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Australian universities continue to navigate India branch campus set up

Two Australian universities have agreed to begin operating in India's GIFT city. Photo: Unsplash.

Over 98,000 Indian students were studying in Australia in May 2023

Australia’s Wollongong and Deakin universities are expected to be the first to begin teaching Indian students at the country’s Gujarat International Finance Tec City, also known as GIFT City.  

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” said Ashley Tanks, executive director (global) at the University of Wollongong, speaking at The PIE Live Australia in July. “I think a lot of us were probably sitting waiting for the Indian government to make this announcement.”

Over 98,000 Indian students were studying in Australia in May 2023, second in numbers only to Chinese students.

“Clearly India has the student demand for an Australian education,” said Tanks.

Wollongong’s deal with GIFT City, first announced in March 2023, will see the Australian university establish a teaching and research location either in partnership or on a stand-alone basis. 

Deakin University also announced its plans to invest AUS $4 million to develop a branch campus in the financial services centre.

But launching operations in a new market comes with challenges and often complex regulations.

Foreign institutions hoping to set up in GIFT City have to apply via the International Financial Services Authority and submit detailed plans covering everything from infrastructure proposals to financial capabilities. 

“India is so unknown for us,” Tanks said. “Even just getting through the initial application with IFSCA, it was complex. We were changing constantly, always trying to understand what it was that Gujarat wanted for GIFT City.”

The finance and business hub has been a work-in-progress since 2007 when it was first envisioned as a state-of-the-art business district, designed to rival the likes of Hong Kong, Singapore and Canary Wharf in London.

Construction of the final phase of the city is still ongoing and India is keen to attract foreign investment to the new zone. 

“The vision is to create a world class finance and IT zone for India to provide services not only to India but to the entire world,” prime minister Narendra Modi is quoted as saying on the city’s website. 

“There’s a lot of governance involved”

To support the region’s development, foreign institutions must offer courses in topics including financial management, engineering, maths and fintech. 

“The process, it’s hard,” Tanks said. “There’s a lot of governance involved, a lot. And it’s an all hands on deck exercise.”

Wollongong’s courses will focus on finance, business and STEM programs.

Tanks added, “It has to be both ways. We must deliver the Wollongong brand, the higher education standards for Australia and that doesn’t bend. But we also have to know what the market wants. And so figuring that out, that’s the hard part.”

The university already operates branch campuses in Dubai, Hong Kong and Malaysia. 

“The experience of maintaining multiple overseas campuses assisted the university with establishing the processes and getting licence approvals in India,” a Wollongong spokesperson said. 

“Our presence will also complement one of GIFT City’s objectives, to establish itself as an international educational hub catering to both Indian and foreign students.”  

The University’s vice chancellor, Patricia Davidson, visited India in May 2023 to finalise licence arrangements for the GIFT City teaching base, and met with Modi during the visit. 

Australia and India signed a mobility deal in the same month to support the flow of students and researchers between the two countries, following an agreement earlier in the year focused on the mutual recognition of qualifications

“These high-level engagements and the recognition by national leaders of the benefits to both countries of strengthening our education partnerships have been enormously helpful in advancing our plans for a teaching base in GIFT City,” the university spokesperson said. 

While the date of Wollongong’s formal opening in India is yet to be confirmed, other universities are likely to be watching closely at how successfully foreign institutions navigate India’s uncharted waters.

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One Response to Australian universities continue to navigate India branch campus set up

  1. Most Australian, NZ are useless from the perspective of STEM and Business studies. Why? ANZ Universities have not produced anything substantial be it in the field of Science, Medicine Business or Technology. In short, teaching and employability outcomes are very poor. An above average Indian student will prefer top ranked Indian Institutions or if there are American or Brit universities such as MIT, Oxford etc and not some Wool or Deakin University from Australia. Unlike US or UK, Australians have totally and traditionally focused on China because it is easy money. Chinese students have poor English, they have money and Aussies had an unlimited supply of them knowing fully well they won’t pass or finish the course and therefore no Residency. Easy free flowing money. That is not the case with us, Indians. We know English and we can get PR, so higher risk. Racism in guise of risk assessment. Indians know it. And it is unlikely ANZ Universities will be successful for some years to come.

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