Federal education minister Jason Clare joined the group’s co-chairs Liberal Party MP Zoe McKenzie and Labor MP Julian Hill at the launch event in Canberra on March 28.
The non-partisan forum will allow MPs to meet and interact with international students and industry leaders from both the public and private sectors.
The group has been established as part of advocacy activities by Australian sector leaders, as well as improve the literacy about international education across parliament.
Issues the group hopes to address includes student experience, market distribution and the sustainability of growth.
“At different times, every study destination country has concerns about the strength of our social licence to operate in our wider community. Just when you think that international students are becoming more welcome some issue can come out of left (or more particularly right) field to cause concern,” Phil Honeywood, chief executive of International Education Association of Australia, told The PIE.
“For example, who would have thought during the recent Covid pandemic that accommodation shortages in countries such as the UK and the Netherlands would create pushback against any increase in overseas student numbers?
“IEAA has recognised the need to better educate both the wider community, as well as elected representatives”
“IEAA has recognised for some time the need to better educate both the wider Australian community, as well as our elected representatives, in the benefits that a diverse cohort of overseas students can provide us with.”
The official Parliamentary Friends Group for International Education has been formed to this end, he continued.
“Altogether, 43 federal senators and House of Representative MPs from all major political parties have now signed up as members of the group.”
IEAA previously hosted a trial virtual meeting but has now launched the initiative officially.
“We were overwhelmed with the response and had over 100 attendees, including the CEOs of associated peak bodies, on the night. Our guest speaker, the federal minister for education, Jason Clare, spoke passionately about the importance of our sector to the nation’s future. He placed particular emphasis on our sector’s soft power diplomacy attributes,” Honeywood explained.
Vicki Thompson, CEO of the Group of Eight, reiterated in an online post that international education is “so much more than a numbers game”.
“Our universities have, over decades, developed deep and meaningful partnerships built on a foundation of research and education.
“Group of Eight unis educate one in three international students who choose to study at one of our global powerhouses. It’s a no brainer that this sector, our largest export that we DON’T dig out of the ground, is supported across the political divide,” she added.
Co-chair Julian Hill previously told The PIE that the group will be a “conduit between the MPs who are interested in and support international education and international students in Australia”.
“We are ascertaining which politicians might be best suited to act as vocal champions for our sector”
Additionally it will be a forum for dialogue for providers and students to “build an understanding and literacy amongst parliamentarians, of international education and international student issues”, Hill said.
“With so many elected representatives in attendance, our association did not want the opportunity to go by without providing everyone with a handout that highlighted recent ‘Good news on policy initiatives’ but also contained ‘Calls to action’ to our politicians on the reverse side!” Honeywood continued.
“We are now forwarding a copy of this advocacy piece to every federal and state politician in the country.
“Going forward, we are planning to host at least one large cocktail networking event at Parliament House each year and we are ascertaining which politicians might be best suited to act as vocal champions for our sector.”