Ms SITOU (Reid) (14:49): My question is to the Minister for Education. What is the Albanese government doing to set up Australian higher education, including international education, for the future?
Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (14:50): I thank my friend the member for Reid for the question.
International education is the biggest export we have that we don’t dig out of the ground. It makes us money, but it also makes us friends. In the world we live in, that’s important. This is a $40 billion industry that was smashed by COVID. It was basically cut in half. It’s coming back now, but there’s a lot more work to do.
Think about this: there are half a billion people in India under the age of 23—half a billion—and the Indian government has set a target to get half of all young adults into tertiary education by 2035. That’s massive. That’s nation-changing stuff. They want our help, and that includes Australian universities setting up campuses there in India.
Overnight the Prime Minister announced that Deakin University is the first overseas university to be approved to set up a campus in India. That’s a big deal. An Australian university has become the first in the world to be approved to set up a campus in India. Hopefully the University of Wollongong will be next. It’s good for Australia; it’s good for India. It shows how good our universities are, and it shows how strong and deep the partnership is between our two countries. It builds on the agreement that I signed in Delhi last week that will make it easier for students in both countries to study in our countries and have their qualifications recognised in both countries. That’s the broadest agreement of its kind that India has ever signed with another country to date.
Here at home, we’re working on our own higher education plan: the Universities Accord. A big part of that is making sure that more Aussies get a crack at going to university. At the moment, about one in two young Australian adults have a university degree, but not if they come from a poor or rural background. Only 20 per cent of young adults from a poor background have a uni degree, and only 20 per cent of people from the bush have a university degree if they’re in their 20s or 30s. It’s only seven per cent if they’re Indigenous Australians. We’ve got to change that. The first step there is the 20,000 extra uni places that we’ve funded to help people like that—people from poor backgrounds and the bush, and Indigenous Australians.
One of those 20,000 is a bloke called Dylan. He worked as a labourer last year, building the new Western Sydney University campus in my neck of the woods in Bankstown. And this week, he started there as a student. At the same place he helped build, he’s now studying to become a schoolteacher. It’s something that won’t just change his life but will change the lives of thousands and thousands of people in the years ahead. That’s the power of education, the most powerful cause for good right around the world. I’m sure I’m joined by everybody here in wishing Dylan, and everybody starting university this year, all the very, very best of luck for the future.