Education

Australian University Coalition Seeks Special Visa for Indian PhD Scholars

The Group of Eight coalition wants to enhance mobility of students between India and Australia.

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Group of 8, the coalition of universities in Australia, is pushing for a special class of visa for Indian researchers and PhD graduates. Steven Ciobo, the Trade Minister of Australia, said the country is second only to the United States as a destination for mobile Indian students, attracting 60,000 students a year.

“With India’s rapidly rising middle class, many are looking abroad for exciting educational opportunities, and Australia’s education and training systems are well-placed to aid this growth,” Ciobo said to a delegation of 170 businessmen during the Australian Business Week in India held last week, according to media reports. “Greater science and research collaboration is central to Australia’s commercial future with India,” he added.

The Group of 8’s bilateral task force with India laid out the agenda to enhance the collaboration between the students of both countries, with special emphasis on specific visas for researchers and PhD scholars. The bilateral task force was led by the Go8 chair Peter Høj, and Devang Khakhar, the director of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.

International PhD students can currently apply for a post-study work visa of up to four years in Australia.

“One of the factors that Indian students considering a PhD overseas look at is their post-study work and career opportunities,” Go8 CEO Vicki Thomson was quoted as saying.

She added that restrictions on post-study work rights for international PhD graduates in the US present an opportunity for Australia to improve its appeal in the community by offering a better pathway from studies to a career.

She added: “Even the recent changes to skilled migrant work visas that didn’t directly affect PhD students reportedly had a negative impact on perceptions of Indian students towards Australia as a study destination.”

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had announced in April that the government would revoke the 457 Temporary Skilled Work Visa and replace it with a more stringent Temporary Skill Shortage Visa in March 2018. The move will affect about 3,000 researchers and university staff.

Amid the outcry surrounding this, the Australian government in July heard the higher education community out to put university lecturers, faculty heads and chief executives, including vice-chancellors, on the medium and long-term skills list. The call was made to make study undertaken during a PhD account for work experience.

Go8 members, such as the University of Adelaide, the University of Sydney and Monash University, make up for more than half of Australia’s Indian PhD graduates. They are also seeing a growing presence in India.

However, Thomson rued that the countries’ joint research successes have not translated into increased numbers of bilateral PhD students’ mobility. “It is eminently sensible for our task force to address this and illustrate to PhD students of both countries what benefits such study mobility can provide to them, and to their national economies,” she said.

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