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Aus: experts weigh in on the pre-election agenda for int’l ed

As one of the world’s leading international education destinations, Australia’s policies in its higher ed sector are being watched with interest by stakeholders as the country heads to polls this month.

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The Lygon Group is tracking the conversations Australian voters and international students are having about the election

International education consultancy The Lygon Group has partnered with The Australian Technology Network of Universities in order to provide key insights on policy matters before the federal election on May 21. The Lygon Group will be tracking policy questions on international education as part of the Election Watch Project with the ATN Network of leading technological universities in Australia.

As part of this work, The Lygon Group is tracking the conversations Australian voters and international students are having about the election, online, using its unique international student social listening tool, The Social Source

“The project looks at topics of interest to voters: their opinions, debates and their current take on the weekly focuses of the various parties. We also cast an international education lens over it to unveil similarities in issues such as rental prices/accommodation, inflation, and cost of living that affects international students,” Varsha Devi Balakrishnan, education analyst at The Lygon Group told The PIE.

“We know that international students in major destinations are facing similar cost of living pressures right now”

“It’s interesting to see how these issues impact international student experiences and their perceptions of Australia. We know that international students in all of the major destinations are facing similar cost of living pressures right now,” she highlighted.

As the time draws near to the election in Australia, sector stakeholders are hoping that student sentiments would form an important part of the electoral discourse and then translate into decisive policymaking once the government is formed.

Sector peak body for independent institutions, Independent Higher Education Australia has released a Federal Election Platform, which calls for the next government to institute a structural reform of tertiary education in the country.

“The federal election on May 21 provides the opportunity for independent higher education providers to advance key reforms to re-energise Australian higher education, tackle skills shortages, and drive economic growth during the next term of Australian government,” IHEA’s new CEO, Peter Hendy said.

“IHEA proposes that the next Australian government works with all stakeholders in the higher education sector to develop an agreed national strategy for structural reform to drive efficiencies, address economic demands, and realise the enormous scientific, societal, and commercial potential of the sector.

“The 2022 IHEA Federal Election Platform outlines a series of low-cost, highly beneficial sector reforms to support students to succeed and chart the course for the economy of the future,” Hendy noted.

Among others, the IHEA Federal Election Platform proposes “establishment of an International Education Ministerial Council” in order to “drive a new industry strategy over the next three years.”

It also proposes “greater pathways to Permanent Residency for graduates in priority disciplines” in areas where there are long term predictions for skills shortages, in order to “advance innovation” and “meet industry demands”, as well as to enhance Australia’s “market competitiveness” in international education.

Meanwhile the Group of Eight has called for increased focus on the country’s university landscape as the country approaches its federal election.

“It is our universities which will deliver the quality and quantum required for a more sovereign nation of doctors, engineers, lawyers, surveyors, paramedics, dentists, or graduates in AI, Space, quantum computing and critically in all areas of national security and defence, which includes cyber security,” said Vicky Thomson, the Group of Eight chief executive.

“These professionals take many years to educate and doing it well doesn’t come cheap,” she continued.

“So, when universities ask for better funding for education, we are asking for an investment in our families’ and our nation’s future wellbeing. Never in this post Covid recovery world, with geopolitical damage showing on our screens 24/7, has our universities’ worth been so apparent and so needed.

“The election provides the opportunity for elected decision-makers to put universities front and centre of government strategy”

“The 2022 federal election provides the opportunity for elected decision-makers to put universities front and centre of government strategy to meet the obvious challenges that lie ahead,” Thomson emphasised.

Thomson called for the next government to build and enhance Australia’s “sovereign capability” in research by focusing on “investment in”  and “translation and commercialisation” of university research, as well as focusing on securing a skilled workforce over the next four years and over the long term.

A failure to do so, might lead to Australia getting left behind its peer competitors around the world, she warned.

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