India to deepen university and training collaboration

India has pledged to work with the Australian government, universities and vocational education trainers to establish themselves in India following the two-day visit to Delhi of a 130-strong delegation of Australian university and training leaders led by Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham and joined by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last week.

Birmingham said the Turnbull government had secured important progress on key education issues following meetings and discussions with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Minister for Human Resource Development Shri Prakash Javadekar and the Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Shri Rajiv Pratap Rudy.

“India represents a significant opportunity for both Australian educators and students which is why the commitments we’ve secured will continue to deliver on what is a strategically important relationship for both countries and our respective education sectors,” Minister Birmingham said.

“Ministers Javadekar and Rudy both recognise the quality of Australian education and have instructed Indian officials to work on helping our universities and training providers to establish themselves in the local market.”

Australian universities have welcomed the significant progress towards deeper and broader collaboration with India after the very successful visit by the education minister and university leaders.

“During this trip, India’s enthusiasm and passion for higher education shone through. It’s clear that both countries’ universities, in areas like research and training, have a lot to offer each other,” the Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said.

"India sees learning and education as a fundamental part of its economic growth, which is one of the fastest in the world at 7%."

The Indian government has committed to an ambitious target of training 400 million of its citizens by 2022, and providing university education for around 6 million. Every year 20 million Indians turn 18, and the Indian government’s target is for at least 30% to complete a university qualification.

“Australia has significant experience in educating large numbers of students and that’s increasingly a priority for the Indian government. There are substantial benefits to both countries with increased educational, research and employability connections,” Robinson said.

Minister Birmingham said Australian educators are well-placed to help the Indian government achieve its skills training target and was pleased that Minister Rudy endorsed the value of Australian ‘train the trainer’ courses being delivered by Australian providers.

“It highlights the world-class reputation of our education system while also smoothing the way for Australian trainers to gain greater access to the booming Indian market.”

Research collaboration

Discussions with Minister Rudy included capacity building and collaboration in research and data analytics, and working with other Indian Ocean Rim Association member states to develop occupational standards.

Birmingham said a highlight of his trip was seeing first-hand the new Indian Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Deakin University’s collaboration on a BioNanotechnology Research Centre in New Delhi after it was officially opened by prime ministers Turnbull and Modi.

“Collaborations like Deakin-TERI and the many showcased by the Group of Eight’s new Excellence in India publication that I helped to launch highlight the potential of research partnerships between Australian and Indian universities and researchers.

There are around 400 research partnerships between the two countries and the Turnbull government is delivering around AU$100 million (US$76 million) for joint research projects as well as AU$7 million announced on 11 April for seven new Australia-India Strategic Research Fund projects.

“I look forward to those research relationships growing in number and scale," Birmingham said.

The activities supported by the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund alone have involved around 100 universities and research institutions across the two countries.

Birmingham said the two countries had established many relations across higher education, research and also via schools' partnerships.

The Australian government is, he said, committed to making sure there is two-way mobility “that is not just a relationship to upskill India but also about ensuring that Australian students, as they study, have greater opportunities to engage in India and by doing so learn more about India, to understand India’s culture and aspirations, and from there to be able to help strengthen all aspects of our relationship into the future”.

In 2016 around 60,000 Indians were studying in Australia and that number has been growing at around 18.5% per year since 2013, he said.

“Over the past two days I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of former Indian students who studied in Australia and now actively promote the value of an Australian education through extensive alumni networks.

“Kiran Mazumdar, for example, who I had the pleasure of speaking alongside at the Universities Australia Engagement and Alumni Forum, studied at Federation University before returning to Bangalore to start a successful multinational business and her passion for how an Australian education helped her is echoed by many of the alumni I had the opportunity to meet.

“It’s those sorts of stories and experiences, in both Indian and Australian students, that missions like the delegation I’ve just led to India, as well as programmes like the Turnbull government’s New Colombo Plan and Endeavour Scholarships, are designed to foster,” Birmingham said.

“Our long-term aim is to be India’s key international education partner and this trip was a key step forward.

“The momentum we’ve gained at ministerial and official levels and the support shown by Australia’s universities and vocational education providers will continue to deliver for our partnership with India.”

Around one in 10 – or 60,000 – of Australia’s international students in 2016 came from India, 12% up on the previous year – and Australia is the second-most popular destination for Indian students.

While in Delhi, Birmingham said the visit of the large delegation “underscores the priority that the Australian government places on strengthening the education relationship with India”.

India has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and is set to become the world’s third largest economy in the next 15 years.

At a Knowledge Partnership Roundtable in New Delhi on Tuesday, cross paradigm research, entrepreneurship and mobility were discussed. Birmingham said these are critically important things that the Australian government wants to help further embed.

He said that in his discussions with Indian officials the aim was to “make sure we have that two-way mobility of students, researchers, academics and leaders across industry and training” and “that we enhance the outcomes from those research undertakings to ensure that they drive entrepreneurial activity across both of our nations and business collaborations”.

He said on Tuesday that he was very pleased by the strength and breadth of memoranda of understandings entered into during the visit.