From the late 1980s, as Australian governments reorganised institutions to deal with globalisation, the university system rapidly expanded, but often at the expense of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Trade and international competition were cornerstones of policies that called on universities to find fee-paying students. “Asian studies,” when they received attention, were promoted as a means to improve Australia’s capacity to do business with countries of Asia, including South Asia.
Bilateral councils were established, and modest support was offered to set up centres dedicated to research and two-way exchange. The Australia-India Council, a body within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, was established in 1993. At the same time, a National Centre for South Asian Studies was established under Marika Vicziany, initially with support from the Commonwealth government and seven universities. Changes in the national government played a part in the termination of Commonwealth funding a few years later, and the National Centre eventually became a part of the Monash Asia Institute (now, the Monash Asia Initiative).
In the second decade of the twenty-first century, no more than six of Australia’s more than 40 universities offer semester-length subjects on India or South Asia in Humanities and Social Sciences disciplines – UNSW, ANU, Adelaide, Melbourne, New England and La Trobe. ANU and La Trobe offer three-year programs in Hindi.