Albanese bolsters India ties with bilateral higher education agreement

Australia will open the door to more Indian students in a bid to expand a $4.2 billion education business and use the stronger trade links to support a growing security partnership.

A new agreement will make it easier for students to have their degrees recognised in each country, in a long-awaited step to increase the 130,000 students from India already studying in Australia.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will fly from India to the US for talks with President Joe Biden on defence.

Alex Ellinghausen

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the arrangements in the Indian city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat on Wednesday night, during the first stage of a three-day visit with a crowded agenda of commercial and strategic talks.

In a sign of the importance India puts on the visit, Albanese is expected to join Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the cricket on Thursday to watch some of the fourth Test along with up to 100,000 fans.

Albanese’s visit began on Wednesday with a visit to the Sabarmati Ashram, home to Mahatma Gandhi from 1917 to 1930 and the starting point for Gandhi’s Salt March against the British in 1930.

In the first visit to India by an Australian prime minister in seven years, Albanese also met Gujarati leaders for a celebration of the Holi festival soon after landing.

The Australian government sees the visit as a chance to accelerate a new trade agreement that could open up investment between the two countries, especially in areas like lithium mining for battery production.

The strategic agenda includes plans for Australia to host the Malabar military exercises with India, the United States and Japan later this year, with reports the exercises will be off the coast of Perth in August.

China has objected to the Malabar exercises in previous years.

The flow of Indian students to Australia is also fundamental to the relationship between the two countries and accounts for exports worth $4.2 billion a year, according to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrives in India in time for Holi, the Hindu spring festival.


Albanese told university officials in Ahmedabad on Wednesday night the Australia–India Education Qualifications Recognition Mechanism would help students in both countries.

“This new mechanism means that if you’re an Indian student who’s studying – or about to study – in Australia, your hard-earned degree will be recognised when you return home.

“Or if you’re a member of Australia’s large Indian diaspora, you’ll be able to feel more confident that your Indian qualifications will be recognised in Australia.

“It is the most comprehensive and ambitious arrangement agreed to by India with any country,” Albanese said.

“It paves the way for commercial opportunities for Australian education providers to offer innovative and more accessible education to Indian students.”

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said more than 1.5 million Indians had gained Australian university degrees since 2005.

“We can build on this for the benefit of both nations,” she said in Ahmedabad.

About 130,000 students from India are studying in Australia, according to Universities Australia, and the total has recovered to the level it reached before the pandemic.

There is no public target for the intake over the next few years but the University of Melbourne is expanding its “blended” degrees with Indian counterparts and other Australian universities are also investing in India.

Deakin University is opening a campus in Gujarat to teach cybersecurity and business analytics, the first Australian university to open a branch of this kind in India.

The University of Wollongong is also planning to open a campus in the same area, known as the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City outside Ahmedabad.

“We always welcome students to come and study in Australia, and that will continue to be an important focus for us,” Albanese said in his speech.

“But not everyone has the means or the ability to pack up their lives and study in another country.

“There might be financial constraints, or family commitments, or a variety of reasons that you want to, or need to, stay closer to home.

“So the presence of Australian universities in India opens up new ways for Indian students to obtain an Australian education by bringing Australia a little bit closer.”

Albanese is expected to emphasise the defence relationship by visiting an Indian aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, after travelling to Mumbai on Thursday afternoon.

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