Television interview with Gemma Acton – Seven News The Latest – Wednesday 1 March 2023





SUBJECTS: Higher education, India-Australia relationship, Border-Gavaskar Trophy

GEMMA ACTON: It is one of our biggest exports – that’s higher education – and tonight a cricketing legend is with an Australian delegation in India trying to boost it. Education exports rose 16 per cent last year to more than $25 billion, but they are still below the $40 billion recorded in 2019 before COVID. India contributed $3.7 billion to our education sector in 2021‑22.

Joining me now from New Delhi is Education Minister, Jason Clare, and former Australian test captain Adam Gilchrist. Gentlemen, good evening and thank you for being with us here on The Latest tonight.

Ministers let’s start with you. You have a big delegation of university leaders and one of our greatest‑ever cricketers sitting right beside you. Tell us what is the goal of this visit? 

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: International education is the biggest export that we don’t dig out of the ground. It makes us money as a country, but more important than that, it makes us friends all around the world, and in the world we live in that’s really important.

The pandemic smashed international education, but it’s coming back. We’ve seen that the percentage of Indian students coming back to Australia come back really strongly – 160 per cent increase in Indian students back in Australia over the last 12 months – but it’s still not what it was before the pandemic.

There’s really great opportunities to do more between Australian universities and Indian universities. A lot of Australian universities run courses here in India at Indian universities. There’s a chance for us to move from running courses to operating campuses, and Gilly knows that better than most. Adam represents the University of Wollongong that will be amongst the first universities to set up campuses here in India.

ACTON: Oh, terrific. Gilly, you’re undoubtedly a great ambassador over there, as was just mentioned, representing the University of Wollongong. Coincidentally, the third test started today. Is our mutual passion for cricket a big drawcard for Indian students when they’re thinking about coming to Australia for university?

ADAM GILCHRIST: Yeah, Gemma, I think you’re spot‑on. I think there’s a lot of shared passions, if you like, and cricket is very much at the forefront of that. And it’s wonderful for me to combine my love of the game of the cricket with India and the relationship there. And also education that has been so very important part of my life, coming from a family of parents as teachers and brothers as teachers. So, to be able to come over here and just see the opportunity. I don’t think it’s just focusing on attracting Indian students to study at our Australian universities, which are world‑class. But the opportunity to work together. I know the Government here, the Minister for Education that we’ve met and had a fantastic day with, has quite the aspirations for education in this country. Big targets for 2035 and we feel like we’ve got some expertise across our whole university sector that we can come and work collaboratively with them in implementing those goals and aspiring to achieve those goals.

ACTON: Minister, COVID‑19, as you just mentioned, decimated the higher education sector here. Are we still too dependent on foreign students to sustain our universities or, picking up on what Gilly said, is there opportunity to really expand what we do? 

CLARE: There’s a big opportunity for us to expand what we do, not just in Australia, but what we do overseas. The opportunity for our universities to offer courses online and in countries.

There are as many nine‑year‑olds in India as there are people in Australia. There are half a billion people here in India that are under the age of 23 and the government has a plan that within a decade’s time about half of people in their 20s and 30s will have gone to uni or to the equivalent of TAFE here. And they can’t do it all on their own. It’s such an audacious plan that they are looking to countries like Australia and the US and the UK to help them. Part of that is setting up campuses here and some universities will do that, but offering dual degrees here as well.

There are lots of things that we can do together. It’s good for Australia and it’s good for India. It’s good to bring our two countries closer together. There’s almost a million Aussies who can trace their heritage back to India. I think Punjabi is the fastest growing language in Australia. Hinduism is the fastest growing religion. Now that’s a living bridge between our two countries and a massive opportunity for us.

ACTON: Gilly, before we let you go, just let me return to the tour very briefly. We’ve been watching it with great interest back home. The Aussies have been struggling, but we’ve just had an Indian collapse in the very thrilling first session at Indore. This does put Australia in a solid position for the remainder of the test, would you say?

GILCHRIST: Oh, most definitely. I think it’s their greatest position of strength they’ve been in in this series. Having fought hard in the first couple of games they were out‑skilled by a very classy team that played very well, particularly in their home conditions, India, but they’ve also beaten Australia twice in the last tours to Australia. So they are a quality opposition and to see Australia fight back on day one here in Indore is a wonderful effort.

There’s a lot to be salvaged from this series. Obviously, pride, but they can maybe make it 2‑all and not lose the series and of course there’s a world test championship up for grabs to try and qualify for that.

ACTON: So lots of reasons for us to keep our eyes glued on India for the next week at least. Thank you so much for your time tonight, Jason Clare and Adam Gilchrist.

Media Contact: Nick Trainor 02 9790 2466