On March 8, in the presence of visiting Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Deakin University announced opening of its first international campus outside Australia. Called the Deakin International Branch Campus (IBC), it will be set up in the smart business district of GIFT City in Gujarat and classes will begin in July 2024. Deakin would invest A$ 4 million (about Rs 22 crore) on it in the first phase.
On March 9, the University of Melbourne launched the Bachelor of Science Dual Degree with three Indian institutes — University of Madras, Savitribai Phule Pune University and Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management (GITAM) Hyderabad.
Last year (on July 27, 2022), the University of Wollongong became the first-ever foreign university to sign the Letter of Intent with GIFT City, to establish a location for teaching, research and industry engagement in GIFT City in a partnership or on a stand-alone basis.
There seems to be a flurry of activity from the Australians in the Indian education space.
They were always involved
Education sector analysts FE talked to said that education tops the trade agenda for Australia, particularly with India. “This has been the case for many years now. It had been more focused on Indian students going to Australian universities until recently,” said Narayanan Ramaswamy, national leader, Education & Skill Development, KPMG in India. “So when the Indian government relaxed regulations for foreign university participation in Indian higher education space — permitting dual degrees and programmatic collaboration — Australia started showing interest in Indian geography as well.”
Ramaswamy added that when the draft UGC regulations on ‘setting up and operation of campuses of foreign higher educational institutions in India’ came up, Australian universities became among the first to grab the opportunity.
“It’s not surprising that the Australians are showing interest in branch campuses in India or joint degrees with Indian universities. They have always been on the lookout to tap into the large Indian student market,” he said. “Past decade also saw a steady decline in the Australian interest in China and its higher education market, which has only further enhanced their India (higher education) interest.”
They’ve timed it well
Avantika Tomar, EY-Parthenon India Education partner said that a lot of activity had been happening in the background for months — for example, the University of Wollongong signed the Letter of Intent with GIFT City in July last year — and the announcement (by Deakin, Wollongong and Melbourne) was potentially timed alongside the visit of the Australian Prime Minister to India from March 8-11.
Australian education bodies have also been working with Indian industry associations such as the FICCI. In February, FICCI and Deakin University signed a MoU to re-energise the commitment to strengthen industry-university partnerships between India and Australia. In early March, FICCI hosted in Delhi a high-powered Australian Delegation of University Leaders led by Jason Clare, the minister of education of Australia.
More universities will come
While the Australians seem to have taken the lead in setting up physical presence in India, many universities from the West are also in talks with GIFT City.
Tomar said that ever since the finance minister announced the GIFT City, both the GIFT City and the International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) — the regulatory body within the GIFT City and an equivalent of the UGC — have been doing webinars for universities in the US, the UK and Australia, inviting them to set up their presence in India.
“GIFT City regulations offer foreign universities very conducive guidelines and provisions to set up their presence as long as these are in the top 500 universities of the world (by QS ranking for university and/or subject) — also, profits earned through the provision of services delivered in the GIFT City are allowed to be freely repatriated to the home jurisdiction, in accordance with FDI Policy and laws and provisions under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999,” she said. “All these initiatives are with the intent to attract international universities to set up branch campuses in India, expanding their reach and research potential.”
What are they offering?
Deakin: It will offer only postgraduate programmes, and the first two are Master of Cybersecurity and Master of Business Analytics. “Both the courses are two years in duration, with the first year’s study made up of eight core units,” Prof Iain Martin, vice-chancellor of Deakin University, told FE. “In the second year, students will focus on taking up a cadetship, working directly with industry partners on agreed projects.”
These courses are identical to what are currently being offered by Deakin in Australia, and both are accredited with Australian Computer Society, a globally recognised professional body in these fields.
“About 200 companies are present in the GIFT City and most of them need people with cybersecurity and business analytics skills,” he said. “Deakin will support GIFT City’s aspiration to deliver a supply of job-ready graduates to its target business segments.”
The batch size will be 50-odd students per programme.
Wollongong: The University of Wollongong has decided to go with courses in IT, STEM, business and fintech. Prof Patricia M Davidson, vice-chancellor of the University of Wollongong, said that these are the programmes that many Indian students coming to Australia are interested in. The university hopes to expand the range of programmes and courses with time. “We want to be receptive and responsive to the demands in India and explore collaborations with a number of other universities,” Prof Davidson told the Indian Express in an interview. “I am very interested in healthcare. Personally, I would love to see us doing health-related projects, but we thought GIFT City is really this hub around banking, technology, infrastructure and innovation. That is why we have chosen these programmes to kick-start the university, and kick-start the GIFT region.”
The first cohort of University of Wollongong India campus will be 30-40 students per course.
Both of them haven’t finalised the fee structure, but education sector experts told FE that they will have to calibrate to the local-cost structure of India, instead of the kind of fees they charge in their home country.
As far as faculty is concerned, the Deakin IBC will mostly have Indian staff, but about 20% of teaching will be delivered by Australia-based staff.
The University of Wollongong will be using faculty from Australia and its Dubai campus to start with, but will also be hiring Indian teachers. “We do not have a fly-in fly-out model. We are really conscious of developing capacity in the local country,” Prof Davidson said. “Our vision is to be not only just recruiting Indian faculty members, but also supporting their development.”
Melbourne: Indian students who enrol in the University of Melbourne dual degree will spend the first two years in India, followed by two years on campus in Melbourne. Upon successful completion, they will be awarded a Bachelor of Science from the University of Melbourne, and have the option for their local institution (University of Madras, Savitribai Phule Pune University or GITAM) to award the degree. In addition, Indian students can study up to six Master’s subjects in their final year.