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Australia: call for student focus in national strategy

Tom O'Brien, assistant director at DET, Kadi Taylor, head of strategic engagement and government relations at Navitas, Phil Honeywood, CEO of IEAA, and Nina Khairina, CISA national president consider the key elements of Australia's international education strategy. Photo: The PIE News

"You have to invest in accommodation. You have to invest in employment opportunities"

During a roundtable discussion on the recently released document, delegates and speakers considered the goals outlined in the strategy, which should be prioritised and the best approach to achieving them.

“The governance is good. The words are lovely. But there’s no potato”

The panel identified graduate employability, student welfare and the student experience as essential among the strategy’s goals.

The three-pillard National Strategy for International Education 2025 was announced earlier this year, articulating the ambition to grow onshore recruitment to 720,000 students from the nearly 500,000 Australia welcomes today.

Since its release, the blueprint has received a mixed reception from the Australian international education industry, with questions raised about its lack of directive to achieve its goals and over-reliance on industry for input.

“The governance is good. The words are lovely. But it’s all meat and no potato. It’s a strategy that says what should happen but not how it should happen,” charged Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia, during the discussion.

While speaking, Honeywood asked the audience for a show of hands to indicate student confidence that the Australian government would meet its promise to provide students work experience. No hands raised.

“It is a very big task to promise work experience for a global market,” he said. “I think it’s very ambitious. They have to say how.”

Navitas head of strategic engagement and government relations, Kadi Taylor, identified a need for growth to understand students’ perspectives and needs.

“Market value and being student focused are not mutually exclusive,” she told delegates, but added: “You have to have learners at the centre of everything you do.”

“With 4% growth, we can get to 750,000 students without blinking,” she continued. “You have to invest in accommodation. You have to invest in employment opportunities. You have to invest in a huge range of course offerings.”

To achieve its goals, argued Taylor, Australia must “have an education sector grounded in mutual understanding and also mutual benefit,” and she highlighted the importance of outbound domestic student mobility, as well as a change to university rankings from research outcomes to graduate outcomes.

Despite industry fault-finding, CISA national president Nina Khairina said the strategy was a “building block” and that a student voice being included in the implementation of the national strategy was “a big, big win for the international education sector”.

The CISA National Conference is currently being held in Darwin until Friday 8 July.

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