The state government unveiled its latest plan on September 6 to support the industry’s recovery from the pandemic, including initiatives focused on improving student experiences and promoting employability.
It comes as 230,000 students enrolled at Victorian institutions remain offshore, compared to the 105,000 international students currently in Victoria. Only 37,000 have returned since borders re-opened in December.
Study Melbourne’s International Education Recovery Plan 2025, which was developed in consultation with the education sector, highlights the importance of international students to the region.
“Students bring vibrancy and diversity to places, and support more inclusive communities,” it reads. “Melbourne is not Melbourne without its international students.”
In 2020, international education was Victoria’s largest export, generating $10.5 billion in revenue and responsible for approximately 55,000 jobs.
“We’ve worked with the international education sector to develop a plan that will provide confidence, generate jobs and bolster our state’s position as a top-tier destination for students,” said Tim Pallas, minister for trade.
Margaret Gardner, president and vice-chancellor at Monash University, said the plan “demonstrates a commitment by the government to support Victoria’s highly-regarded tertiary institutions to build on their global reputations and become destinations of choice for international students”.
Part of the government’s $52.9m investment will be spent on improving the student experience, including relaunching the Study Melbourne student-facing hub in Victoria and offering discounts on local transport. Through the hub, students will be able to access free legal support on matters including employment and accommodation.
Ly Tran, professor at Deakin University’s School of Education, commented that the new plan shows a “commitment to reciprocity and care towards international students”, with 11 out of the 19 outlined actions focusing directly on supporting international student experiences.
The government also plans to improve employability outcomes by working with businesses.
Last week, the Australian federal government extended post-study work rights for graduates with in-demand skills in an attempt to tackle the country’s workforce shortages.
Tran called for the legal support in place for students to be extended to the graduates who take advantage of post-study work visas.
“We expect to see a growing number of international graduates remaining in Victoria after graduation but they are no longer consumers of education and do not have continuing access to institutional support services,” Tran said. “It’s important to address the persisting systemic issues and put into place a mechanism to ensure that this cohort is not marginalised.”
“An industry-wide effort is needed to ensure the best possible experience for each and every international student”
Other focus areas in the plan include promoting Victoria’s education offering, and fostering global connections and cross-sector partnerships.
“The Recovery Plan offers a bold vision to drive innovation, inclusion and sector resilience,” said John Brumby, chair of the International Education Advisory Council. “An industry-wide effort is needed to ensure the best possible experience for each and every international student, who, in turn, contribute significantly to our society.”
Despite this investment, the pace of recovery is expected to be slow as the sector catches up with multiple missed intakes during the pandemic.
“Going forward, other crucial and interrelated dimensions of a holistic international education sector such as outbound student mobility, transnational education and internationalisation at home should be accorded emphasis to strengthen Victoria as a global and regional education leader,” Tran said.