The Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-2030 will set the sector on a path to long-term success and guide its recovery from Covid-19, according to minister for Education and Youth Alan Tudge, who also warned that international students will not return en masse until 2022.
“International students are important for Australian universities, our diplomacy, our economy and our community,” he said.
“We want international students back in Australia as soon as the Covid-19 situation allows, but the disruption of Covid provides an opportunity to look at the sector and ensure it is working for students and for Australia in the long-term.”
A consultation paper has been developed by the expert members of the Council for International Education in collaboration with the government and outlines the proposed vision and goals for the strategy, and immediate priorities for the sector over the next 10 years.
Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia and convener of the Expert Members of the Council for International Education, said the new strategy is a chance to set out a shared vision for Australian international education.
“More than three million students from around the world have studied in Australia over the past two decades, adding to the vibrancy of our communities and delivering important social, economic and diplomatic benefits to our country.
“[I] look forward to a national conversation on how we can work collectively to ensure Australian international education meets the challenges of the future.”
Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia, the peak body representing independent providers in the higher education, vocational education, training and skills sectors, has also welcomed the opportunity to partner with the Australian government on developing the strategy.
Chief executive Troy Williams said the organisation is keen to discuss both short-term and long-term plans for the sector.
“With the continued closure of international borders resulting in a sustained decline in on-shore enrolments of international students, ITECA members in the international education sector will continue to do it tough.
“Over the longer term we’re looking to ensure that the sector is sustainable and continues to be able to deliver quality outcomes for students”
“The next-generation Australian International Education Strategy needs to put in place arrangements to get these providers back on their feet. In the short-term, ITECA members are looking for a clear plan for the return of international students and over the longer term we’re looking to ensure that the sector is sustainable and continues to be able to deliver quality outcomes for students.”
Williams said ITECA is a strong proponent for a new International Education Commission to bring together the disparate Australian government activities in the international education sector.
“We need a whole of government approach to regulation of tertiary education providers, visa processing and market promotion. It’s time for a single Australian government agency to coordinate these activities,” he added.
Chair of the Regional Universities Network Nick Klomp welcomed the minister’s comments that “more could be done to encourage international students to study at regional campuses, including to meet regional skills needs”.
“Rather than using revenue from international students to fund research, many regional universities have largely used the funds to support the delivery of higher education to domestic students in sparse, regional markets,” he said.
“Those international students who study in the regions record high levels of satisfaction with their learning experience, a high level of acceptance into the local community, and are exposed to the attractions of an authentic Australian regional lifestyle. These include a lower cost of living and less congestion than in major cities.
“Regional communities, businesses and universities benefit from these international links in both the short and long term,” Klomp said, pledging to “ensure a strong regional voice is included in the development of this vital strategy paper to support the important ‘re-start’ of the international education sector in the regions”.
“The consultation process for the new strategy will identify how best the sector can go forward in the post-pandemic era”
“It is good to see the minister acknowledge the contribution of international education to the broader economy with 60% of international student revenues boosting the nation’s bottom line, supporting 250,000 jobs across the country,” Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said.
“The consultation process for the new strategy will identify how best the sector can go forward in the post-pandemic era,” she added. “Long term vision is important.”
“Australia has successfully leveraged its many advantages in a highly competitive marketplace to the point where we are third only behind the US and UK in terms of international students choosing to study here,” Jackson added.
The consultation paper is now available for viewing and comment until 12 May, while a series of public webinars will be held in April to discuss the outline of the strategy and focus areas. Details are available here.