Keynote Address to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Good afternoon and thank you Professor Mattoo, Director of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru, University and Honorary Director and CEO of the Australia-India Institute here in Dehli.
I also acknowledge Professor Sudhir Sopory, Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, who is hosting us today.
This is my first visit to an Indian university as the Australian Government Minister for Education and Training. I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today as the young scholars of such a prestigious university.
This university’s international standing and reputation are well known. It is a top ranked university at home and one of 10 Indian universities in the top 100 in the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings.
You have a proud education tradition here, fostered by the principles of Jawaharlal Nehru — India’s first Prime Minister who is acknowledged world-wide as the architect of the modern Indian nation.
Pandit Nehru established many Indian institutions of higher learning, and carried India into the modern age of scientific and technology research.
This vision for the future is being realised today, with Pandit Nehru’s ideals embedded in the founding of your university, with its focus on social justice, international understanding and a scientific approach to the problems of society.
Australia shares your vision.
In November last year, our country was fortunate to receive a visit from the Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who – as the first Indian leader to visit Australia in 28 years – made clear his ambitions for India.
Central to those ambitions is the opportunity for social and economic reform across India that education can provide.
Australia shares your ambition.
Australia is a dynamic country that welcomes many international students each year to study in our institutions, including more than 50 000 Indian students last year. We are strong partners in education.
We have a long history of university partnerships. We are strong research collaborators.
Our vocational education and training sectors are increasingly working together on shared skills challenges.
The growing Indian student population in Australia is forging closer cultural ties with Australian students. These young people not only enhance our education and research institutions, they also enhance our communities.
As Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on the occasion of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Australia in November last year:
"The partnership between India and Australia has tremendous room for growth."
Both Prime Ministers agreed to unlock the vast potential of the relationship. Education is a great vehicle to make this happen.
The Australian Government is keen to strengthen our partnership with India even further, in all sectors of education. We also want to expand our relationship across areas such as resources, agriculture, infrastructure, investments, financial services and health.
As Education Minister, I am proud of the partnerships and relationships that our education sectors have forged.
Research collaboration and shared goals
Research collaboration between India and Australia is going from strength to strength.
Jawaharlal Nehru University has a strong focus on research and building links with the rest of the world.
We share this desire.
I think most here would agree that science and innovation are critical for boosting a nation’s productivity, creating jobs, enhancing competitiveness and growing an economy.
In fact, a recent report released by Australia's Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, revealed that advanced sciences and their flow-on impact contribute to about 22 per cent of Australia’s GDP.
I believe India and Australia have many common research priorities and challenges.
For instance, we share numerous highly productive research projects through the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.
Through this fund, Australian researchers collaborate with Indian scientists in leading-edge scientific research projects. It also supports workshops and fellowships.
Reflecting the priority that we attach to this collaboration with India, we have provided $84 million over 13 years towards the fund, and it is Australia’s single largest international science collaboration fund.
The fund provides a vehicle for strategic engagement between our countries, unlocking the potential for collaboration on topics of global significance.
Since its establishment in 2006, it has supported more than 230 joint research projects and other collaborative endeavours.
This collaboration is allowing our best researchers to work together on common goals for both our countries.
The fund has led to some real break-throughs.
A collaboration between Australian researchers and India’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology has already led to the development of a new class of magnesium alloys that mimic those of natural bone.
This first-of-a-kind research paved the way for the development of a new class of materials, suitable for implanting in the human body, that will improve bone-tissue engineering techniques with patients being the ultimate beneficiaries.
Another Australia-India Strategic Research Fund collaboration brings together a multidisciplinary team to look at the growing resistance to standard pest-controls that have the potential to seriously threaten the long-term food security of stored grains. The outcomes of this research will benefit farmers and consumers in both India and Australia because less grain will be lost to spoilage, resulting in more food available to millions of people.
Jawaharlal Nehru University is also the Indian lead on a research project looking at the safe and sustainable use of arsenic contaminated aquifers in the upper Ganges. This work will be transformative in ensuring the sustainable supply of safe groundwater for drinking and use in agriculture.
