Deakin and Wollongong are first to open Indian branch campuses

Australian institutions plan outposts in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City

March 1, 2023
Orange branch
Source: iStock

Two Australian institutions will soon unveil plans to establish branch campuses in India, making them the first to announce such plans as the nation pushes to attract top overseas universities.  

Deakin University and the University of Wollongong intend to set up shop in India’s Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (Gift City), India’s education minister announced on 1 March.

Both institutions are expected to sign agreements during Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese’s first visit to India next week, according to national media.

The move comes as India prepares to release the final version of its rules for top-500 foreign universities to establish branches in the country – and amid scepticism by some academics that the plan will fail to draw sought-after collaborators.

Deakin and Wollongong universities, which are both ranked between 200 and 300 in Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings, would meet these criteria.

Critically, though, both campuses would be situated in Gift City, in which foreign entities can operate without complying with domestic regulations. A first-of-its-kind project in India, the area is seen as a test bed for international involvement in the country’s higher education, enticing overseas universities with the promise of less red tape and ready-built high rises that could enable them to quickly set up shop.

A spokesperson for Deakin told Times Higher Education that it was unable to disclose more details about the plan until a formal announcement is made. THE understands the university plans to develop a postgraduate programme in high demand areas such as STEM, information technology and business.

Academics said the move was in keeping with the Australian sector’s internationalisation strategy.

Philip Altbach, a professor of higher education at Boston College, said that it was “not surprising” that Deakin and Wollongong would be among the first to express interest in the Indian market, given how Australian universities have “generally been aggressive” in their pursuit of overseas branch campuses.

Still, he cautioned that the institutions’ modus operandi may find itself at odds with India’s goals.

“Generally, the Australians have been in the branch business to make money – Australia’s entire international strategy is to produce income,” he said.

“It is not clear if Indian authorities will permit traditional income producing even in the supposedly regulation-free environment of Gift City. In India, the devil is always in the details, and the Australians may discover this.”

Jason Lane, dean of the College of Education, Health and Society at Miami University in Ohio and an expert on branch campuses, said that the institutions’ move represented an “important moment”.

“It evidences that there is genuine interest in setting up foreign campuses in India. Many will watch these ventures closely and it may motivate some to move forward with their own plans,” he said.

While he was doubtful that Deakin and Wollongong would be followed by a “rush of top-ranked universities following suit”, he thought India may try to use the Gift City approach elsewhere.  

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we now see more localities in India interested in setting up their own regulatory-free zones to be competitive in attracting foreign campuses to their communities,” he said.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles