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Australia must look to world's emerging markets for foreign students, report says

Wednesday, 01 April 2015

Tertiary education institutions should look to emerging markets in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East in order to keep Australia in the top five destination countries for foreign students, a new government report said.

The federal education minister, Christopher Pyne, on Wednesday released the draft national strategy for international education. The paper encourages institutions to look beyond the Asia Pacific region for prospective students, and instead focus on the developing economies of the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Currently, more than 50% of Australia’s foreign students come from five countries: China, India, Vietnam, South Korea and Thailand. Less than 1o% of Australia’s 500,000 foreign students are from Latin America.

The goals for the sector outlined in the paper include improving students’ experience while in Australia. A report by HSBC released last year found that Australia is the most expensive country for foreign students, many of whom do not receive health and travel concessions. It found that it costs students $US42,000 a year to study and live in Australia, compared to $US36,000 in the United States.

The president of the Council of International Students, Thomson Ch’ng, said that the discrepancy in some states between travel concessions offered to domestic students and international students is “frustrating”.

“State governments will have to do something about it,” Ch’ng said. “Our position is very consistent. We’re pushing for full concessions, no strings attached, and we will continue to push for that.”

The head of Universities Australia, Belinda Robinson, said that the organisation “strongly supported” the inclusion of a goal focusing on the quality of the educational and living experience for international students.

“In particular we need to ensure international students have access to affordable accommodation, receive transport concessions equal to domestic students and have genuine opportunities to undertake relevant work experience,” Robinson said.

Universities Australia also supports greater collaboration between tertiary institutions and the private sector in the field of research and development, as flagged in the national strategy.

“We are particularly pleased to see a commitment to investment in collaborative research and research infrastructure and look forward to seeing this reflected in the coming federal budget,” Robinson said. “The ability to produce high quality collaborative research is critical for cementing our position as one of the best higher education systems in the world.”

 Australia’s reputation as a top destination for foreign students was damaged by a series of attacks on Indian students in 2009. Numbers of incoming students fell after the attacks, in part also due to the rising Australian dollar and the global financial crisis.

Significant changes made to the country’s temporary visa scheme in 2013, which allowed foreign students to gain work experience in Australia after graduating, has contributed to an increase in the number of students choosing to study in Australia.

Pyne announced that he would chair a coordinating council on international education, as part of the consultation process on the national strategy. The committee would take advice from the various government departments involved in the sector, including education, immigration and science and industry. He said he hopes the consultation will be completed by 29 May.

“It will be 12 people who will be making sure that the government’s approach to international education continues to grow that sector,” Pyne said.

Higher education is Australia’s third largest export, after iron ore and coal. It is worth $16.3bn, and Pyne said it could skyrocket to be worth $30bn by 2020 if governments and institutions invest correctly.

Source: The Guardian

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