Australian universities should explore ways of working with Indian institutions

By Trent Brown and Craig Jeffery

Melbourne, July 20: India has a high and growing demand for tertiary education that can’t currently be met by Indian institutions alone.

The government’s goal to fill 40 million university places by 2020 means India will need to recruit an extra 14 million students over the next four years. But current supply won’t meet demand.

As one of the leading providers of international tertiary education in Asia, Australia is potentially well-positioned to meet this surging demand. But it will face stiff competition from other countries, such as the US and UK – which many Indian students still see as superior destinations for university.

It is against this background that the Australia India Institute – Australia’s only national centre for research and analysis on India – has published a report making a number of recommendations on how Australia can improve its access to the market for Indian international students.

The report recognises there is already a great deal being done in Australia to improve market access in India, for example within the Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra and the Australian High Commission in Delhi.

At the university level, a number of institutions, including Deakin, Monash, RMIT, University of New South Wales, and the University of Melbourne, have recently collaborated with Indian universities, developing joint degrees, student exchange programs, and research tie-ups.

But Australia still has only a 5% share of India’s market for international students. By contrast, we have an 11% share of the market for Chinese international students and a 27% share of the market for Malaysian international students.

We must recognise areas where Australia has lagged behind other countries, particularly the US and the UK, which have managed to secure a larger share of the Indian international student market.

One area in which we have lagged behind our key competitors is in developing strong linkages to India’s emerging centres of educational innovation.

There are a number of outward-looking universities developing in India that are actively seeking international collaborations in research and teaching, including Jindal Global University, Shiv Nadar University and Ashoka University.

While the US and UK’s best universities have been establishing collaborations with these institutions, Australia has only done so in a very limited capacity.

Exploring the potential to work with these new universities should be a priority, moving forward.

We must also work closely with India to improve systems for mutual recognition of qualifications.

India currently has no way of recognising some degrees offered in Australia, such as accelerated masters programs. And due to the bewildering diversity of educational institutions in India, Australia struggles to evaluate Indian students’ prior learning when making decisions regarding entry requirements.

Our research has identified the following ways in which government could facilitate betters connections between Australian and Indian universities. This would help make Australia a more attractive destination for Indian students.

Seven key recommendations for the Australian government

  1. The government should work with institutions to develop case studies of successful collaborations between Australian and Indian universities. These could be used as inspiration for academics and university administrators.
  2. Identify academics who are working on collaborations across the Australia-India space in higher education, and provide them with additional time allocations so they can promote the value of collaborations and work intensively to build stronger linkages.
  3. Develop incentives for faculties to engage in developing joint degrees or blended degrees with Indian universities. Staff could be paid to visit India with the specific aim of developing such degrees.
  4. Develop a more distinctive message about the value of cooperation with India – one that extends beyond mutual economic gain. Indian universities have become wary of working with their Australian counterparts, due to the perception that Australia was self-interested.
  5. Australia must see the value of India linkages in terms of advancing human capital formation in India and Australia, building links between youth, improving access to higher education, and developing new curricula.
  6. Organise a delegation to India to develop projects for new forms of collaboration, particularly with new centres of educational innovation, but also with established centres of academic excellence.
  7. To improve systems of qualifications recognition, the government should develop a database of equivalences between Australian and international educational qualifications. This could be modelled on the database offered by the UK’s National Academic Recognition Information Centre, which is used to assess the comparability of international students’ prior learning with similar British qualifications.
  8. Fund a scoping project to assess the potential benefits and challenges of establishing campuses for Australia’s elite Group of Eight universities in India. The Indian government looks increasingly likely to overturn an existing law that prevents foreign providers from setting up campuses on Indian soil. A scoping project would ensure that we are ahead of the game if and when the legislation changes.

(Trent Brown works as a research assistant at the Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne which receives funding from The Commonwealth Government of Australia, Victorian Government, University of Melbourne and other private sources.)

(Craig Jeffrey is director of the Australia India Institute which receives funding from The Commonwealth Government of Australia, Victorian Government, University of Melbourne and other private sources.)

feature image @Craig Jeffery

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