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It has been such a warm welcome here at Symbiosis International University.
My sincere thanks to both Symbiosis and the Association of Indian Universities for bringing us all together for this important event.
And may I acknowledge the many esteemed guests we have in the room today.
It’s a privilege to be here on behalf of Australia’s universities – at what is a truly exciting time for Australia and India.
We are entering a golden era in our relationship.
A relationship that is only getting bigger and stronger.
Our governments are promoting and supporting this.
As your Prime Minister, Prime Minister Modi, said in Sydney last month – we are taking it to the next level.
And education is at the centre – right where it belongs.
Universities are critical to Australia and India’s economic and strategic interests.
They are essential to both our nations achieving our goals of growing and prospering.
That is because what our institutions do is so important and so powerful.
Education brings opportunity and advancement.
It changes lives for the better.
Lifting individuals and communities out of poverty.
Helping people and entire nations realise ambition and aspiration.
Driving change, economies, and progress.
I see it every day.
Take what is happening here at this university.
The new Women Entrepreneurship Research Alliance is up and running.
Established earlier this year in partnership with Australia’s Deakin University, researchers are working to boost women’s participation in entrepreneurial activity.
Making gender equity a business and cultural norm.
The potential economic and social benefits of this work are huge.
This is long overdue, but it is happening now – led by universities.
There is no shortage of examples like this between India and Australia.
We have a proud history of educating each other.
And of conducting life-changing research together.
Education and research are at the heart of our continuing relationship.
Importantly, the focus right now is on what more we can do together.
How education can take our relationship to the next level.
We are not without a foundation.
Look back 70 years to the start of the Colombo Plan.
When Chellapilla Venkata Rao, the Indian botanist, came to study in Australia.
He completed a PhD at the University of Tasmania in 1957.
And returned home to lead the Department of Botany at Andhra University.
His work remains widely recognised today.
This program continues to facilitate the movement of students throughout our region.
Strengthening social and economic development in the Indo-Pacific.
Education provides the bridge between nations.
This year, the New Colombo Plan will support over 100 Australian students to study here in India.
On projects spanning engineering, health, IT, and natural and physical sciences.
All areas critical to both countries’ development – socially, technologically, and economically.
This reinforces the role universities play in driving success and prosperity.
In educating the skilled professionals both India and Australia are increasingly reliant on.
In breaking down barriers and sharing knowledge across borders.
And in preparing our region for strategic shifts, able to meet challenges and seize opportunities.
So why now is their such great emphasis on growing Australia and India’s relationship?
The answer lies in India’s extraordinary growth and the complementary nature of our economies and societies.
You are now the most populous country in the world.
A nation of more than 1.4 billion people – and rising to 1.7 billion by 2060.
And your economic growth is on a similar trajectory.
India is a bright spot in the global economy – now the fifth largest economy in the world.
A growing India will need many of Australia’s goods and services.
Education is chief among them.
In fact, it has been described as the most promising sector for Australia in India.
This is mutually beneficial.
We know that you have a sweeping new education plan, full of bold, nation-changing ambition.
Aiming to educate 500 million students by 2035 is no easy task.
It’s 500 million in just 12 years – an extraordinary undertaking.
It’s clear that there is a huge and growing demand for high-quality education.
You can see it all around you – here in Pune, and across India.
India’s universities can’t meet this demand alone.
As a world-class education provider, Australia can certainly help.
Indian Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s visit to Australia last year clearly reinforced
India’s desire for this collaboration.
And it has proven to be a pivotal point in the further strengthening of our relationship.
The first of many visits back and forth between our nations, at the highest levels.
Ministers, CEOs, and university leaders.
We reached a peak with our Prime Ministers coming together here in India in March and in Australia in May.
I had the privilege of speaking directly with Prime Minister Modi in Sydney during that visit and was very pleased to hear his strong emphasis on education as a fundamental economic and social connector between Australia and India.
Our government has also established the Centre for Australia-India Relations to promote and coordinate enhanced co-operation and exchange between our two nations.
I am very excited to be on the centre’s advisory board and know we will do great work.