On Saturday, I had the pleasure of opening the new building of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and Monash Research Academy, funded initially through the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund and now in partnership with Monash University in Australia.
This collaboration allows students to earn a joint PhD from both institutions, with the added benefit of being able to draw on research expertise at both institutions.
Another great example of collaboration here in New Delhi is the collaboration between the Energy and Resources Institute of India and Deakin University in Australia, and I acknowledge Professor Jane den Hollander, the Vice Chancellor of Deakin University, who is present today.
This is another valuable example of leading Indian and Australian researchers, and their PhD students, focusing on issues of global significance such as food security, sustainable agricultural practices, and biomedical, agricultural and energy research.
Later today at the third Australia India Education Council meeting I will announce further detail of a new higher education research collaboration project that will increase the number of research partnerships between India and Australia.
This project will identify areas where our countries’ research interests align, as well as opportunities for research collaboration, with the aim of increasing the number of research partnerships between our two countries.
Here in India there has been a renewed focus on science and technology policy as you seek to find ways to sustain rapid growth and overcome supply constraints for energy, food, water and resources.
Research collaboration on global issues such as these are crucial because no single country can provide the solution to all of these challenges.
Opportunities for learning from India
India has an impressive research record, becoming only the fourth nation in the world, and the first Asian nation, to put a satellite into orbit around Mars.
India has emerged as a global research and development — or R&D — hub. More than half of the world’s Fortune 500 companies have set up their own R&D operations in India.
I think Australia can learn much from India, particularly when it comes to co-investment.
For instance, India outperforms Australia in the percentage of Patent Cooperation Treaty applications with foreign co-investors in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
India has also produced more science, technology, engineering and mathematics publications than Australia over a ten-year period from 2002.
Australia’s research strengths
Australia too has an internationally respected research culture and produces world-class research.
Australia — like India — ranks in the top 20 countries contributing to the world’s research output.
In 2013 Australia produced 3.9 per cent of the world's research output in terms of publications and citations. This means Australia ranked 9th in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, yet we represent just 0.3 per cent of the world's population.
Australia’s research performance is particularly strong across the sciences and specifically in the fields of medicine, veterinary science, energy, earth and planetary sciences, and engineering. These are strengths we share with India.
We are proud of Australia’s achievements in having produced 15 Nobel Laureates.
Australia is home to some of the world’s best universities and almost half of our universities rank in the world’s top 500 according the Times Higher Education World Rankings 2014 15.
Translating research strengths into commercial returns
Despite Australia’s strong performance in research, our ability to translate publicly funded research into commercial outcomes has room for improvement.
Among comparable nations, Australia has one of the lowest levels of collaboration on innovation between the private sector and between higher education and public research institutions.
This is an opportunity lost and one that we are determined to change, so that we can open the doors to more opportunities and engage with the rest of the world.
While the social benefits of research are immense, commercial returns are necessary to be able to continue to conduct key research into the future.
To respond to this challenge, we are implementing a strategy for Boosting the Commercial Returns from Research.
This strategy will help to maximise the benefits from Australia’s investment in science, research and innovation and improving collaboration.
The strategy will set national priorities for research that align with Australia’s research strengths and global trends, providing more opportunities for strategic collaboration with countries such as India.
As part of the Government’s focus on maximising the benefits of research, I have commissioned a review of Australia’s university research funding and a review of Australia’s research training system.
Both of these reviews will provide advice to Government on how we can enhance the contribution of research in universities and industry to build Australia’s capacity for innovation, productivity and growth – something India has shown much aptitude for.
Recently my government has established the Commonwealth Science Council — which is chaired by Prime Minister Tony Abbott — highlighting the significance of this move.
This important Science Council has established a set of science and research priorities, identifying areas of immediate and critical importance to Australia and its place in the world.
