Ranked within the top 1.4 percent of world universities, La Trobe University is a multi-campus university and has been one of Australia’s pioneering universities based in Victoria. Last year the university jumped over 200 places in that year’s Academic Ranking of World Universities. It is ranked at 301 positions, which means that the University is placed in the top 400 in the world in all three recognized international rankings of universities. Credit for all these achievements goes to none other than the vice-chancellor and president of La Trobe University, Professor John Dewar.

Professor Dewar is an internationally-known family law specialist and a graduate of the University of Oxford. He taught at the Universities of Lancaster and Warwick during 1981-1988 and worked for the London law firm Allen and Overy from 1988-1990.

In 1995, he moved to Griffith University in South East Queensland, where he was successively Dean and Head of School of the Griffith Law School (1999-2002), pro vice-chancellor (Business and Law) (2003-2005) and most recently deputy vice-chancellor (Academic) from 2005 until joining the University of Melbourne in April 2009, where he was Provost till December 2011. Dewar has been living in Australia for the last 16 years, took up the position of vice-chancellor of La Trobe University in January 2012. Last week the professor visited India and, in an interview with

Rakesh Kumar spoke of the various offers and scholarships to attract Indian students to La Trobe.

Excerpts:

What is the purpose of your visit to India?

The purpose of my visit to India this year is to sign a MoU with IIT Kanpur. This MoU will allow us to develop jointly PhD programmes for Indian students, who are interested in studying at a very high level in the fields of chemistry and biology. What we aim to do is to create a joint programme with scholarship, in which students will spend 70 percent of their time in Kanpur and 30 percent time in Victoria.  Supervisors from both organisations will be present with them.

Other than this, is there any other collaboration in the pipeline?

There are two others. This year we went to Amity University in Noida. And this will be a much wider relationship. It will involve students’ mobility. Under this tie-up, the students will have joint teaching programmes and culturally experience both places. We are talking to them about possible combining of Bachelors and Masters degree in cyber security so that a student can start at Amity University and then transition to La Trobe. They will be awarded two degrees at the end of the course. Then we are talking about joint research. We are also in partnership with JSS University in Mysore ~ they are very strong in medical and health science. We have a joint PhD programme with them. One more thing we would like to share is a new single scholarship ~ women in leadership scholarship. It is aimed at a young woman, who wants to study cybersecurity but doesn’t have funds to study on her own. It is a very specific and targeted scholarship with the criteria that she must be an Indian citizen.

How many Indian students are currently enrolled in the university?

Around 2,000 students have enrolled in our university and the number is growing every year. Most Indian students come to Trobe to study post-graduate degree, particularly in IT, engineering and business. Increasingly, I think growth is happening in other areas, where there is high employment demand, like Data science and in cybersecurity.

How are Indian students in terms of performance and what courses are most popular?

They perform very well. As I said previously, they prefer IT and business, but new areas are growing like Cybersecurity and many other courses. These are courses, where players are desperate to recruit people.

There were reports of racial discrimination against Indian students a few years back. What is the situation now?

It was 10 years ago and there is nothing like this now. We don’t tolerate any misbehaviour on our campus. At the same time, we have very lively and active Indian students’ associations, which organise a lot of cultural events. For instance, we celebrated Holi on our campus. We have a very supportive culture at Trobe and also the opportunity to engage with many other cultural groups.

Indian education system and culture are both different. How much time does it take for Indian students to adapt?

I don’t think there is any difference. Most of the students, who come to us are postgraduate students. I don’t think the transition is so difficult. There is a big Indian community which also helps.

Since the US and the UK have tightened their work visa policy, has Australia benefited from it?

There seems to be a trend away from the US because it is perceived to be a less friendly place towards foreign students. But you always see a little bit of movement between countries, depending on immigration regime for study plus work right.

I think Australia is very competitive, with current study plus work right regime. It gives students at least two years’ working experience once they finish their degree and in case of PhD students, three years. But students have to make the judgement, based on the whole combination of factors like quality, safety, consumer protection and employment outcomes. All of that adds up to value for money ~ where will I get the best value for money. I think Australia is a very compelling proposition for international students.