Besides the US and the UK, Australia and Singapore have emerged as alternative attractive destinations for higher education in biotechnology. An overview of these two hubs from the perspective of a foreign student.
Australia High On Biotech Education
Australia is one of the top three destinations for international students. The country is a leader in biotechnology education and research. New biotech coursework gets implemented each year keeping the students, researchers and other personnel in the forefront of biotechnology innovation. It boasts of a strong entrepreneurial culture as almost 70 percent of Australia's biotech companies have been developed as spin-offs from university research.
Australian universities offering biotechnology education
Biotechnology in Australia's universities is supported by investment from government and industry. Biotech is integral to the four priority areas for innovation nominated by the Australian government: nano-materials and bio-materials; genome/phenome research; complex/intelligent systems; and photon science and technology. The Australian government support includes various programs under Backing Australia's Ability - a five-year $2.9 billion innovation action plan launched in 2001.
Australia has 37 government-funded universities and two private universities, as well as a number of specialist institutions providing approved courses at the higher education level. The universities engage in teaching and research across a wide range of professional and academic disciplines.
As many as 29 Australian universities provide courses in biotechnology - The Australian National University, Curtin University of Technology, Deakin University, Edith Cowan University and Flinders University are a few such universities.
Australian universities are increasingly providing unique specializations to ensure that personnel and students stay abreast of biotechnology, as many new fields emerge (eg: bioinformatics, proteomics) and as each new technology leads to new capabilities and new issues (eg: bio-security, stem cell research).
The undergraduate courses have a duration of three years and most of the courses start in February. A few courses begin in July and October.
Applications to study at Australian institutions can be made directly to the institution. The scholarships available for international students are, however, offered for postgraduate study in the universities.
Partnership with India
Australia's University of Queensland is strengthening Australia's links with India by establishing biotechnology research and student exchange ties with two of India's premier universities. A research collaboration agreement has been signed between the university and Manipal University of Higher Education (MAHE) and this agreement comes as the university hosts two Indian students under a student exchange program signed in 2003 with the JNU.
Singapore: Hub of Biomedical Sciences
In Singapore, biomedical sciences has been identified as the fourth pillar of the economy. There has been an all-round thrust for the development of this segment both from the industry and skilled human resources generation perspective. In 2004 major changes have been effected in the infrastructure of the educational system, especially in the way science education is imparted. The entire system is focused on empowering the students to take initiative and aims at making them more inquisitive. Presently, foreign students make up over 10 per cent of undergraduates and the Ministry of Education plans to raise it to 20 percent.
There are three local universities - The National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU).
In accordance with the focus on biotechnology and biomedical sciences, NTU, which was set in 1981 to provide facilities for tertiary education and research in engineering and technology, created a new department of biological sciences in 2001. This school aims to provide students with a high quality university education and training in the life sciences. It offers a four-year, full-time BSc (Honors) course in biological sciences beginning with the new academic session in July. The graduate programs at NTU lead to masters and doctor of philosophy degrees and postgraduate diplomas. It has developed niche areas in research in the field of biomedical engineering.
The NUS, a comprehensive university which offers courses in major disciplines, is expanding and focusing on the life sciences as well as consolidating interdisciplinary research. It offers degree and postgraduate programs in science and engineering. The university has several advanced training and research institutes including the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Institute of Molecular Agrobiology, Institute of Engineering Science, Institute of Materials Research and Engineering.
In addition to local universities, leading international universities have increased the level and scope of tertiary education in Singapore. Some leading international universities, which have collaborated with local institutions to launch their presence in Singapore include Georgia Institute of Technology - The Logistics Institute, Asia Pacific, Johns Hopkins University - Johns Hopkins Singapore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Singapore MIT Alliance, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Stanford University - Singapore Stanford Partnership, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania - Wharton SMU Research Centre and the Technische Universitat Munchen - German Institute of Science and Technology.
BioPolis, the biomedical research hub of Singapore has 12 A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology And Research), like the BioInformatics Institute (BII), the Bioprocessing Technology Institute (BTI), the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology (IMCB) and the Institute of Bioengineering & Nanotechnology (IBN), which conduct training programs in association with the universities.
The academic year generally commences in July/August and comprises two semesters, each lasting for 16 or 17 weeks. For admissions, applications should be sent directly to the educational institutions accompanied by the relevant certification and documentation. Foreign students admitted to science courses at the local universities have to pay about S$6,000 per year as fees. The rest of it can be covered through grants given by the Ministry of Education.