India's new National Education Policy (NEP) has given a "license to innovate" to foreign universities, according to Michael Wesley, deputy vice-chancellor, University of Melbourne.
"We see the NEP as a license to innovate. I think that before NEP, the ability to do creative things with Indian partners was much more constrained mainly by government policy. If you take a broad overview of the NEP, it's really India putting a flag in the sand and saying India wants to build one of the world's best higher education sectors," Wesley told PTI in an interview.
"We want Indian institutions to partner with institutions around the world. It's necessary to develop a world class education system in India to meet the demand that India faces for higher education," he added.
Wesley was in Delhi last week, leading the first major foreign delegation that the University of Melbourne has sent post COVID-19.
Paving the way for foreign universities to set up campuses in India, the new NEP which was launched in 2020, states that the world's top 100 universities will be "facilitated" to operate in the country through a new law.
The NEP cleared by the Union cabinet is only the third major revamp of the framework of education in India since independence. The two earlier education policies were brought in 1968 and 1986.
Besides opening up Indian higher education to foreign players, the new policy marks a significant shift in the format of undergraduate education with the reintroduction of the four-year multidisciplinary Bachelor's programme, with exit options.
The University of Melbourne has over 2,000 Indian students at present. According to Wesley, Indian students' interest in studying in Australia and in Melbourne in particular has increased over the COVID period.
"We have really lost a lot of time due to COVID because borders have been shut. We have not been able to really implement much of our engaging with India plan. And this is really our signal that we are really going to be running hard in making sure that we develop the relationships needed for joint research and joint degree programmes," he added.
Unveiling a blended academy with Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), a partnership for the Bachelor of Science programme, and Melbourne India Postgraduate Academy, a partnership with the Indian Institute of Science, were the two major programmes on the delegation's agenda.
"There are a range of potentially innovative ways that we can partner with Indian institutions to help build their capacity, but also to deepen our interests in India as we're also exploring partnership agreements with a range of universities around India,” said Wesley.