Pathways to India

La Trobe Asia releases report to promote university student mobility with India.

Pathways to India - Promoting Student Mobility

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La Trobe Asia is pleased to release this feasibility study which analyses the establishment and operation of the Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) and explores the possibility of using the ACICIS model to establish a program to promote university student mobility with India.

Commissioned by the Commonwealth’s Department of Education and Training (DET), the study has been undertaken collaboratively with a number of universities that have an established interest in Indian studies or teach disciplines where students may benefit from study in India.  While there is broad in-principle agreement to the creation of a new consortium for India, in researching this study, universities would not make a firm commitment on its membership until there had been further multi-lateral discussions between potential participating institutions. From the outset, DET has informed that no new Commonwealth funding is available for the creation of a national mobility program with India.

The study uses a wide range of interviews with university mobility staff, senior administrators, academics and members of the ACICIS Secretariat to evaluate the Indonesian program’s strengths and weaknesses and their implications for the establishment of an Indian equivalent.

The study evaluates the data collected to outline possible operating models that would encourage student mobility between Australia and India. A model that replicated the structure and governance of ACICIS could work well for India but would require considerable thought about where in the sub-continent it had an in-country base. Once in place, the program would be a valuable asset in the range of outward mobility programs and help to increase the number of Australian-based students studying in India.

Summary of Key Findings

  • ACICIS is seen as a high-quality provider of student mobility services to Indonesia that is widely thought to have played a key role in driving up the numbers of Australian students studying there. It is perceived to have done this through centralising the visa process, providing in-country pastoral care and a high-quality educational experience, making it a more appealing option for students.
  • The ACICIS program is recognised as providing strong educational experiences in a safe and supportive environment. These will be vital elements in the establishment of any comparable Indian program.
  • The ACICIS fee structure received some criticism as it was perceived as creating a net loss for participating universities, while others saw the program’s in-country pastoral care of students and handling of the visa application process as a net gain. With operating costs in India likely to be low, fee structure may be less of an issue in an Indian mobility program.
  • Consortium input to the educational programs through advisory panels was seen as a vital ingredient by academics but there was some negativity among administrators for a system of governance that requires all 26 consortium members to sign-off on substantive decisions of change.
  • Mobility staff said they have difficulty in persuading students of the merits of study in India. A new consortium-based program would help raise awareness about educational opportunities in India, provide branding for those activities and raise student appeal.
  • For an in-country program to be successful, there will need to be educational experiences on offer that could not be replicated in Australia or elsewhere in the world. Initially, this may be easier to achieve through such disciplines as technology, medicine, business, sports science and fashion.
  • A first step towards the establishment of a successful program for mobility with India will be reaching agreement on the membership and breadth of an operating consortium.
  • If a new consortium is established as a not-for-profit entity, it will need to be sustained by institutional membership and student participation fees, beyond any ad hoc government grants for student mobility or study abroad. The alternative would be a commercial model. No new Commonwealth funding is being offered to help establish such an entity or Indian in-country mobility program.
  • Deciding the nature and scale of any in-country presence will be an important element in establishing the program. The main decision will be whether an Indian mobility program starts out with activities solely in one city or is established on a ‘hub and spoke’ model.
  • Crucial to ensuring the quality of the academic experience offered to participating students will be the establishment and maintenance of good links with the right partner institutions.
  • Establishing a consortium to promote student mobility from Australia to India should be seen as a foundational point before laying any plans for a broader full exchange program.

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