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Australia targets top STEM talent from India in interim agreement

Universities Australia is hoping that an interim free trade agreement between Canberra and the government in India will bring a range of benefits for students and graduates from the two countries, as well as its member institutions.

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In late March, Tehan also launched an updated India Economic Strategy featuring an Australia India Future Skills Initiative for education

The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement will “turbocharge [the countries’] close, long-standing and highly complementary economic relationship” in areas ranging from critical minerals, professional services, education and tourism, according to Australia’s minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan.

Higher education and adult education are both included in the 31 Australian services sectors and sub-sectors that will “be guaranteed to receive the best treatment accorded by India to any future free trade agreement partner”, the agreement details.

“The AI ECTA will create new opportunities for jobs and businesses in both countries”

While Australia will provide new working holidays access for young Indians, it will also aim to boost to its STEM and IT workforces by extending the length of stay for Indian student with first class honours bachelor’s degrees from two to three years post study in relevant sectors.

A new Maitri Scholars initiative also promises to bring “top performing” Indian graduate students to Australia’s universities.

“[The AI ECTA] will create new opportunities for jobs and businesses in both countries, while laying the foundations for a full free trade agreement,” Tehan added.

Following the establishment of an India-Australia task force for qualifications recognition in late March, the AI ECTA will also facilitate the recognition of professional qualifications, licensing, and registration procedures between professional services bodies in both countries, Universities Australia noted.

“The value of this agreement to Australia both in terms of education, productivity, trade relations and cultural understanding is substantial,” Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said in a statement.

Of the $40 billion international exports contributed to Australia’s economy pre-pandemic, around $6.1bn was from Indian students, she continued.

“India is our second largest source of international students, with nearly 70,000 studying in our universities,” she said. According to the Australian government, almost one in five international students (19%) of international students in Australia were from India in December 2021.

“And on the other side, thousands of Australians choose to study and work in India,” Jackson added.

“In an increasingly globalised world, we need to address any barriers that would prevent both Indian and Australian graduates from using their qualifications where they wish to work.

“Thousands of Australians choose to study and work in India”

“Qualification recognition paves a clearer path for this, so we’re very pleased to see the agreement explore mechanisms that will facilitate this recognition of professional qualifications in both countries.

“As one of the 31 sectors that will clearly stand to benefit from this agreement, we look forward to working with the government and continuing to collaborate with India as the agreement is implemented.”

In late March, Tehan also launched an updated India Economic Strategy featuring an Australia India Future Skills Initiative for education.

According to Austrade, the initiative’s new digital platform will connect Australian vocational education and training providers with Indian businesses, government, students and employers, as well as build training capacity in the country.

An Australia India Innovation Network will also support Australian technology companies to access India’s rapidly growing innovation ecosystem and forge stronger links with customers, partners and investors, the agency added.

The updated India Economic Strategy also detailed that the government is working with Australian universities to establish Study Australia Centres to “support India’s international education agenda, institutional partnerships, and students in India”.

Austrade’s Digital Education Hub also includes “employability programs for Indian students and graduates, to improve student experience and build Australia’s position as a holistic education partner”, while an Australia India Skills Summit will also “strengthen” linkages in VET.

Additionally, an Australia India Skills Portal will “foster greater collaboration between the skills sectors with a grants program supporting engagement in areas of mutual interest”, the strategy noted.

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