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India Campus Setup Considered by Australian Universities

clock iconCreated At:10 August, 2023
write iconCreated By:Reem Mohamed

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India, the world’s most populous country, has recently announced the opening of its doors to foreign universities wishing to set up offshore campuses. Following this announcement, higher education institutions have jumped at the opportunity to establish their operations in India.

Over at India’s Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, also known as GIFT City, Australia’s Wollongong and Deakin universities are expected to be the first ones to begin teaching Indian students in the country.

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” said Ashley Tanks, executive director (global) at the University of Wollongong, in July. “I think a lot of us were probably sitting there waiting for the Indian government to make this announcement.”

Second only to Chinese students in number, there was an estimate of over 98,000 Indian students studying in Australia in May 2023.

Clearly, India has the student demand for an Australian education,” added Tanks.

First announced back in March of 2023, the deal between Wollongong and GIFT City will see the Australian university establish a teaching and research location that will either be in partnership or on a stand-alone basis. 

As for Deakin University, its plans to invest AUS $4 million to develop a branch campus in the financial services centre were announced.

Launching operations in a new market, however, comes hand in hand with challenges as well as complex regulatory requirements. Detailed plans covering everything from infrastructure proposals to financial capabilities must be submitted by foreign institutions wishing to set up shop in GIFT City after applying via the International Financial Services Authority.

“India is so unknown to us,” Tanks said. “Even just getting through the initial application with IFSCA, it was complex. We were changing constantly, always trying to understand what it was that Gujarat wanted for GIFT City.”

The finance and business hub, which was first envisioned in 2007 as a state-of-the-art business district, has been a work in progress since then. It is designed to rival the likes of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Canary Wharf in London. 

Keen on attracting foreign investment to the new zone, India is continuing the construction of the final phase of the city.

A quote from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the city’s website states the following: “The vision is to create a world-class finance and IT zone for India to provide services not only to India but to the entire world.” 

In support of the region’s development, courses in topics such as financial management, engineering, math, and fintech must be offered by foreign institutions.

“The process, it’s hard,” Tanks said. “There’s a lot of governance involved, a lot. And it’s an all-hands-on-deck exercise.”

Wollongong’s courses, on the other hand, will have more focus on finance, business, and STEM programmes.

Tanks continued, “It has to be both ways. We must deliver the Wollongong brand and the higher education standards for Australia, and that doesn’t bend. But we also have to know what the market wants. And so figuring that out, that’s the hard part.”

The university already operates several branch campuses worldwide, including in Dubai, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. 

“The experience of maintaining multiple overseas campuses assisted the university with establishing the processes and getting licence approvals in India,” a Wollongong spokesperson said. “Our presence will also complement one of GIFT City’s objectives, to establish itself as an international educational hub catering to both Indian and foreign students.”  

The University’s vice chancellor, Patricia Davidson, paid a visit to India in May 2023 to finalise licence arrangements for the GIFT City teaching base and met with Prime Minister Modi during the visit. 

In the same month, Australia and India signed a mobility deal to support the flow of students and researchers from both countries. This followed an agreement that took place earlier in the year with a focus on the mutual recognition of qualifications. 

“These high-level engagements and the recognition by national leaders of the benefits to both countries of strengthening our education partnerships have been enormously helpful in advancing our plans for a teaching base in GIFT City,” the university spokesperson noted. 

As the date of the formal opening of Wollongong’s India campus awaits confirmation, other universities will likely be keeping a close eye on how successfully foreign institutions will navigate India’s uncharted waters.


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