University of Melbourne foray into India’s huge education needs
A high-level delegation of the University of Melbourne (UoM) led by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor International, Professor Michael Wesley and Assistant Deputy Vice-Chancellor International – India, Professor Muthupandian Ashokkumar was in India for two weeks from April 4 to April 16.
The objective of the visit was for the University to reconnect with India two years after the successful launch of Engaging with India 2020-2024. The Australia-India relationship is one of the most strategically important international relationships for the University and remains central to its internationalisation efforts. 2022 marks the halfway point of UoM’s India strategy and the visit was to reignite and advance the University’s engagement with institutional partners, key government stakeholders and alumni.
The whole idea stems from the university’s focus to implement Engaging with India.
The delegation visited – Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Madurai, Salem, Coimbatore and Hyderabad carrying a hectic and fruitful agenda which among other things included:
• Visit to Harvard University’s Lakshmi Mittal and Family Institute for South Asia, Delhi
• Faculty of Engineering & Information Technology meeting with the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
• Official launch of the University of Melbourne Blended Academy for Teaching & Learning in Pune
• Meeting with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Madras
• Anna University visit and meeting with the Vice-Chancellor
• Indian Institute of Technology Madras meeting
• Visit to Mahatma Global Campus, Veerapanchan, Sivagangai road, Madurai
• Arrive at Bharathiar University – MoU singing ceremony
• Meeting with Periyar University, Salem – Letter of Intent signing ceremony.
• GITAM University visit
While the UoM has finalized agreements with various education providers in India, opened doors to formalize few other, a joint PhD program was also formalised with the IISc, Bengaluru.
The program may be extended to medical PhD programs in the near future.
The UoM started its internationalization efforts into India by partnering with the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) offering its first ever Blended Science Degree program.
Bharat Times spoke to Professor Michael Wesley leader of the UoM delegation before he left for India.
When asked what other disciplines are considered to be more popular or more viable options?
“Business and commerce. Engineering, I think is very popular. Some elements of Media Studies and communication … medical, medical studies and public health, I think, will be of interest and demand” Professor Wesley told Bharat Times before leaving for India.
When asked where can we see this relationship of Uni of Melbourne expanding? Its collaboration with India in the next 20, 30 years?
“I would hope that we would see a big expansion in research partnerships, including joint PhD training and, and postdoctoral positions. I would hope we would see the two way flow of visiting academics increase a great deal. I would hope that we would see the two way flow of students increase a great deal as well. I think that universities have a big role to play in increasing understanding and awareness of India, among Australians and Australia among Indians as well. I would hope that the University of Melbourne would be playing a leading role in in facilitating all of those sorts of linkages and exchanges”, Professor Michael Wesley beautifully sums up.
The UoM’s partnership with Indian Institute of Science, will support up to 10 joint PhD candidates each year for the next five years. Students enrolled in the programme can spend at least 12 and up to 24 months in each institution.
The program is part of the Melbourne India Postgraduate Academy (MIPA), a joint initiative consisting of established researchers and joint PhD candidates from the University of Melbourne and a group of India’s top research institutions, engaging in projects that address key issues in science and technology.
Upon formalizing the joint PhD program, Michael Wesley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International), University of Melbourne, said, “We were delighted to be the first global university partner in a joint PhD program with our colleagues at IISc. …We have been working on developing some significant research and research training projects, and it is our honour to announce the intent to extend the joint program into the fields of medicine also.”
The UoM’s internationalizations arrangements with various universities and education institutions in India have come a long way from its first venture of offering a Blended Science degree to students in India through its arrangements with the SPPU, Pune. Currently there are more than 10,000 students enrolled already through various outlets – universities, colleges and education providers – pursuing some blended or joint study program according to Professor Ashokkumar Muthupandian, Assistant Deputy Vice-Chancellor International – India and Professor Wesley’ assistant.
With India having more than 500 million population of student age (5-24), sky is the limit. It may very well be that the UoM’s biggest campuses in the world, may soon be offshore campuses in India.
The UoM is pursuing its expansion and collaboration efforts in India with Engaging with India 2020-2024 program under the leadership of Professor Michael Wesley assisted by Professor Muthupandian.
The program to expand into India – is the brainchild of Professor Andrew Drinnan (Associate Dean Teaching & Learning at the faculty of science at the time) and Professor Muthupandian (Associate Dean International).
International Students from India
Melbourne University is also a sought-after destination and premier education provider in Australia for international students coming from India. There are currently more than 1300 international students from India on campus in Melbourne and of those, 364 are new students who have just commenced their courses.
Generous COVIOD-19 Financial Support offered
During the pandemic, many international students from India were stuck both in India and in Australia when international borders closed. The university of Melbourne had two generous support grants on offer – the COVID-19 Student Support Grant and the COVID-19 Emergency Support Grants. According to the information obtained by Bharat Times, the University of Melbourne provided 883 international students from India $4.5 million in financial support.
Speaking to Bharat Times, Professor Ashok Muthupandian told the UoM has also provided up to $3000 per student for those stuck in India to assist them to be able to travel to Australia.
“And for this year, they also get an additional $3,000 for them to cover their travel to come to Melbourne”, Professor Muthupandian said.
The UoM has been really keen to help its international students. During the lockdowns and travel restrictions, those stuck in India were offered assistance to help them not lose time. They were assisted by the Country Office of the UoM and placed with its Indian counterparts, Professor Muthupandian told Bharat Times.
“During the pandemic, students who are who are stuck in India, they were supported by our country office… if they needed help. One example where a PhD student who could not start his PhD on time here, so we asked our Indian research partner (IISc.) to accommodate him. And then he did one year of research at the Institute of Science, and then now he’s here”, Professor Muthupandian told.
During the pandemic and lockdowns, the UoM was “trying to use partner institutions (in India) to help the students”.
- -with inputs by Dinesh Malhotra