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Australian Deputy PM to visit India over education concerns

world Updated: Aug 21, 2009 09:08 IST
Australia deputy PM to visit India

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Friday said she would visit India in a bid to soothe concerns over attacks on its students and dishonest education providers.

Gillard recently launched a sweeping review of Australia's lucrative international education sector in response to a series of violent assaults on Indian students and claims they were being targeted in study scams.

She said Australia's $12.7 billion international education industry would be chief among the issues she would discuss with senior Indian officials during her visit, between August 30 and September 3.

"The government is committed to taking its relationship with India to a higher level and engaging with India on a long-term, strategic basis," said Gillard, who is also the national education minister.

"During the visit (I) will discuss the government's recent moves to improve the quality of education for overseas students in Australia, including the re-registration of education providers, the review of the act governing international students, and the international students roundtable in September," she added.

Gillard said she also planned to meet with students who had studied in Australia and to visit a number of educational institutions in Delhi and Chennai.

A series of attacks in Sydney and Melbourne boiled over into street protests last month, amid accusations from students that police were not doing enough to halt violence.

Australian authorities have played down any racial aspect to the attacks, saying the jobs that Indian students do to support their education mean they are often in dangerous areas or on public transport late at night.

But the issue has strained relations, prompting Australia's prime minister and foreign minister to offer India's foreign minister their personal assurances during a recent summit of Pacific leaders in Sydeny.

Left unattended, the issue risked "poisoning" international attitudes to Australia and souring relations with China and India, the major Lowy Institute think-tank warned this week.