22 July : Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Shri Kapil Sibal, has mooted the raising of the level of the Joint Working Group for Education between India and Australia to ministerial level. In a meeting with Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Australia, Shri Kapil Sibal stated that this working group could have within its ambit the social welfare of students, mutual recognition of degrees, academic cooperation etc. Shri Sibal also said that the sub-group on social welfare of students must meet soon and submit a report by December.
Shri Kapil Sibal, during the meeting, made suggestions to the Australian Minister that both Australia and India could have a dedicated nodal officer at both ends to enable the free flow of information required related to students welfare and related issues. This could be particularly useful when there are doubts regarding quality of degrees being offered by an institute etc. Both sides discussed at length the issue of recent incidents of violence on Indian students in Australia. The Australian Minister emphasized that the Australian government sees this both as a criminal issue and a public policy issue and his government is dealing with this on both accounts. Shri Sibal thanked the Australian Minister in this regard stating that these were “our students”.
Shri Kapil Sibal said that India was today at the cusp of opportunity and he is of the view that once the education sector in India opens up, what the world saw India become in services and manufacturing, will happen in the years to come in HR development. He said that he was saying this because in India the output dividend in education is greater than the input costs. He informed the Australian delegates that the Ministry was considering a regulatory framework for attracting foreign investments in higher education in India. He suggested that the foreign universities could set up their campuses in India in future. This model would be mutually beneficial as it would generate large number of skilled professionals who could meet the needs of the growing Indian economy as well as the global market. Shri Sibal, however, emphasized that the policies would aim to provide equity with excellence in education and not encourage investments guided by profiteering motive.
Shri Sibal apprised the Australian delegation of the massive expansion of higher education in India. He expressed the hope that this visit will deepen the ties between India & Australia and asked the delegates to convey the message to the Australian Government that India attaches great importance to its bilateral relations with Australia. Shri. R.P. Agrawal, Secretary, Department of Higher Education and Smt. Anshu Vaish, Secretary, Department of School Education & Literacy were also present during the meeting.