Australian varsity seeks to attract more Indian students

Australian varsity seeks to attract more Indian students

"We are very delighted with the new visa regulations," Vice Chancellor Fred Hilmer told IANS after the announcement on the new visa norms Thursday.  "The new policy will see an increase in the flow of students."

Hilmer, who was in India for the first alumni meet of the university in India, says the earlier regime was not competitive with other countries. Australia had tightened the visa regime, stating that many students came to the country to settle down by taking admissions in non-skilled vocational courses like cookery and hair-cutting.

The number of students going to Australia also went down significantly earlier this year following attacks on Indian students and tough immigration policies. According to Australian government figures, the numbers fell by almost 50 percent in January.

The vice chancellor said the attacks were a matter of the past and were not necessarily racial. "We had no problems in the universities; it was in some vocational colleges. But the publicity was damaging. Now that is behind us and the atmosphere in Australia is friendly and safe," he said.

"We felt visa requirements in Australia were not in competition with other countries. It took too long, and the cost was too high," he said. "We have 20 MoUs with Indian universities, I also met the VCs of Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and National Law University. We are looking forward to how we can get in student- and research-based collaborations," Hilmer said.

The New South Wales University is known for its courses in engineering, management, medicine and science. Out of an approximate 40,000 students, around 400 are Indian.

The university has some student exchange programmes and is looking forward to forging more ties. Some of the premier institutes being looked at are the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) , Bangalore, and IIM Ahmedabad.

Under the new visa rules, the financial requirement for student visas will be eased and applicants will need around 36,000 Australian dollars less. Post-study work visas will allow students to remain in Australia for two to four years after their course ends, depending on their level of qualification.

"I don't see racial bias. Australia is an immigrant country; we have people from different nationalities," he said. Citing an example of diversity, Hilmer said: "We have a park in front of our library, and the only statue in that park is of (Mahatma)  Gandhi. You won't have that if we were racial. We identify people on the basis of their work."

The university is now focussing on attracting more students from India through exchange programmes and research collaborations with Indian institutes.

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