Recently, a 30-member Australian delegation was in Delhi to explore research and educational partnership with Indian institutes. Part of the body was Prof Peter Hodgson, deputy vice-chancellor, Research, Deakin University. Earlier this year, in a tie-up with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Deakin had set up TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre in Gurugram, Haryana, to develop nanobiotech solutions in agriculture and environment. Deakin has now announced Australian dollar 1.5 million worth on-campus PhD scholarships for Indian students. “The goal is to select students from fields of sciences, arts, business, data analytics and machine learning, smart technologies, biotechnology, health and engineering for full-time on-campus PhD,” says Prof Peter Hodgson, whose focus is on developing strategic research partnerships for Deakin with academia and industry. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he adds that scholars will receive funding, including tuition costs, for three years to pursue doctorate-level degrees, coupled with education in innovation and leadership. Excerpts:
What was the idea behind the $1.5 million scholarship?
Deakin has enjoyed a strong relationship with India for over two decades. Now we want to help talented students. It’s a win-win—by offering fully-funded PhD scholarships, we want to enrich the pool of knowledge and expertise available both in Australia and India.
At what rate has the number of Indian students been increasing at Deakin?
There has been a 396% increase in the number of Indian students at Deakin since 2012. Each year, an average increase of 52% has been witnessed. Of the total international student population at Deakin, 21% are Indians—second only to the Chinese. Currently, 70 students are pursuing PhD at Deakin. And though we cannot reveal the exact number, the ratio of students pursuing Master’s and Bachelor’s is 85:15. Next year, Indians will become the biggest foreign student body at Deakin. We have had a strong focus on India—we have an office here set up years ago, and having a local presence helps. We are young and nimble—only 42 years old—and yet rank among the top 2% universities in the world as far as research is concerned. Also, we have consistently ranked among the highest in the world according to various rankings.
Has Deakin been conducting research in India with local institutes?
We have an initiative called the Deakin India Research Initiative (DIRI). It’s an expansion of our ongoing development of research to bridge the gap between academia and industry. DIRI involves 80-plus projects over 20 organisations—academic and corporate—across India. Through such projects, we have been able to raise grants from government agencies and local corporates.
Over the years, Australian universities are showing a great deal of interest in India and Indian students. Why?
For a long time, the Chinese formed a considerable proportion among foreign students in Australia. But all good universities want diversity on their campus. Today, Australian universities have 20-25% students as foreign students; some have 40%. There’s no point having a large percentage of foreign students if all are from one country or two. India is a natural choice. First, Indian students are good at English language, which is our medium of instruction. Second, India is a growing economy. Third, there is so much competition within India that even after you score well over 90%, there’s no assurance you will get into a good college or university within the country—for such students, we are trying to position ourselves as the country of choice for higher education.
Who are the target students for Deakin?
We are looking for good students who cannot get the preferred university or college in India despite scoring high in exams.
Interview: Prof Peter Hodgson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Deakin University