In 2016, the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training commissioned a feasibility study on establishing a consortium of universities – based on ACICIS’ model –  to facilitate increased university student mobility to India. The study was carried out by Mr John Bayliss, a Consulting Fellow at La Trobe Asia, La Trobe University. Mr Bayliss’ research report, titled ‘Pathways to India: promoting student mobility’, analysed the establishment and operation of the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) and outlined the possibility of using this model to collaborate with a number of universities that have an established interest in Indian studies to create a new consortium for India. The full report is available for download here.

A summary of the key findings of the report are listed below:

  • ACICIS is seen as a high-quality provider of student mobility services to Indonesia that is widely thought to have played a key role in driving up the numbers of Australian students studying there. It is perceived to have done this through centralising the visa process, providing in-country pastoral care and a high-quality educational experience, making it a more appealing option for students.
  • The ACICIS program is recognised as providing strong educational experiences in a safe and supportive environment. These will be vital elements in the establishment of any comparable Indian program.
  • The ACICIS fee structure received some criticism as it was perceived as creating a net loss for participating universities, while others saw the program’s in-country pastoral care of students and handling of the visa application process as a net gain.
  • Consortium input to the educational programs through advisory panels was seen as a vital ingredient by academics but there was some negativity among administrators for a system of governance that requires all 26 consortium members to sign-off on substantive decisions of change.
  • The ACICIS founder and Consortium Director, Professor David Hill AM, says that in 1995 there were less than a handful of Australian undergraduates each year that had a learning abroad experience in Indonesia. According to the Australian Universities International Directors Forum (AUIDF), by 2014 that annual figure had risen to 880. While ACICIS does not claim to have been the sole driver in that increase, the positive role of the program in facilitating engagement with Indonesia is widely recognised by representatives of the consortium’s university membership. There is recognition of the expertise that has been built up over more than 20 years. Professor Hill says that a collective of scholars on Indonesia in Australian universities have helped to drive the success of ACICIS.
  • ACICIS has benefited throughout its existence from the energy of Professor David Hill. He has been central to its growth and sustainability. While any organisation that relies too heavily on one individual for its continued existence, Professor Hill has ensured over time that a team is now in place that secures the organisation’s sustainability. Finding a similar figure with a strong understanding of promoting educational links with India and a passion for making it happen, would be a catalyst for success during the establishment of a mobility consortium for India.

ACICIS Consortium Director Professor David T. Hill A.M, Deputy Consortium Director Associate Professor David Reeve, Secretariat Manager Liam Prince, Resident Director Elena Williams, and Secretariat Officers Janelle May, Meg McPherson and Saskia Ziemann contributed to this report, along with a number of ACICIS’ member university contacts.