Austrade in talks with India's top edu-cos, institutions exploring new partnerships

CH Unnikrishnan Pavin Elsa NelsonUpdated: Monday, September 26, 2022, 10:30 PM IST
Austrade's Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner Dr Monica Kennedy |

Australian Trade and Investment Commission or Austrade is talking to India's top educational institutions and educom entrepreneurs exploring new and innovative partnerships in various disciplines, including management, environment agriculture, healthcare sciences and engineering. A trade delegation, led by Dr Monica Kennedy, Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Australia, met with several of the country's edu-entrepreneurs and institutional heads in public as well as private sectors, exploring a wide range of collaborations focusing both the countries.

The delegates from Austrade are in Mumbai this week and have already met heads of IIT Mumbai, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Symbiosis University in Pune, among others. The team also met with industry players who are providing skills education. Free Press Journal caught up with Dr Kennedy for an exclusive chat on the new Australia-India education tie ups. Excerpts:

Any successful talks with industrialists or educational entrepreneurs which can move forward to some meaningful collaboration?

We'll be making a series of announcements this week regarding partnerships between Australian and Indian Universities and also between Australian universities and Ed Tech providers. It will probably be announced on Friday. These include a partnership between the University of South Australia and a couple of leading Indian institutions. We will be also announcing a partnership with UpGrad, a major Ed Tech provider in India and Griffith University. There is another collaboration that is being discussed with India's Manipal University in the area of Health Sciences.

Any particular segments within the education sector you've focused on?

Australia has brought reputation across all of the significant areas, especially to connect with peers in India in all the disciplines. We do have a significant growth in interest from international students or Indian students coming to Australia and continuing in the areas that have traditionally been important to us. In science and technology, in engineering, in math, in management and increasingly in health sciences, particularly around digital health and these are the traditional areas where we have great capacity and capability and where we have great demand as well.

So, what are the new models you have?

We have got a range. There is a joint or twin training program at the Carter Institute of Social Sciences, there's a joint research program with the University.

Is there new programs Australia is planning?

Yes. You will know this week. There are quite a few interesting programmes, which are innovative from curriculum, design and preparation right through to training programs. Credit arrangements between institutions so that students can study part of their program at an Indian institute and part in Australian institutions.

In Australia, there have been some issues which created concerns about the safety of Indian students of late. Has the government already addressed such issues and what is its current status?

Australia was a very safe place to study and during Covid. The country was able to demonstrate its commitment to care for around the world and Indian students were a group which we took the opportunity to care of. During the pandemic, the Australian government took care of them financially. I think Australia's reputation as a high-quality education provider has helped build its globalisation, particularly under the National Education Policy. It has really promoted quite strong interests, active interest between Australian and Indian institutions to get together in collaboration.

The cost of education in Australia has been another concern for Indian students. With these new collaborations that you have spoken of, will there be a low-cost option offered for Indian students in Australia?

Well, I'm not always becoming quite popular here, but for our Indian institutions and our Australians. One way is where an Indian student could begin study here in India with an institution and have that study credited towards the award from an Australian institution in Australia. So, for example, rather a student coming to Australia for three years to study the full program, that student can be here in India for a year with a good quality Indian provider and then finish the two years in Australia with a good quality Australian provider. And that way qualifies for further studies. And the opportunity to engage with, you know, the Australian Community, practice the skills that they learn in Australia, and really make your contribution to the Australian economy before returning to Australia or to India or elsewhere in the World, well-experienced and ready to take up their career.

Do the new programs also offer job opportunities there for students who complete the education?

Yeah, many institutions are offering internship opportunities. At the same time, once they've qualified, many students stayed on and start to practice the skills that they developed while keeping their degree. During the period of part study, the Australian government recently announced certain schemes by which it can help support the students.

So, the country can offer a good number of opportunities for Indian students too?

Yes, that's right. The students from around the world will be able to stay and join the Australian workforce. It's really a way for students to be able to put into practice the skills that they learn and also for Australians and Indians to be able to work together in Australia. I think it's a great opportunity for Indian students that many of them take advantage of.

Are the collaborations that you are exploring now common for the public and private sector?

That's right. So, we have traditionally seen public sector universities collaborating with our Australian public sector universities. But of late we're seeing very good quality privately held institutions also coming forward. Indian Universities are really reaching out to Australian universities building their capabilities through their curriculum and their research and that way improving the reputation of both the Australian and Indian institutions.

Apart from education, are there other service or industry sectors that are also being explored with this delegation?

Yes. There are five sectors within the Australia-India business exchange program in place. There are 120 delegates travelling for this program. There are really interesting priorities for Australian businesses, and we see a real opportunity for engagement between India and Australia.

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