboration and a new partnership, the ministers have agreed to an annual ministerial dialogue on education," Ms Gillard's office said in a statement.

Ms Gillard also moved to reassure Indian officials that Indian nationals studying in Australia would be safe, following the spate of violent attacks earlier this year.

"On behalf of the Australian people can I say that Australia has zero tolerance for violence against visiting Indian students, indeed zero tolerance for violence against anyone," she said.

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