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India-Australia set up task force for qualifications recognition

The development between India and Australia has been lauded as an "important and positive step forward". Photo: pexels

The UK and India commenced a similar dialogue in May 2021

The step could be a game changer for enhancing educational, research, and economic collaboration between the countries, and mutually recognised qualifications will further open up pathways for mobility of students, professionals, and skilled workers between India and Australia.

“Australia has a longstanding and strong relationship with India across education, skills and research,” Australia’s acting minister for Education and Youth, Stuart Robert said.

“The task force will pave the way for new opportunities for graduates of both India and Australia”

“The task force will pave the way for new opportunities for graduates of both India and Australia to use their qualifications.”

Emphasising the importance of education as one of the key underpinnings of the growing relationship between the two countries, Robert said that education was “key to the bilateral relationship.” He also said that this step was testament to the fact that Indian students continued “to be a valuable part of our [the Australian] community”.

Robert said that this “collaboration will serve both countries by expanding cooperation in education, and optimising mobility outcomes for Australian and Indian students and graduates, and [the countries’] education institutions”.

“Improved qualifications recognition arrangements will also underpin trade in professional services between Australia and India,” he added.

The task force will consult with stakeholders and make best practices driven recommendations for the two-way qualifications recognition. The task force would primarily focus on the recognition of online and blended learning, joint degrees, and offshore campuses.

“The announcement of the task force will be really key to achieving the aims and priorities of both India and Australia’s education and research sectors,” Angela Lehmann, head of Research at The Lygon Group told The PIE.

“TLG has been seeing intense interest in Australia in increasing engagement with India’s higher education sector. The establishment of the task force is essential to achieving these goals.” 

Sharing her insight with The PIE, Lehmann added that she was “pleased to see [that] Australia is now embarking on a leader-level dialogue on these issues.”

The UK and India commenced a similar dialogue in May 2021, aiming to have qualification recognition in place by the end of that year, she continued. “For Australia it’s perhaps a case of better late than never,” Lehmann added.

Elaborating on the significance of this long awaited step, Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia, told The PIE that the announcement has “been many years coming”.

“We genuinely hope that it will lead to tangible outcomes in the near future,” he said.

“Many Indian students have been frustrated that, even after obtaining a world class qualification from a top ranked Australian university, they cannot be accepted into the Indian Civil Service or other professional positions when they return home.

“Even when Australian education providers have attempted to establish overseas campuses in India they have found both the official and unofficial barriers to entry to be overwhelming. This is not a situation unique only to Australia, but has been cause for frustration amongst many of our competitor countries such as Canada and the UK,” he stressed.

“Ironically, Indian politicians are constantly telling us that they are in real need of overseas education providers to assist them in meeting the skill demands of their rapidly growing economy. So, let us hope that this latest announcement results in meaningful progress,” he said.

Other key stakeholders and sector peak bodies have welcomed the announcement, as well. Speaking to The PIE, Anurag Kanwar, policy manager at Independent Higher Education Australia, said that her organisation “welcomes the moves towards a special task force on qualifications recognition between Australia and India”.

Kanwar said that the “mutual qualification recognition is important for Australian and Indian migrants” and that the development has “the potential to enhance mobility outcomes for Australian and Indian students and graduates”.

“India is one of Australia’s key partners in international education”

“India is one of Australia’s key partners in international education, with more than 90,000 Indian higher education students studying in Australia prior to the pandemic,” Universities Australia chief executive, Catriona Jackson stated.

India was Australia’s “second largest source of international students in 2022, accounting for more than 16% of [all] student visa holders”, she highlighted.

“This is an important and positive step forward, and Universities Australia looks forward to progress in achieving mutual qualification recognition,” said Jackson, while emphasising that this would be “important for [both] Indian, as well as Australian students”.

Jackson said that Universities Australia expected micro-credentials to be also “on the table”.

“The bite-sized credentials are critical to upskill and reskill, and would be central to India’s push for 29 million more skilled workers by 2030,” she added.

“Ensuring ‘recognition’ of Australian degrees or micro-credentials is important for Indian students going home, and Australian students working in India.

“Australian universities look forward to continuing to work with both governments on this important project,” Jackson concluded.

The taskforce is set to come up with a mechanism for recognition of education qualifications between India and Australia by the year end, with the implementation of the mechanism slated to begin in 2023.

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