Australian varsity launches initiative to boost higher education in India

New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) Leveraging India’s growing importance as a resource hub, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney has launched a unique ‘Diya’ (light) initiative through which it aims to provide degree education at and through UNSW for one lakh Indian students across the next decade.

This was revealed by UNSW President and Vice Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs during a lecture on ‘Education, Technology and Transformational Change’. Jacobs said the Diya initiative is symbolic of the illumination that higher education can bring in the lives of people.

“We plan to facilitate this with investment in educational technology, including online teaching and learning, through mutually beneficial partnerships across India’s higher education system and with India’s national and state governments,” Jacobs explained.

He added that the UNSW Diya initiative will demonstrate the varsity’s commitment to building much-needed capacity in India’s higher education system, to expanding the skills needed to drive India’s development agenda and to power its economy. It will also in a large way contribute to the government’s ambitious plans including Make in India, Startup India and Digital India.

Jacobs also announced the launch of UNSW’s scholarship programmes for Indian students which aim at helping them achieve their potential, and enhance the experience of individuals who might otherwise struggle financially to maintain a place at university. He pointed out that in addition to UNSW Diya, these new India Scholarships too will bring the transformative power of a UNSW education to outstanding Indian students at the undergraduate, postgraduate and research levels.

UNSW is also actively partnering with the Indian government on a series of initiatives that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unveiled in the recent past. One of them is SWAYAM – an Information Technology platform which will host a Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and provide high quality education on various subjects from school level — class 9-12 to undergraduate and postgraduate students — covering all disciplines.

“Increasingly, the future will depend on non-traditional forms of education, especially on digital delivery, which offers incredible opportunities for providing educational opportunities to millions who would otherwise have no access to the best teachers and resources. Online learning will prove transformational in making India competitive with the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, UNSW is also actively partnering with the Indian government on its Smart Cities agenda by working on a major symposium for next year.

“We will be bringing our expertise on Low Carbon Living, Built Environment, Materials Science and Computer Science and Engineering. Discussions are currently underway between the Ministry of Electronics and IT and the Australian Centre for Cyber Security at UNSW on a series of programmes related to creating greater awareness on cyber security,” Jacobs stated.

He also touched upon the point of how given the current global political scenario, Australia could well be a good option as an academic destination for Indian students.

“While it’s perhaps too early to assess the impacts of the Brexit vote in the UK or the Trump vote in America, I believe that the relative stability of Australia in an uncertain world makes it a highly attractive option for Indian students seeking an international education. Many young Indian students will in future see Australia as at least as an attractive option as the USA and UK.”

To bolster its partnership with India, the university had in July appointed former Indian Consul General, former ambassador and educator Amit Dasgupta as its inaugural India Country Director. The appointment is aimed at helping UNSW work across the highest levels of government and industry to ensure India becomes one of its flagship partnerships.

Jacobs was on a three-city tour to India which included visits to Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai. He and his team held a series of meetings and talks with government officials and corporate heads during the visit to enhance relations between the two countries. Strengthening education, research and knowledge exchange in India has been on top of the agenda during the Vice Chancellor’s entire stay in India.

–IANS

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