Australia’s beleaguered international education industry has seen a couple of important developments of late. The first comes in the form of a long-awaited report from an industry advisory council that sets out a comprehensive set of recommendations to protect and strengthen the Australian industry. While the industry now looks for quick action from government on the report’s recommendations, a more immediate boost has appeared in the form of a major youth marketing campaign from Tourism Australia.
New report released
A new report commissioned by the Australian government on strategies for the Australian international education sector has just been released: “Australia – Educating Globally: Advice from the International Education Advisory Council.” The report is meant to signal the government’s commitment to the sector’s health and growth, and its recommendations will inform the development of a national five-year strategy for Australian international education.
Many of the recommendations focus on coordination among all industry stakeholders, making it easier for genuine students to study and work in Australia via visa streamlining, and improving the quality of international students’ experience in Australia.
The report was prepared by the International Education Advisory Council – chaired by prominent Australian businessman Dr Michael Chaney – and included international education experts and representatives of the Australian university sector, government, science bodies, tourism, business and industry.
The first priority outlined is the creation of a Ministerial Coordinating Council on International Education (MCCIE) to be chaired by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science, and Research and to include stakeholders from across the sector and relevant industries.
Lack of national coordination has been blamed as a key problem in Australia’s international enrolment declines over the past few years, so this particular recommendation was met with enthusiasm across the sector.
National coordination and improved student experience emphasised
The report outlined seven main areas specifically requiring attention in order to allow Australia to realise its potential as an international education destination and to meet the International Education Advisory Council’s target of 520,000 international students studying across all education sectors and contributing around AUS $19.1 billion to the local economy by 2020. The areas identified – into which over 30 specific recommendations fall – are:
- “Coordination: Ensure improved coordination of government policy and programmes for international education and better consultative mechanisms for stakeholders, in order to optimise government support for the international education sector.
- Quality: Position Australia as a provider of the highest quality education, while reducing over-regulation, duplication, and overlap.
- Positive student experience: Maintain and build on Australia’s reputation as an open and friendly learning environment where international students are valued members of the community and are supported to achieve their goals.
- Partnerships: Encourage Australian institutions and governments to develop strong and diverse international and multinational partnerships that encourage exchange, capacity-building, and collaboration.
- Ensuring integrity in Australia’s student visa programme: Ensure that Australia’s student visa settings continue to be competitive and attractive in all education sectors while preserving their integrity and helping to meet national skills needs.
- Data analysis and research in international education: Inform Australia’s international education policy through accurate and timely data analysis and research as well as supporting increased collaboration between researchers.
- Competition, promotion, and marketing: Market Australia as a supplier of high quality education and continue to build its core markets while pursuing diversification through engagement with emerging markets and increase offshore delivery.”
Reaction is positive
The report – which is really a strategy for supporting the Council’s prediction of a 30% rise in international students over the next seven years and bolstering Australia’s reputation for international education – elicited positive reactions from stakeholders in the industry.
Said Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson, “This excellent report outlines a real and achievable five-year strategy to strengthen international education and we strongly commend it to the government.” The University of Western Australia’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson said he was “pleased with the breadth of the report,” saying it highlighted the importance of the sector to Australia’s economy and future.
VET must be prioritised
While specific recommendations about the Vocational Education and Training sector were not addressed in the report, the report singled out the VET sector as a “matter of priority” for the proposed new MCCIE. The industry association TAFE Directors Australia responded by saying it “welcomed” the report, especially the following recommendations within it:
- “The establishment of a Ministerial Coordinating Council on International Education and the development of a five-year work plan;
- Identification of industry champions and support for new links with education providers;
- The consolidation of regulatory requirements for providers serving more than one sector;
- Appropriate levels of support for international students, including equitable transport concessions, access to hospital treatment, and improved accommodation services;
- The extension of streamlined visa processing for low immigration risk providers and a review of the Genuine Temporary Entrant Criteria;
- The provision of incentives for offshore partnerships;
- Increasing the bonus programme for an Australian qualification as part of the skilled migration programme.”
Also popular among those responding to the document was the report’s stated warning that Australia cannot afford to be complacent about its international sector:
“National leadership at a time of global challenge is imperative. We cannot presume the sustainability of the sector is assured. The sector represents Australia’s fourth largest export industry, and its future development will require the attention of all stakeholders.”
More good news: AUS $4 million global youth campaign announced
Despite the country’s strong dollar, Australia’s tourism sector has been doing very well of late, as evidenced by the following statistics supplied by the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship:
- There was a 6.4% increase in tourism visitor visa applications when comparing the 6 month period of 1 July to 31 December 2012 (1,813,620) to the same period in 2011 (1,704,430), mainly driven by growth from China (up 16.5%), Malaysia (up 18.5%) and Singapore (up 28.7%);
- In the six months leading to 31 December 2012, a total of 136,155 Working Holiday Maker (WHM) visas were granted, a 23.2% increase compared to the corresponding period in 2011–12.
And on the heels of the Chaney report, Tourism Australia has announced a new AUS $4 million campaign aimed to attract youth outside the country to go to Australia on “working holidays” – specifically, to increase the number of those on working holiday visas in the country by 20%.
The slogan of the campaign is “There’s nothing like Australia,” and it piggybacks on Australia’s very successful “Best Job in the World” campaign – see here for the explanatory video, which highlights six incredible jobs across the country with six-month salary packages worth AUS $100,000 including living costs:
- Chief Funster (New South Wales)
- Outback Adventurer (Northern Territory)
- Park Ranger (Queensland)
- Wildlife Caretaker (South Australia)
- Lifestyle Photographer (Melbourne, Victoria)
- Taste Master (Western Australia)
English Australia, the national peak body for Australia’s English-language sector, was quick to point out that the campaign will positively affect more than one sector. Sue Blundell, the executive director of English Australia, noted in a media release:
“The working holiday visa is a highly popular way for young people from around the world to explore what Australia has to offer. The visa allows for up to 17 weeks of study to enhance the cultural exchange and work opportunities that are available to young people visiting Australia. Many visitors choose to undertake an English language course at the beginning of their stay to help them maximise both the social and work aspects of their visit.”
The campaign will target those between 18 and 30 years with particular focus on international markets eligible for Australian working holiday visas, including the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.