The Australian government’s department of Education, Skills and Employment has proposed the establishment and publication of a diversification index which it describes as “an easy-to-understand measure… to improve transparency of diversity of international students at public universities”.
This would include a breakdown of domestic and international student enrolment data by country of origin.
In 2020, 57% of Australian international students were from China and India, up from 46% in 2010.
In a discussion paper released at the beginning of February, the Australian government warned of the need to manage “potential overexposure to particular markets”.
But the Group of Eight, which represents Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, said that while it welcomes the diversification of the sector, a different approach needs to be taken.
“The risk is that Indian and Chinese students interpret an index as a sign that they are not welcome in Australia”
Vicki Thomson, chief executive of Go8, said, “Diversification should be a medium to long term strategy, and the risk is that Indian and Chinese students interpret an index as a sign that they are not welcome in Australia. The loss of these two large student cohorts would not only impact higher education and research, but also the broader bilateral relationships with these countries.”
Group of Eight universities, which include the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University, and the University of Sydney, enrol 38% of all international students across Australia.
Thomson added that “international education is highly competitive and has become more so during the pandemic. Our closed borders have impacted our attractiveness as a higher education destination and this has been to the advantage of our competitors – UK, US and Canada.”
Go8 also called on the government to instead “support universities to rebuild and reshape the international education industry… through policy measures designed to promote the quality of Australia’s offerings to existing and new markets” including changes to scholarships and visas.
The Australian government announced this week an investment of $10 million towards an International Education Fund.