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Aus: industry meets gov’t with “single voice”

For the first time since Covid began representatives from major peak bodies in the international education sector have come together to meet with the federal government to discuss the crisis in the sector.

Stakeholders has said the federal government needs to come on board with the return of international students to Australia. Photo: Wikimedia

"It’s incredibly frustrating that we can't put all the pieces of the puzzle together"

A round table in Canberra saw organisations such as Universities Australia, International Students Education Agents Association, English Australia, Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia, representatives for independent schools, and state run study bodies meet with government representatives from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Department of Home Affairs and Austrade.

Robert Parsonson from ISEAA said by bringing the peak bodies together as a single voice they hope it will strengthen their position as they fight for the recovery of the sector.

“This is an industry that needs a single voice to government”

“It’s easy to keep off players when they’re individuals but it’s a little bit more difficult when you actually get together and speak with a single voice to government so the idea was to get all the industry people together and that’s the first time since Covid began that all the peak bodies actually got together in the same room.

“There’s been different crisis committees run by government but often they’ve been very big groups and nothing really has come of it. This roundtable was an industry led response rather than reacting to government initiatives, of which there has been very little from the federal government.”

Parsonson said that single voice is critical in highlighting the true impact of international education on Australia’s economy, and securing the support from government to help in the recovery of the industry, similar to that which has been given to the tourism industry.

“The real emerging theme was that this is an industry that needs a single voice to government. Tourism does it very very well and education does it very badly. We need to show that it’s industry wide and that it’s not just education and not just universities, there are so many multiplier effects that come out of education.

“Tourism being one of the big ones – 40 cents in every tourist dollar was driven by the national education so when we talk about tourism we can’t disengage international education. So we’re just trying to show that all the businesses – people who do homestay and CBD businesses etc are the people who are impacted when we just shut out international education without any hope of opening in the near future.”

The sector acknowledges that there is a need to bring Australian citizens home as a priority however Parsonson rejects that it is a case of one or the other.

He said there is a willingness and ability within the sector to bring in international students within the health and safety guidelines but they need government, particularly at a federal level, to come on board.

“We think New South Wales and South Australia are highly likely to have the political will to try and set this up”

“One of the outcomes of the discussions is that we will work with the state governments closely where we think there’s opportunity. We think New South Wales and South Australia are highly likely to have the political will to try and set this up.

“An interesting fact though that came out was from the executive chairman of SCAPE the accommodation provider that they had sent a plan to the government to bring in 150,000 students into their accommodation. Naturally those students would pay for flights and the quarantine there and they received no response from the government on that. It’s incredibly frustrating that we can’t put all the pieces of the puzzle together.”

With the quarantine issue a sticking point Parsonson said they’ll continue to work with state governments to understand and provide whatever training and resources support they can to enable the return of students, as this is the only way the sector can begin its recovery.

“A real goal is to start to get the backlog into Australia because there’s so many students that are stranded [with visas] offshore, the ones that were caught out when the borders closed and the ones that have been granted visas since.

“We need to get those students in before we can enrol new students. While we have borders closed, that extension just drags it further and further out and it’s very difficult to recover until you get those students back and start recruiting new students.”

The group is set to meet again in coming weeks.

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3 Responses to Aus: industry meets gov’t with “single voice”

  1. Dear Sir/Madam,

    It has been a year. So many international students r stuck in overseas with valid visas. They r happy to pay the quarantine fees and their own plane fair. We don’t understand one of the first world countries doesn’t have enough quarantine facilities or it has something else for the students. They suffered a lot. Hopefully it is enough. Pls bring them back. My sister is one of them. My whole family is worried what Australia is doing right now with international students. The covid didn’t come for only Australia and New Zealand. Pls. We beg you guys, my sister cries everyday. Do something for international students who have valid visas.🙏🙏

    Best Regards,

  2. Very valid points Rash. The issues are not capacity for COVID quarantine – there is a huge supply in all major cities or international students bumping returning Australians from planes – there is a plan to use chartered flights that are specifically for international students or worries over COVID coming into Australia – this can be managed via a COVID Passport concept and vaccination protocols.

    The issue is that international students don’t vote and have little political currency with an Australian electorate that is basically ill-informed or even misled by the media on the real value with regards job creation, university infrastructure projects, the housing market and service based work force contribution this major industry provides to Australia.

    Sympathy from politicians has not saved the tens of thousands of education jobs lost or the domino impact it is having on the community in general. It’s time we let the public know in a vocal and visible way how important our sector is t the economic future of Australia.

    Save our Sector!!

    Mark Lucas, Founding Director, iae GLOBAL Network
    Chair, ISEAA

  3. Sadly, Mark, it seems that the economy is fine without the international education sector. Jobs are at pre-Covid levels. Housing is higher, the share market is higher, even unis are doing ok with the boost in local enrolments.

    The big problem is that we need immigration. However, not now. The choice is dead old people or some pain for the ELICOS sector. Not a good decision, but not a difficult decision really.

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