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UNSW sets its sights on India

THE University of NSW is boosting its profile in India, a nation with significant research strengths "largely neglected" by Australia's higher education sector.

UNSW deputy vice-chancellor (international and development) John Ingleson said India's rapid economic growth would see its better universities evolve into powerful institutions within 10 years, but it remained "off the radar" in Australia.

In the past four years UNSW has signed 12 memoranda of understanding with Indian universities and institutes and developed special funding for student and staff fellowship programs there.

Other initiatives include the establishment of the Indian Advisory Council, whose members include Indian academics, bureaucrats and business representatives; the hosting of joint conferences; and joint research projects. UNSW also funds staff and student exchange programs.

Professor Ingleson said the Australian higher education sector had concentrated its attention on South-East Asia and as a result had little presence and a low profile in India.

"My reasoning for India is that it has been off the radar screen for Australia and it will be a very important country in the region," Professor Ingleson said.

"We haven't [engaged with India] in the past 20-30 years and we should."

He said a common legal system, the presence of an English-speaking elite and a growing economy made India a natural partner for Australia in education.

India has been identified as the "sleeping giant" of the international student market, but Professor Ingleson said student recruitment was not the university's primary goal.

"The fit was good in terms of our research needs ... it isn't about recruiting students but more about institution to institution links.

"It has to be mutually beneficial not just about ripping out students."

Part of boosting Australia's profile in India was sending staff to key Indian conferences, encouraging research collaborations and financing student exchanges.

UNSW also developed the International Assessments for Indian Schools, launched in India last year by NSW Premier Bob Carr. The tests provide an international benchmark for academic achievement in a range of subjects from Years three to 12. So far, more than 100,000 students have sat the tests in English, science and maths.

"In 10 years' time, if India's economy keeps growing at this rate, its better institutions will have more money and they will be powerful universities," Professor Ingleson said.

"We want to be there and to be a part of it. The US and the UK have invested much more in India than Australia has."

He said there was "tremendous research" being conducted in India. "Some of the basic sciences are very strong and complement our work."

The university is spending $150,000 a year on its Indian connection.

Reported in The Australian
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