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‘Deakin committed to safety’

While I’m shocked and horrified at the incidents, I can’t pretend that they’re not happening, Sally Walker tells Vandana Ramnani

education Updated: Aug 06, 2009 09:25 IST
Vandana Ramnani

Your comment on the recent attacks on Indian students?
We Australians pride ourselves on being a multi-cultural society and in welcoming people from every country. The recent incidents have raised real questions in my mind about our culture. I still believe that Victoria is a safe place, while we cannot guarantee safety. The students who come here to study can rest assured. However, they should remember that there are places in every country where one should not go. While I’m shocked and horrified at the incidents, I can’t pretend they’re not happening. Unfortunately, students end up doing late night jobs that they don’t wish to do. The recent incidents are a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

What steps is the university taking to ensure the safety of its 1,100 Indian students?
Deakin is committed to providing all its international students with a secure environment. Given the current concerns about the personal safety and well-being of our Indian students, I have taken steps to ensure that they receive additional advice and counselling. Deakin has in place a comprehensive programme to inform students about safety issues and makes emergency cards available to all international students.

Please tell us about the synergies the university has with India/Indian universities?
Deakin is committed to a genuine and equal partnership with India. To be able to exchange research ideas, to have Australian students working in India, and Indian students studying in Australia, is going to help people in both countries. Deakin India Research Institute (DIRI), Bangalore, to be started by the Deakin University under a tripartite agreement between the Union Government and the State Government of Karnataka, will be the face of Deakin University in India. The Institute will undertake social and developmental research projects in association with the government, academia, industry and the people of the region. With this Deakin will become the first Australian university to establish a research institute in India. The Institute will begin its operations from next year and the prime areas of research will be biotechnology and nanotechnology. Australian fast-bowler Brett Lee will be the brand ambassador for DIRI.

In addition, DIRI will also help PhD candidates associated with the industry to undertake committed research in areas to develop the industry further. This will involve students enrolled in Deakin PhDs, supervised by Deakin staff undertaking research in industry settings in India. In fact, when our students finish PhD, they would be work-ready for industry. This model may involve studying in Australia as well.

However, we do not wish to open a campus in India but want research connectedness. I think the best way to engage internationally is through partnerships with other universities and industries. We may also use the DIRI model for Masters but not undergraduate courses. For the latter we are looking at a direct relationship with universities.