Universities have a role to play in shaping India's future

18 November 2013

Professor Duncan Ivison
Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, recently travelled to India on a University of Sydney delegation.

Australian universities are in a favourable position to help India tackle its long-term challenges of reducing poverty, lifting education standards and developing a skilled workforce, says Professor Duncan Ivison, the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences.

Visiting Delhi with a University delegation, Professor Ivison said there was a deep desire among leading Indian universities and colleges to engage with leading global universities at undergraduate and postgraduate level, to expand their intellectual horizons and develop research skills.

"The demand for higher education in India is huge and growing, and Australia has a unique opportunity to work closely with India's leading minds," he said.

"We should work with and learn from Indian researchers and students as they address some of the most pressing challenges of our times: how to continue the work of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, raise education standards, develop ecologically sustainable growth and protect the rights of minorities. The University of Sydney has research and teaching strengths in all of these areas."

During the visit -- which coincided with the wave of emotion in India over the last Test played by cricketer Sachin Tendulkar -- Professor Ivison discussed collaborative projects with representatives from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Sandra Meiras, the University's Director International, said one of India's greatest challenges, and a matter of concern for the Indian government, was the need to develop a skilled and mobile workforce.

"This is an area where strategies with a focus on education and social justice will be fundamental to ensure India's development, as well as its national security," she said. "Approaches that incorporate international higher education partnerships are essential."

Ms Meiras attended a two-day higher education summit in Delhi organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. A report commissioned for the conference predicted that by 2030, one in four graduates in the world will be a product of the Indian higher education system.

"Partnering with Australian institutions is a way of accessing our experience in key areas such as infrastructure development, health and education," she said.

In Mumbai, Professor Ivison presented a guest lecture at St Xavier's College on the future of social justice, discussing Indian economist and Nobel prize winner Amartya Sen's ideas about social and economic equality.

"Among the leading Indian institutions such as Tata Institute of Social Sciences, JNU, and Delhi University, a distinctive 'southern' perspective on development, human rights and social justice is emerging," said Professor Ivison.

"It combines cutting edge theoretical and methodological insights with extensive work in the field among India's extraordinarily diverse population which faces even more extraordinary social and political challenges."

Professor Ivison said there had been positive discussions with Delhi University and JNU about collaboration in the humanities and social sciences, including a possible exchange of students in a Bachelor of International Global Studies degree.

Contact: Richard North

Phone: 02 9351 3191

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