Questions without notice – Importance of partnership with India in education

Ms FERNANDO (Holt) (15:10): My question is to the Minister for Education. What are the benefits to Australia of a stronger partnership with India in education?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (15:10): I thank the member for Holt for her question.

The short answer is the benefits are huge, and they’re not just financial. International education doesn’t just make us money; it makes us friends.

When you come to Australia to study you fall in love with our country, and you take that affection back with you when you go home—and in the world that we live in that’s important. It’s a living bridge between our country and so many other countries all around the world.

Before the pandemic, this was an industry that was worth $40 billion; however, it was basically cut in half by the pandemic. There is still a long way to go to get it back to where it was. On current forecasts, the total number of international students won’t be back to pre-pandemic levels until the end of 2025. One country where students are coming back fast is India.

The number of students coming here from India has jumped by 160 per cent in just the last 12 months, and there is a big opportunity here to do more—more in Australia, but also more in India. Think about this: India is about to become the most populous country in the world. In India, there are half a billion people under the age of 23. There are 260 million kids at school. There are 10 million school teachers. And India have set themselves the ambitious target that by 2035 half of all young people in their 20s will be at their equivalent of TAFE or university.

If they pull this off, it will mean that by the middle of next decade one-in-four people around the world that get a university degree will get it in India, and they’re asking for our help.

That’s why the agreement I signed in Delhi a couple of weeks ago to mutually recognise each other’s uni degrees is so important. It’s why the announcement the Prime Minister made a little over a week ago, that Deakin University would be the first overseas university to set up a campus in India, is so important. It’s why what the University of Wollongong is doing next is important. But they’re not the only universities doing this. Eleven universities and peak groups also signed agreements with Indian universities while we were there.

It’s Anzac Day in a couple of weeks. In Greenway Park in Cherrybrook, in the member for Berowra’s electorate, you’ll find a memorial with the names of 12 Indian Australians on it, men who were born in India and who fought for Australia in World War I. Two of them are buried in Belgium. In the last 100 years our countries have changed an awful lot. Just imagine what these 12 men would think if they were with us today.

I think they’d be proud of the country that we have become, the great multicultural country Australia has become. I think they’d be excited to see India become a real economic powerhouse in the making. And I think they’d be over the moon to see our two countries working so closely together to make the most of it.