Australia will hold an annual ministerial dialogue on education with India to facilitate better understanding between the two countries on the sector, in the wake of a spate of racial attacks on Indian students Down Under.
Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who returned here after a visit to India, said Australia would explore options for local universities setting up campuses in India.
“I actually was able to strike a positive agreement with the Indian Government that we will have an annual ministerial dialogue on education,” she said.
“It is a big opportunity for us because India has a huge thirst to grow its education system. It is also contemplating to invite foreign providers going to India and setting up shop, so a big opportunity for us is there,” Gillard said.
The Deputy Prime Minister said during her visit, she reassured Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal that Australia was a safe place for Indian students.
“They accepted that as representatives of the Indian Government, Australia had appropriately responded to support Indian students when they’re in this country and we do welcome around 1,00,000 Indian students each year,” she told ABC radio.
“If there are opportunities for our educational providers to build on the collaborations they already have with Indian universities and provide education in India, then that is clearly a big opportunity for us, not only in the sense of earning export dollars but in the sense of giving people an exposure to Australians, to Australian ways of doing things, to Australian perspectives,” Gillard said.
More than 20 Indian students in Australia were racially attacked in a span of three months in various cities.
Gillard said India was an emerging superpower and Australia wants to forge a strategic partnership with New Delhi to cooperate right from defence to foreign affairs to economic issues.
“We want to enter a strategic partnership with them to cooperate right across the broad field of defence and foreign affairs and economic issues and Prime Minister (Kevin Rudd) will be having discussions about that strategic partnership when he goes later this year,” she said.
On a query if exporting education to India and setting up campuses would translate into fewer Indian students coming Down Under, she said: “I suspect we’ll always see a mix of both. There are always reasons why people want to come and study abroad.”