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  • Writer's pictureAkasha Usmani

Why the Maitri Scholarships are a gamechanger in the Australia-India partnership

An $11 million scholarship programme from Australia aimed at Indian students has the potential to transform educational cooperation between the two countries.

Students in Australia.

Over the years Australia has become one of the most prestigious centres in the world for higher education, attracting thousands of Indian students every year. However, access to this quality education comes with a high price tag making it a major hurdle for Indian students to study in Australia. The high cost of living and the sheer distance of the continent to India adds substantially to their expenses.

Taking note of these difficulties faced by Indian students, the Australian government in line with the growing friendship between India and Australia- which many would say is at its peak, has introduced 'Maitri Scholars Program'. This scholarship will make it possible for students seeking higher education from low-income families to study in Australia. The Maitri scholarships programme, worth USD 11 million is equivalent to the Chevening scholarship in the United Kingdom and the Fulbright scholarship in the United States. The scholarship program is aptly named 'Maitri' which in Hindi means friendship and has been initiated with the primary goal of fostering closer relations and more cooperation between the two nations. The Australian government hopes that this program will encourage Indian students to learn more about Australian culture alongside gaining access to Australian institutions.

The Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced that the Maitri Scholarship will provide USD 11 Million over the course of four years to help Indian students attend Australia's top colleges and universities. The Maitri Grants and Fellowships Program will help professionals to work on strategic research while the Maitri Cultural Partnership will help in strengthening the importance of creative industries in economic and interpersonal relationships. The Australian government will provide USD 6 million for four years to support cultural exchanges and boost the role of the creative industries in the two countries. The Australian government has promised further investments in fellowships as well. Eleven fellowships will be provided for highly qualified PhD students and will also receive stipends comparable to Rhodes scholarships in the United Kingdom and Fulbright scholarships in the United States.

The scholarship will give high-achieving students the opportunity to study in Australia and advance their education to the highest levels which will open up the possibility to return to India and achieve success in their home country thus further strengthening ties between Australia and India. The Maitri Scholarships are a step in developing India's talent pool and building a sizable skilled labour force that will contribute to India's growth and success. The Australian High Commission in India has also commented saying that this effort will highlight Australia's renowned academic and research institutions in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and health.

India-Australia educational ties

The relationship between India and Australia has changed remarkably, both the countries have developed a strong strategic relationship across sectors like education, trade, sports, political and cultural ties. However, one of the most important links amongst these between India and Australia is the education sector. The Indian community in Australia is growing rapidly and is one of the fastest growing communities in Australia, with a tremendous increase in Indian students pursuing their education in Australia. As of July 2022, there were 96,000 students in Australia, the second largest international student body after China making education a significant point of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Although India has some high-quality educational institutions and universities, boosting overall education quality is critical if India is to fully capitalize on its youth population with a staggering 50 per cent of India’s population being under the age of 25. Therefore, with a population of around 1.4 billion people, the task of educating the growing youth population becomes a mammoth task thus providing an opportunity for Australia in terms of university partnership and as a study abroad destination for Indian students. The education industry has grown to be Australia's principal export to India, and it is now the second most popular study abroad destination for Indian students.

There were already agreements and partnerships between Australia and Indian universities and more are being planned in the year 2022. The cooperation between India and Australia is increasing with a great focus on economic cooperation and since education has enormous potential, India-Australia in 2020 announced a Taskforce on Educational Qualifications Recognition which will address the issue of recognizing various delivery methods like joint degrees, online and blended learning, and education at foreign universities. The task force will present a system for increasing the recognition of educational credentials between Australia and India; its implementation is scheduled for 2023.

Amid rising numbers of students, the collaboration in research and PhD programs between the universities of Australia and India is also increasing. STEM, healthcare, and management are the three main areas of research cooperation between the two nations.

In 2018, India and Australia signed seven agreements related to the field of education. The countries will collaborate on :

  • Universities will collaborate in academic projects

  • Online learning

  • Making participants job-ready through skill development and vocational training

  • Mobility of students and instructors through initiatives like India's GIAN School

  • School education

Additionally, the governments of Australia and India have launched the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) to improve their cooperation in science and research.

These initiatives and agreements support development of cultural communication amongst students, independence of thought, understanding of various viewpoints, and problem-solving skills. Australia and India's institutions, universities, businesses, and governments are working together to make sure that students have access to the resources they need to succeed in the global economy. Thus, while increasing people to people connect initiatives such as the 'Maitri Scholars Program' ensures that India- Australia relations continue to strengthen through the next young, dynamic ad educated generation of Indians and Australians.

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