Soon in Bangalore, an Australian varsity with Brett Lee connection

March 19th, 2008 - 10:36 am ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Melbourne, March 19 (IANS) With pace bowler Brett Lee as its brand champion, Deakin University in Victoria will become the first Australian varsity to set up an independent research institute in Bangalore. Like many other Australian universities, while Deakin has collaborations with Indian universities, “the Deakin India Research Institute (DIRI) will be the first standalone research institute in India,” says the University’s vice-chancellor Sally Walker.

“We are absolutely committed to India. We were the first Australian university to set up an office in Delhi 11 years ago,” Walker told IANS at the University’s Burwood campus in Melbourne.

“The main advantage of this institute will be that it will stop Indian students from going overseas and will also attract Indian scientists back to India as research supervisors.”

“We are awaiting final permission for funding from the Karnataka state government and the government of India. The infrastructure will be in place sometime this year and enrolments will begin next year. We’ll take 100 students to begin with and then work up to 500,” Walker adds.

Some students from DIRI will come to the Geelong campus in Victoria to study part of the time, say for six months, but the bulk of their time will be spent studying in India.

Out of the 23,500 students currently enrolled at the university, 5,000 are international students and 1,000 of them are from India. The popular courses are business, biotechnology, engineering and information technology.

Deakin is in top of the middle group of Australian universities.

Pallavi Rao from Manipal, Karnataka, who is doing a double masters degree in professional communication and writing and literature, says: “As a postgraduate student, I got an unexpected amount of options in doing my course and more exposure and experience in my area. Melbourne is the city to study arts, unless of course, one can afford New York or London.”

Rao, who has volunteered as a peer support leader for new international students, chose Deakin because it provided a course “structured exactly around the material I was hoping for. The staff is not only of a high calibre in terms of experience and knowledge, but also has been exceptional in their support and encouragement, opening up multiple avenues in work experience.”

Coming from a quintessentially conservative small town, the move to Melbourne has been “a drastic but exciting one”. While she intends to get some solid work experience in Australia for now, as an aspiring author, Rao says, “there is no doubt in my mind that my final destination will be Indi..”

Nishar Hameed came to Australia only nine months ago to do a Ph.D in Polymer nanomaterials at the University’s Centre for Material and Fibre Innovation (CMFI). It was while doing his M.Phil in Kottayam, Kerala, that he got attracted by the works of his current supervisor at Deakin, Qipeng Guo.

Hameed says, “I would like to return home after acquiring a few years research experience here on completion of my PhD.”

Enthusiastic about the university’s evolving relationship with India, Walker says, “Indian students here enrich our environment.”

Deakin has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with India’s major biotechnology company, Biocon, which will help facilitate the establishment of DIRI.

The MoU will also bring the two institutions together to work on a number of projects. Biocon is helping Deakin in establishing a mammalian cell bio-processing facility at the Geelong Technology Precinct (GTP) at the University’s Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds in regional Victoria.

The University’s Metabolic Research Institute, which has a colony of Israeli sand rats, is conducting research on diabetes and obesity for Biocon. Biocon is also interested in Deakin’s Wine Science Research Facility.

Says Walker, “Head of Biocon, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, visited GTP and was impressed by how industry and university were working so closely together.” Forty businesses have set up shop within the GTP to collaborate on research projects.

“We want to replicate in India the GTP model, where industry and researchers are co-located. The aim of the institute is to have students’ work ready in three years by the time they complete their Ph.D”, says Walker.

So how did the vice-chancellor secure a marketing coup by getting Brett Lee as Deakin’s face for its India activities?

Walker says, “Lee came to the university to make a motion capture clip on cricket and was surrounded by Indian students. He is madly in love with India and Indians are in love with him. He just agreed to be our brand manager.”

Lee will also have a key role in shaping a new charitable fund that is part of DIRI. The fund will support research projects such as water, environmental remediation and sanitation programs.

Lee says, “I am convinced that 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.”

Way back in 1893, Alfred Deakin, Australia’s second prime minister after whom the university is named, had recognised that Australia and India would develop close working relationships. His prophecy is coming true.

(Neena Bhandari can be contacted at

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