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By far, the best economics of quality science education

Prof-Ashokkumar-Muthupandian

Good news for Indian international students

When it comes to education, genuine students would want to go to the very best colleges and Universities to complete their degrees. No wonder, the world has seen students from developing countries travelling in droves to developed countries for further education and paying huge amounts of money for it. With world becoming a global village and people travelling continents on a daily basis, it is God-sent blessings for science students and their parents when a university of the stature and reputation of University of Melbourne (UoM) puts in place arrangements – to offer its own degree – a B.Sc (blended) in India. This is a pure good news story for genuine students of science and their parents and siblings as they get Australian standard degree under the supervision and controlled program of UoM, for a fraction of a cost.

After doing some meticulous planning and hard work on the curriculum of B. Sc (Blended) Degree and how it will be delivered in India without compromising the quality, in 2016, the University of Melbourne partnered with the Indian Institute for Science Education and Research, Pune (IISER Pune)  and Savitribai Phule Pune University to deliver the course.

The Delivery of the course is done blending both online and on-campus education, said Associate Professor Andrew Drinnan, who was instrumental in developing BSc Blended program. Pioneering the way was Modern College of Arts, Science and Commerce affiliated to the Savitribai Phule University; the college conducted a test to recruit students for this inaugural degree.

The course was launched in May 2016 in Pune and 18 members of the first batch of graduates of Blended Bachelor of Science degree travelled to Melbourne last month. Hosted by UoM for a week-long Bio-Sciences Research camp, students got their first-hand experience on  a wide range of projects that are currently being undertaken by researchers in the UoM School of BioSciences.

1st Batch of Blended Degree graduates
1st Batch of Blended B.Sc graduates with UoM Vice Chancellor Prof Duncan Maskell and acting Consul General for India Rakesh Malhotra

Particular focus was the use of cell and molecular biology techniques for addressing a range of challenges facing Australian ecosystems (such as the Great Barrier Reef), human health and agriculture.

Students worked together in small groups to explore these challenges, examine the latest research findings and consider how these findings can benefit Australia and the world.

For those who had traveled to Australia for the first time and those interested in further studies, information sessions on the Master of Science (BioSciences), as well as weekend tours of local attractions, were also be organized.

The architect of the program, Prof. Muthupandian Ashokkumar, Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor International, for University of Melbourne hosted the Vice Chancellor of Savitribai Phule Pune University Prof Nitin R. Karmalkar and his team of teachers along with the students.

Speaking exclusively to Bharat Times, Vice Chancellor Prof Karmalkar said he is looking at expanding the collaborative arrangements with the UoM and would definitely like to see the program grow. He was also contemplating potential extension to include School of Design in addition to already expanded delivery of the program on campus at his university.

The beauty of the Blended degree on offer is the fact students can complete their three year degree in Pune and get a Savitribai Phule Pune University degree, recognized by UoM and IISER Pune or they can travel to Melbourne for the third year (they get full credit for the two years completed in Pune) and complete their degree in Melbourne to get a UoM degree. Because this degree is direct equivalent to the bachelor’s degrees offered locally, these students are eligible to enrol in M.Sc courses offered by the UoM.

This is where the costs and savings issues come in and come in very handy for those who are genuinely seeking an internationally recognized science degree for a fraction of a cost paid by Australian students.

Talking exclusively to Bharat Times, Prof Ashokkumar highlighted the cost differential:

“Students pay about 30,000 INR per year to complete BSc Blended and get a UoM equivalent Science degree, which otherwise would cost about 100 k AUD if they were to get a Sceicne degree in any university in Australia. If they transit to the University of Melbourne in 3rd year, they would only pay one year full fee and get a Melbourne degree. Since it is a UoM and IISER-Pune quality controlled program, the quality of the degree is not compromised”.

With this degree program offered by UoM, Prof. Ashokkumar says parents from various socio-economical backgrounds would be able to support their children achieve quality education.

For those who are pursuing a science degree, the savings are huge: For a three year degree in India the total cost (on above figures) will be INR 90,000, which is less than $2,000 Australia whereas the local cost of the same degree is $100,000 – which is 50 times more.

And the good news is going to grow. As Prof. Ashokkumar told Bharat Times:

Apart from Savtribai Phule Uni in Pune, to expand the program the UoM is in discussions with Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala, Universities in Thirupathi and Kolkata through IISER Thirupathi and IISER Kolkata, Stella Maris College in Chennai, Bishop Heber College in Trichi.

“We anticipate to expand this program to various regions in India in the next 3-5 years. Considering this course may be offered by 20-30 colleges within 5 years, and 20-30 students per college per year, we will have thousands of students benefitted through this program in the next decade or so. BSc Blended is a carefully thought and developed program that involves academics from IISER Pune, SSPU, Colleges around Pune and UoM. Quality degree that is available to students keen to excel in education”, Prof. Ashokkumar said.

As to other disciplines, yes, UoM is also hoping to expand the collaborative arrangements to encompass other disciplines and go India wide.

“ We plan to establish this program throughout India and expand the Blended program to other disciplines such as Engineering, Medicine, Arts, Humanity and Social Sciences”, Prof. Ashokkumar added.

They say great minds think alike. It was not just coincidence that the president of India Ram Nath Kovind visiting Australia delivered a lecture at the UoM on Australia and India being knowledge partners. UoM, it seems is well on its way down that path already.

Mr Rakesh Malhotra, Consul General of India who attended the function, praised the initiative of the University of Melbourne in strengthening educational ties between Australia and India.

-R. VenuGopal

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