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Aus: guide highlights ELICOS safety issues

The majority of Australia’s English language colleges have had an incident involving an international student as a victim of theft, car crash, racial abuse, or assault in the past two years, according to a new guide from English Australia.

Things not being reported include harassment, cyber safety and scams. Photo: Christin Hume

"International students have multiple vulnerabilities"

The Guide to Best Practice in International Student Safety, which surveyed 89 ELICOS colleges, found 71% of institutions had a student who had experienced theft, while 54% had an incident of racial abuse.

“The things that are not reported… are harassment and cyber safety, scams”

“Student safety is an absolute priority for the English language teaching sector of international education,” said English Australia chief executive Brett Blacker.

“We wanted to look at the whole student experience and see what safety issues may arise and how best to manage these. This way, we ensure colleges cover as many eventualities as possible, and each student gets the support they need.”

Supported by Study NSW, Bupa and Study Melbourne, the guide provides institutions with guidance on how best to assist their student’s mental and physical wellbeing and comes after education minister Dan Tehan called for more support in June, after a spate of muggings.

While the report found the majority of providers were adept at ensuring their international students are safe while on campus, it found more work was needed for off-campus safety as well as reporting of critical incidents.

“Colleges, particularly ELICOS colleges, are very diligent when it comes to on-campus safety,” said the guide’s lead content writer Paula Durance.

“Their general practice is to protect students, particularly when they’ve got under-18s on campus, either with security or with staff who are always there.”

Durance told The PIE News the number of off-campus incidents were growing in volume, with cybersecurity and harassment particular areas of concern, but added more data was needed to understand the extent of the problem.

“The colleges said generally a lot of issues were not reported by students, so even though there is a high proportion of public safety issues, fear of being on public transport for example at night, the things that are not reported… are harassment and cyber safety, scams,” she said.

“The actual numbers of those issues that were in the data are probably not as accurate as we’d like them to be.”

Among its recommendations, the guide suggested better data collection, the development of safety plans, as well as the need to recognise vulnerable student cohorts.

“International students have multiple vulnerabilities [such as] gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, age and various degrees of social support which can challenge colleges trying to customise information, safety messaging and response strategies for their students,” the report said.

Durance said so far the guide and its findings had helped open up discussions on safety issues, and that it would help to bring to light further underreported issues.

In 2018, English Australia released a mental health guide to help providers identify students with mental health concerns and help address them.

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