Australia and India agree to boost student mobility as Modi visits Sydney

Published 24/05/2023

Australia and India have agreed a mobility deal that universities in Australia say will “support the flow of more students, researchers and skilled people” between the two countries.

The Australia-India Migration and Mobility Partnership Arrangement was announced as Indian prime minister Narendra Modi met his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese, on a visit to Sydney.

The deal will “promote the two-way mobility of students, graduates, academic researchers and business people, while also enhancing cooperation to prevent irregular migration and people smuggling”, the partners said.

A Mobility Arrangement for Talented Early Professionals Scheme has been created specifically for India, the governments revealed.

A new Centre for Australia-India Relations, that will act as national platform to bring government together with industry, academia and the community, will be head-quartered in Parramatta in Greater Western Sydney.

The meeting is the sixth time Albanese has met Modi in his first year as leader of Australia and it built on the outcomes from the Australia-India Annual Leaders’ Summit in March, government noted.

“Prime minister Modi’s visit to Australia has strengthened the close and strong relationship that Australia enjoys with India,” Albanese said.

“This is a relationship we need to invest in. Our strong partnership with India will deliver benefits for Australia in trade, investment and business, and in regional security and stability.

“Australia is a better place because of the contributions of Indian-Australian community, and we want to see more connections between our countries.”

The wide-ranging bilateral discussions also included the countries’ trade, investment and business relationship, collaboration on green energy, and a new Australian Consulate-General in Bengaluru and India’s plans for a Consulate-General in Brisbane.

Local media has reported that under the agreement, Indians under the age of 30 with key skills and proficient English skills will be eligible for two-year working visas without requirements to first have a job or further study confirmation. Places for the scheme will initially be capped at 3,000 per year, The Australian reported.

“Universities fully support the government’s focus on growing our relationship with India”

Australia has long been searching for solutions to crippling skill shortages.

The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement, that came into force on December 29 last year, also opened up some 1,000 Work and Holiday Program places for young Indian travellers.

“Universities fully support the government’s focus on growing our relationship with India, which is flourishing,” Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said in a statement.

“We congratulate the prime minister for taking a front foot approach to strengthening these ties, through which we all stand to benefit.”

Jackson called the arrangement, designed to increase the flow of students, researchers and skilled people between the countries, as “a good thing”, nothing that universities “are key to maximising the economic potential of the relationship with India”.

She also highlighted India’s ambition to educate 500 million students by 2035 as one where Australian universities can play a key role.

“The new arrangement will also facilitate greater collaboration between our researchers, whose work is essential to the success, safety and prosperity of both our nations,” she continued.

In 2019, Indian students contributed $6.1 billion of the total $40bn that international education contributed to Australia’s economy, according to Universities Australia.

“We already have more Indian students studying in Australia than before the pandemic, but it is in our interest to build on this,” Jackson added.

Executive director of the Australian Technology Network of Universities, Luke Sheehy, noted the “clear, ongoing commitment” by the respective governments to strengthen connection.

“Growing our capability in people-to-people links is important for Australia and significant for the university sector because education is at the centre of this great relationship,” he said.

A qualifications recognition agreement announced earlier this year was welcomed as “great news” for Australian transnational education providers.

ATN universities have also been at the forefront of recent “pivotal partnerships” with India, such as Deakin University campus in Gift City, the “first-of-its-kind” dual degree agreement between RMIT and the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, as well as UniSA offering a bachelor of Digital Business in India co-developed and co-delivered with Accenture, Sheehy emphasised.

“Both prime ministers fundamentally understand the transformative power of education”

“Both prime ministers fundamentally understand the transformative power of education, how it plays a leading role diplomatically, as well as economically. Education is as vital to our bilateral strength as other key areas like renewable energy, defence and security,” Sheehy said.

“ATN universities have been closely aligned with India for decades and we will continue to lead this area of higher ed well into the future.”

Modi and Albanese met previously on May 20 at the 2023 Quad Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima, together with Japanese PM Kishida Fumio and US president Joe Biden.

The first cohort of 100 Quad STEM Fellows, an initiative announced at the 2021 summit in Washington, begin their studies in the US in August 2023.

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