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Breaking boundaries: Jyoti Arora on her AIRS Fellowship experience

As the first in her family to pursue a PhD, Jyoti Arora defied tradition to follow her passion for education. Recently, the Jawaharlal Nehru University student took a significant step in her academic journey by undertaking an Australia India Research Students Fellowship. Her goal was to observe and learn from some of the world’s leading universities as part of her wider study on the governance of higher education in India.

You recently returned from your eight-week AIRS Fellowship with the University of Melbourne. Can you tell me about your project?

My research explores governance of higher education in India, with a particular focus on Institutions of Eminence. This is a scheme intended to empower selected higher education institutions in India to achieve world-class status in teaching and research. The purpose of visiting Australia was to study the operations of world-class institutions and explore potential lessons for India in terms of governance structures. 

Jyoti at the University of Melbourne
Jyoti at the University of Melbourne

How did your time in Australia benefit your research?

In my research, observing structures and engaging with peers in higher education is crucial. A range of factors can contribute to an institution’s world-class status, such as infrastructure, research, international student attraction, institutional autonomy, and academic support. Spending two months at the University of Melbourne allowed me to see how all these aspects work together and make sense of it all. I also visited The University of Sydney and Macquarie University, engaging in conversations about university governance in Australia, as well as discussions with professors on various higher education topics.

Jyoti giving a presentation on her research at the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education.
Jyoti giving a presentation on her research at the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education.

Can you tell me about your academic journey?

Education is my true passion. I come from a middle-class background where conventional career paths often take precedence, especially for women. Nevertheless, my family has always supported my decision to pursue a career in academia. 

Opportunities like the AIRS Fellowship make a significant difference by offering financial support for global exposure, which is particularly important for humanities students who often have limited funding options. 

For me, this Fellowship means that my academic work might now be taken more seriously by my non-academic circle of family and friends, enhancing my professional standing. 

What was your cultural experience of Australia?

During my time in Australia, I explored the country's culture and was amazed by its diversity. I was particularly moved by my exposure to Aboriginal art and culture, which made me appreciate the richness and complexity of Australian heritage. I had the opportunity to visit not only Melbourne, but Canberra and Sydney as well. In particular, the galleries and museums in Canberra had a lasting impact on me.  

Jyoti visiting Canberra
Jyoti visiting Canberra

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