This is yet another example of the deepening of our relationship with education at the centre.
We have a new High Commissioner to India, Philip Green, to drive all this work forward, and
I thank Barry O’Farrell for all that he has achieved in the role.
Australia is well placed to partner with India in this endeavour.
To build on what we are already doing together to capitalise on this golden era.
Our contribution will take three broad forms.
We will educate Indian students in India.
We will educate them in Australia.
And we will work more closely together in research.
Our universities are beginning to make tangible investments here already.
Deakin University has become the first in the world to open a campus in your country – announced by our Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, when he visited earlier this year.
This is an extraordinary achievement.
The University of Wollongong has since announced it will do the same.
The University of Melbourne has struck partnerships with Indian universities to offer students the opportunity to study dual science degrees.
RMIT’s offer of dual engineering degrees and PhDs is another significant milestone.
This means Indian students will be able to complete their studies at home and abroad.
Many more of our institutions are very keen to follow suit.
This is what is needed for Australia to help India meet its education goals.
More Australian institutions offering more degrees right across India – offering the benefits of Australia’s world-class university sector at home.
We will also continue to welcome your students to our shores.
The opportunity for Indian students to attend university in Australia will never not be there.
In the last 20 years, we have educated more than 1.5 million Indian students.
Right now, we have more than 90,000 Indian students studying in Australia.
That’s more than before the COVID-19 pandemic.
This scale of interest is unprecedented, and we expect that it will keep growing.
Increased research collaboration is also critical.
We already have 450 formal partnerships between our universities.
Through these, our researchers are driving breakthroughs to propel our nations forward.
Shaping how we respond to shifts in our region.
How we combat climate change and manage the energy transition.
And how we maintain the health of our people.
These are all challenges we can rise to using education and research.
Australia’s universities are committed to this task.
We know India’s are, too.
Not far from here, scientists are working to preserve India’s status as a dairy powerhouse in the face of climate change.
That is a monumental task – the kind of task a university education prepares you to tackle.
Our governments have recently agreed new rules around mutual recognition of degrees, smoothing the path for students ultimately working in India and Australia.
These rules will be particularly important for India as your population expands.
Every month, one million Indians turn 18.
A growing population needs new infrastructure.
New roads, homes, dams, schools, and hospitals.
These projects can’t be built or operated without university-educated workers.
There is also the role our universities play in diplomacy and building deep connections between nations.
This is particularly important in a fast-changing strategic environment.
All our nations are stronger for close, person-to-person ties facilitated by students studying in countries other than their own.
Education is far more than textbooks and lectures.
It helps make us friends and forges enduring relationships that build cultural understanding.
It turns students, from all nations, into truly global citizens.
When your students come home, they bring a strong understanding of Australia.
Like Dr Dinesh Venkatachalam who studied physics at the Australian National University.
He has since returned to India to run a water purification company.
The same can be said for the many Australians who study in India, or who choose to live and work in India after they study.
This is being made possible for more Australians as more Australian companies expand into India.
Australian-owned software companies, online graphic design platforms, and digital health companies.
These are just some of the Australian businesses with a growing presence here.
They are all keen to be part of India’s story – to help you achieve your goals.
To play a part – big or small – in this golden era.
But they can’t succeed without skilled workers educated at universities – either here, in Australia, or elsewhere.
Which is why we must continue to work together to educate our populations.
Our governments are urging us to do this.
They want us to work more closely – for mutual benefit.
To give as many people as possible the life-changing opportunity of a university education.
And to come together to solve the great challenges ahead of us.
Australia will do this by continuing to expand our universities in India.
By welcoming your students to our shores.
And by investing in the world-class research our scholars perform together.
Thank you to your leader, Prime Minister Modi, and Minister Pradhan for putting education at the centre of the Australia-India relationship.
We can feel your energy and enthusiasm for it.
This energy and enthusiasm is echoed by our Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, and Minister for Education, Jason Clare.
It is a powerful force.
Education sits at the centre of all we are doing together for our economies and communities.
It is a privilege to be part of this flourishing relationship.
Let’s roll up our sleeves and make the most of this golden era together.