These research priorities are issues that all nations are grappling with and include the areas of food, soil and water, transport, cybersecurity, energy, and health. These research priorities will shape Australia’s international research partnerships and frame future collaborations.
We have an ambitious vision for the future that builds upon this foundation and translates our strong research work for both social and commercial returns.
Australian Students in India
Contributing to this vision, my government is also focussed on building people-to-people links – laying the foundation for future collaborations.
We want this – fervently – to be a two way street.
Young Australians need a much greater exposure to the Asian region than most now have. After all, it is in the Asian region that so much of our future lies.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in April 2014:
"For decades, some of the best and brightest students in our region have come to Australia to study – but there was very little return traffic."
"We do have much to offer; but we have much to learn as well."
I am delighted to see that there is growing interest in Australian students studying in India. Since 2009, the number of Australian students choosing to study in India has more than doubled.
We are actively encouraging Australians to reach out to the world and to support this we committed $100 million over five years to establish the New Colombo Plan.
The original Colombo Plan, created during the Prime Ministership of Pandit Nehru and former Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, brought thousands of students from around our region to Australia from the 1950s and onwards.
The New Colombo Plan involves a prestigious scholarships program which encourages and supports Australian undergraduates to study abroad in the Asia-Pacific region. We are able to send our best and brightest young people – our future leaders – to study in the Asia-Pacific region.
The New Colombo Plan’s Inaugural India Fellow, Ms Zoe Brereton, has chosen to study here at Jawaharlal Nehru University and I acknowledge her presence here today.
As well as the New Colombo Plan, there continues to be a range of government, institutional and private sector scholarships and mobility programmes. Such opportunities strengthen the skills of Australian and international students.
The Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships programme is one example. It provides scholarships for high achieving postgraduate students and professionals to study in any of 125 countries, including India.
Since 2007, there have been 414 Endeavour scholarship and fellowship recipients from India. In the same period, 75 Australians have accepted an Endeavour scholarship or fellowship to go to India.
Equally important as encouraging mobility between our countries is the need to build alumni networks that support our society and economies.
Australian alumni are highly regarded in the international employment market because of their experience in our high quality institutions.
I am pleased that there are active Australian alumni associations across India to provide valuable networking opportunities. They strengthen mutual understanding and foster long-term relationships between our countries.
These people-to-people links are essential in today’s connected world.
To further build on these connections, later today I will announce a feasibility study that will build greater two-way student and researcher mobility.
The project will look at whether the successful model currently running in Indonesia could be applied in India with similar success.
Indian Students in Australia
Australia is pleased to welcome Indian students to our higher education, vocational education and training and school sectors.
Australia’s International Student Survey released earlier this year confirmed that many students choose to study in Australia because of the reputation of Australian institutions and the quality of teaching and research systems.
I want to assure you that backing up Australia’s education system are robust regulatory and financial frameworks. They include high levels of protection for international students. We are committed to ensuring Australia maintains its position as a top destination for international students.
To highlight this commitment I am delighted to be joined here today by the first Australia-India Education Ambassador, Mr Adam Gilchrist.
As you know, Mr Gilchrist is an Australian cricket great. He is undoubtedly one of the best wicket keeper-batsmen in the history of the game. He was the first player to reach 1000 runs in the Indian Premier League. Many of you will feel you know him. Sometimes I think the whole of India knows him. But you may not yet know that he has taken on this new role in Australian education.
I am pleased that Mr Gilchrist has agreed to support the growth in the bilateral education relationship between Australia and India, and I know he will be a wonderful ambassador for Australian education.
Adam believes that education leads you to a better life. I couldn’t agree more.
Mr Gilchrist will play an important role in educating you and your counterparts about the uniqueness and the value of Australian education.
Global mobility through vocational education and training
I know that vocational education and training is a strong and current focus for India, and India and Australia are active partners, working together to skill our peoples.
Indeed, Prime Minister Modi has said:
“The world and India need a skilled workforce.”
India's Skills Challenge and national objective to skill 500 million of your people by 2022 is both ambitious and essential.
