John Molony is pro vice-chancellor and vice president, international, of Deakin University. A young and progressive institution, it recently became the first in the world to set up an international teaching campus in India.
The opening of the India campus is “testament to the long-term vision Deakin has taken in India”, Molony tells The PIE – and the 2024 launch coincides with the university’s 50th anniversary.
The university was the first international institution to open an office in India in 1994 and Molony says it is now “reaping the rewards” of such efforts, being approved to proceed with the campus and delivery of programs in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City – known as GIFT City.
“Because it’s within the free trade zone of GIFT City, things can move relatively quickly – so it’ll be no later than 2024. It’s possible all going well that we could even be up and running later this year.”
“The initial offering is modest. It is two master’s programs and we’re anticipating a commencement of about 60 into each program.
“For Deakin, that’s a great start. We have been the leading foreign university in India, and as India is going ahead with its ambitions around internationalisation of its own higher education sector… we’ve really wanted to engage with that, to assess it and connect.
“This is a first step and it puts us in the ecosystem. We’ll get to understand the operating environment, we’ll get to understand the regulatory environment and also build many contacts.”
The courses for students in India, Molony says, will be exactly the same as their Australian counterparts at campuses in Melbourne, Geelong and Warrnambool.
Students will receive the same standard of higher education in GIFT City as in Australia, with academic standards based on Deakin’s standards frameworks and manuals aligned with Australia’s national accreditation body.
As for staff, it’s anticipated that 80% of the staff will be employed locally, and every 18 months they will have the opportunity to visit and spend time with colleagues at Australia campuses.
Meanwhile, for the past two years, at a slightly slower pace, the launch of an international branch campus in Indonesia has been in the works.
“We want to operate dual programs in partnership with Lancaster University in the capital of West Java, Bandung, which is beautiful city a couple of hours outside Jakarta,” Molony tells The PIE.
“It’s been a great process, but a lot slower because we’re actually in the Indonesian higher education regulatory environment.
“That’s progressing really well. We’ve got our application before the regulator now and we’re hoping to be approved to proceed into implementation soon.”
At home in Australia, Deakin has welcomed the return of international students post-pandemic, and Molony notes high numbers from India and wider Southeast Asia with the exception of China.
“So the Chinese students and parents, what we’re seeing is they’re very interested in Australia. The market sentiment for Australia is quite positive, but they’re taking their time to get themselves sorted so they’re not coming immediately.
“This is a first step and it puts us in the ecosystem”
“The sentiment is very strong and we can see it building, but it’s going to take a little while to play out – I think it’ll be in the next year to 18 months.”
Representative offices in locations such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka have allowed the university to stay connected to those markets.
“I think we’re in a really good position. We’re seeing the fruit of that in this first semester intake now, but we’re really well positioned for a strong recovery.”
As for the next 50 years, Molony says the university will focus on its ability to stay committed and connected to the idea of community, including global.
“Ultimately it’s about delivering to those communities abroad and very much at home to enable them to grow and thrive.”
For Molony, he predicts some “fundamental thinking” about what the future is going to look like for the sector.
“We’re in strange and difficult geopolitical times. So what does sovereign economy and sovereign independence look like as we move forward?
“Of course, universities have a really important role in helping shape and deliver that.”
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