Australia for research linkages

Eric Meadows.

Eric Meadows.  

A FOUR-MEMBER delegation from Deakin University, Australia, was in Bangalore recently on a scouting mission to have research linkages with Indian universities. Deakin is said to be one of Australia's most progressive universities.

The delegation comprised Eric Meadows, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Deakin University; Peter Damian Hodgson, Professor of Engineering, School of Engineering and Technology; John Hall, Associate Professor and Associate Director, Centre for Business Research; and Leigh Ackland, Associate Professor, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences.

After a series of meetings with officials of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore University and the Greater Mysore Chamber of Industry here, Mr. Eric Meadows took time off to talk to The Hindu on the focal areas to improve research linkages. Here is what he had to say:

Education is widely becoming a tool in strengthening ties between countries. The linkages through education have been considerable. For a start, there are about 11,000 Indian students in Australia now. When I first came on an educational mission in 1989, there were very few Indian students in Australia.

Now the challenge is to try and get Australian students to India and to work jointly in areas of research.

One other challenge is to find areas of mutual research interest. There is already some work going in the field of nanotechnology between the Indian Institute of Science and the University of South Australia. My task here is to identify key areas of Indian research that match our areas of research. We have had exciting meetings here.

We have identified areas in cellular and molecular biology; advanced material science; and some areas of business research (how the market behaves).

The mission is to get academics together to see if they can collaborate. Research, especially scientific, is internationalised. You have to know what is going on as journals give limited information. It is only when you meet people and see them work in their labs that you get a sense of the value of research. Good science comes out of a spark. There has to be a personal chemistry and for that you have to meet people.

It is time for Australians to come to India and work here. The students here are brilliant and some of your universities and institutions are international such as the IITs and IIMs. And India has a fine reputation in the area of basic research. I believe that you should follow knowledge where it leads.

Indian students are good and they contribute considerably to post-graduate studies in Australia. And Australian universities are strongly committed to internationalisation of education, as they know the outcome is better.

There has been a huge growth of Indian students. The figure rose by 47 per cent over last year. However, Chinese top the number of students studying in Australia at 21,000. Education needs to be internationalised as it stimulates both the teachers and the students.

Nowadays, students want degrees which enable them to work anywhere in the world. The world of jobs is highly mobile now.

As for moving to Australia, the reasons are many — getting visa is lot more easier than getting into the U.S. or the United Kingdom; tuition fees are reasonable compared to research universities in the U.S.; and Australia's society is multi-cultural and progressive.

Deakin does a lot of research which is industry-relevant. Leigh Ackland's research is on curing breast cancer; John Hall is working on how the markets behave; and Peter Damian Hodgson is working on groundbreaking research in material manufacturing. We have a lot of international linkages and this is the first time that we have got a delegation to India.

Deakin's strengths are advanced materials; biotechnology; human nutrition (sports medicine); social and mental health; environmental management; human rights research; IT security; business and law etc.

Though the University of Deakin has the capacity of delivering online, there are no plans of Deakin having any tie-up to start programmes in India.

India has a fantastic higher education system. Why does it need foreign degrees?

(As told to R. Chandrakanth)

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