The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade will focus on international education operations, as well as those of the tourism sector, in preparation for the “post-Covid-19 world”.
“Both the tourism and international education sectors have contracted substantially since the emergence of Covid-19,” chair of the Trade Subcommittee, senator Deborah O’Neill said.
“The Committee looks forward to understanding how both sectors can be best supported so they can be positioned as key contributors to the post-Covid-19 recovery of Australia’s economy.”
The Australian reported that the committee will “look at international education in terms of the ongoing engagement with a workforce overseas … and how that intersects with our visa structures”, according to the senator.
The Committee is also interested in hearing about online education innovations in a bid to strengthen the sector’s resilience, the government noted.
Submissions from interested individuals and organisations are invited by December 12. The Australian noted that the Committee hopes to hear directly from “international partners” on ways to improve the sector.
“We encourage a broad range of stakeholders in the tourism and international education sectors from across the country to share experiences about transitioning into the post Covid-19 period,” O’Neill added.
The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia noted that the enquiry comes at a critical time for the international education sector.
“The issues that will come before this parliamentary enquiry will be critical to independent tertiary education providers which support 54% of all international student enrolments in the tertiary sector,” Troy Williams, chief executive of the peak body representing independent skills training, higher education, and international education providers, said.
After 10 months since the country’s borders reopened, independent tertiary education providers supporting international students continue to face challenges, Williams continued.
“Processing times for international student visa applications continue to be unacceptably long, and ITECA members are noting some irregular patterns when it comes to student visa approvals,” he highlighted.
“ITECA has previously raised concerns with the Australian government about a lack of coherent policy design”
At AIEC on the Gold Coast, education minister Jason Clare said that the government had “cut the waiting list by two-thirds” by dropping the backlog of students waiting overseas for a visa from 130,000 to just over 40,000.
“ITECA has previously raised concerns with the Australian government about a lack of coherent policy design and implementation regarding international education,” Williams said, renewing calls to appoint an Australian International Education Commissioner.
“The Commissioner would play a critical role in coordinating the different aspects of the Australian government’s international education regulatory and promotion architecture and provide a single point of reference for state / territory governments and education providers,” he said.