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Australian Universities Should Reduce Fees for Indian Students for Stronger Post-Covid Ties

School of Business graduates toss their hats into the air at the University of Sydney in Australia. (File photo/REUTERS)

School of Business graduates toss their hats into the air at the University of Sydney in Australia. (File photo/REUTERS)

Australian universities need to add a new direction to their relations with India. It is no longer enough to just go over there hunting for international students. Now, we need closer relations with Indian universities, joint degrees and other collaborations.

Last week in India, the Association of Australian Education Representatives held a virtual convention and issued a blunt message: “reduce fees”.

It is one more signal to Australian universities that all is not well. For some time, I have been calling for the Aussie universities to be more collaborative, set up joint degrees and post-graduate arrangements, as well as pursuing closer India relations and possibly even Indian campus opportunities.

There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work on these positives and I hope change happens soon. The association made three calls: “reduce international student fees, improve post-study work options and refocus universities if Australia wants to be a destination of choice in a post-Covid-19 world.”

Australia attracts around 500,000 international tertiary students per year, with India currently around 60,000. Australia was recently second preferred location behind the USA, with Canada and the UK closely following.

It has been tough during Covid-19 for Indian students with 61% of working students having lost their jobs, one-third of students reported going without food quite often to pay rent and only 13% providers had reduced fees in response to the pandemic. More help has since been made available.

The association wants all international fees for 2021 for continuing students to be reduced by a minimum of 25%, and students who are currently studying part of the course in online mode should be further subsidised.

They also said all students currently in Australia should be offered one extra year of post-study work on completion of their course.

Australia’s RMIT University has pioneered an innovative arrangement for post graduate studies in chemistry and science – four years of collaboration with two years in each country. This is a good role model for the future of higher education.

Australian High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell, told the meeting an estimated AUD$1.3 billion had been pledged by the federal, state and territory governments in Australia, alongside education providers and the broader community to support international students during the Covid-19 crisis.

There are good reasons for Australia and India to get together as India considers opening its borders to international universities. For a start, the universities already know each other very well – for example, Deakin University has had an office in India for over 25 years. Joint arrangements between the two countries would allow for the opening of some Australian campuses in India without taking away from the local market.

It would be good to see greater curriculum sharing, more exchange of academics and joint research projects – adding value to both countries.

The India-Australia relationship is looking stronger than ever, elevated recently to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

I also think Australia can do more for the long-term futures of Indian students here – they have studied in Australia, invested in Australia, many of them for over four years, paid fees plus living expenses and they have already shown they can live successfully in Australia. They would make great citizens and help build relations of the two countries.

Australian universities need to add a new direction to their relations with India. It is no longer enough to just go over there hunting for international students. Now, we need closer relations with Indian universities, joint degrees and other collaborations.

Disclaimer:The writer is a published author and blogger at Into India. He has led multiple trade missions to India and is a former President of the Australia India Business Council. Views are personal.

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