By 2020, India is projected to have 25 per cent of the global workforce. India is in the midst of a demographic boom and has one of the youngest populations in the world.
More than 12 million young Indians are expected to join the workforce annually in the coming years.
To meet the skills and capability needs of this booming workforce, properly skilled trainers and assessors will be the foundation of a high quality training system.
In fact, I am told India needs an estimated 70,000 highly skilled trainers now, and a further 20,000 additional trainers each year.
Australia has worked with India to develop a suite of international training and assessment courses suitable for your training sector.
These internationally relevant training courses are benchmarked to an Australian standard and developed in partnership with industry to help skill-up trainers and assessors across the globe.
Australia can play an important role by providing vocational education and training in India in areas where Australia’s competencies complement India’s needs.
There are challenges in achieving this.
Australia’s vocational education and training providers need to find a way of better translating the quality of Australian qualifications delivery in the mode of frugal innovation.
Frugal innovation or Jugaad [Ja-gard], I am told, is a particular style of inclusive innovation developed here in India that sees better products being developed at a lower cost.
Working in partnership, Australia and Indian providers can bring their individual strengths to the table and find ways to serve this huge new market.
In the spirit of partnership, today I am pleased to announce $230,000 for stages 3 and 4 of the Australia India Vocational Education Leadership project. Commencing next month, the project will provide support to a large number of community college administrators and teachers across India to increase their capacity and capability in leadership.
Underpinning our higher education, research and vocational education and training sectors is of course our schooling system. Australia boasts high quality schools and our school system performs very well internationally across a range of indicators.
Students are at the heart of the Australian Government’s approach to schooling. We put students first, with our priorities focussed on their education outcomes.
The Australian Government wants students to have a quality education, and for parents to be actively engaged in their education. We want our students to have access to the best teachers and an up-to-date and relevant curriculum.
My government is also putting a high priority on the development of the national languages curriculum for thirteen foreign languages and this includes funding to develop a Hindi-specific curriculum.
I am delighted to be accompanied on this visit by the CEO of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, Mr Randall.
Mr Randall is guiding change in the Australian curriculum and will be a key member of the schools working group that I am pleased we are establishing, under the umbrella of the Australia India Education Council.
Later today, I will also announce a research project in support of this new working group. The project will identify the key issues and priorities for future cooperation in schools. This will include teaching, curriculum reform, professional standards, teacher training and school leadership.
This morning I had the pleasure of visiting Delhi Public School to launch the pilot of the Australia India BRIDGE School Partnerships Project. BRIDGE as it is better known, stands for Building Relations through Intercultural Dialogue and Growing Engagement.
The Australian Government has committed $160,000 to the Australia India BRIDGE Project, which will build connections between Indian and Australian students by matching eight participating schools in India with eight schools in Australia.
The schools will get together weekly to build their connections and relationships between their students and their teachers via information and communication technologies, such as Skype or Google Hangouts.
Through this Project each school and its community enhances its cultural understanding, in turn establishing sustainable partnerships.
The partnerships and friendships that this will create, I believe, have the capacity to strengthen the relationships that already exist between our countries.
Conclusion — the future
While India and Australia are friends and partners in many shared experiences and cultural aspects, education and research offers the potential to lift our relationship to new heights.
There is work to be done, and it can be done together.
For both our nations, it leads to a prosperous, fair, healthy, just and secure society.
We can learn much from each other, and we can achieve great things together through increased research collaboration and sustained educational links.
Working as partners and friends, there are immense opportunities for Australia and India to participate in one another’s growth, including through the transformative power of education.
I look forward to our relationship being taken to new heights as we work with your government on closer economic cooperation.
An economic agreement will support the free flow of professionals, skilled workers, students and researchers between our two countries and open up opportunities for all of us.
I believe that an economic cooperation agreement that delivers on education will provide gargantuan opportunities with tremendous benefits for both of our great nations.
Together, our future can be brilliant.