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Monday, March 8, 2021

Indian links at Deakin

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Victoria’s Deakin University celebrates 20 years of engagement with India

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Staff and students from Deakin University at their annual Diwali celebration

Way back in 1893, former Australian Prime Minister and leader of the Australian Federation Movement, Alfred Deakin also known as ‘Affable Alfred’ predicted that students from Australia and India would traverse international borders and form lasting intellectual partnerships. His long standing interest in irrigation and cultural diversity made him tour India. He published a research report, Irrigated India (1893), while his explorations of the spiritual centres and architecture of India were published in Temple and Tomb in India.

Alfred Deakin’s foresight and desire for collaboration between nations bore fruition twenty years ago with the initial foray of his namesake university into India. The story of Deakin University in India has been one of collaboration, friendship and strategic partnerships that transcend geographical borders to create a vibrant culture of research excellence.

Located in the state of Victoria, Deakin is a public university, established in 1974 with the passage of the Deakin University Act of the same year. It combines research and teaching with a strong focus on strengthening the communities it serves.

Around 50,000 students currently study at Deakin, including almost 8,000 international students from 127 countries, including 1,150 students from India.

In 1994 it was the pursuit of excellence and effective partnership that led to Deakin University setting up a joint venture in India with the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia (APESMA) to offer management programmes through distance learning. Deakin University was the first international university in the world to set up an office in India, two years later in 1996.

In the nascent stages of its Indian operations, Deakin’s focus was primarily on student enrolments; with the relationship gradually evolving to include partnerships with some of India’s leading universities, research institutions and businesses.

One of the great milestones of the 20 year journey, alongside the education of many hundreds of Indian students in Australia, is the Deakin India Research Initiative (DIRI), created to help to bridge the innovation gap between academia and industry. Under the DIRI model, a Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidate is based at an Indian research institution with day-to-day supervision provided by a local researcher. A Deakin academic staff member serves as principal supervisor for the project and the candidate visits Australia for around six months to conduct research.

Australian High Commissioner in India Patrick Suckling with Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander

“Our India office is one of the jewels in the crown of our growth and success over the 40 years of Deakin’s existence from humble beginnings on a green field site at Waurn Ponds in 1974,” said Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander in her address at the Australian High Commission in New Delhi, held to commemorate Deakin’s two-decade journey in India at the end of 2014. “It is a great honour to be leading a delegation to India and have our 20 year journey in this wonderful country, a rising rapidly-growing power, recognised in such a way.”

“At all times we have tried to complement our strengths to the needs of Indian students, institutions and industries,” explained Deakin India Country Director, New Delhi-based Ravneet Pawha. “In that way we have always worked as a true partner and that is the key to our sustained growth and success in India,” she added.

Deakin marked the historic Indian-Australian milestone by announcing the expansion of its operations in South Asia to include strengthening the university’s profile and enrolment share from other nations including Nepal, Bangladesh, Burma, Bhutan and Mauritius.

The industry-academia fraternity from both India and Australia have acknowledged Deakin for its research in advanced materials, nanotechnology, life sciences and health; helping to develop solutions to combat the world’s most pressing problems.

‘Live the future’ is the Deakin University philosophy. It endeavours to nurture the personal development and wellbeing of its students and staff, to foster a vibrant and inclusive culture which crosses discipline and organisational boundaries.

In 2014, Deakin University was recognised with the Governor of Victoria Export Award for education and training – a testament to the quality of its international research and education, notably in India and with Indian institutions.

In the last two decades, Deakin has committed over AU$10 million to research initiatives in India, with 20 strategic academic partners, 20 research partners and 15 corporate partnerships. It is hailed by the Indo-Australian fraternity for being accessible, helpful and friendly.

The relationship between Australia and India is set to continue to expand for years to come.

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Royston Rebello
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