It will champion the economic and cultural development contribution of the sector, while sharing stories of international students pairing with Australian businesses and communities to “enrich our economic and cultural life”, the organisation said.
As the country’s fourth-highest export generating industry – and the export that is commonly noted at Australia’s largest that “doesn’t come out of the ground” – IEAA is hoping to clarify that “international education isn’t a commodity”.
“International education supports communities and nurtures knowledge,” said Phil Honeywood, CEO of IEAA.
“International students teach us how to dance”
“International students pay their tuition, earn their qualifications and underpin outstanding research. They also help put food on our tables, care for our loved ones, and teach us how to dance. International students help Australia thrive.”
The sector is showing a “strong post-Covid recovery” as it returns to 2019 levels when the sector delivered over $40 billion to the Australian economy and supported over 240,000 Australian jobs, IEAA noted. In 2022, the overall number of international students in the country was some 137,342 fewer than in 2019.
The new campaign has seen co-investment from Study NSW and Study Queensland.
Three international students – Jerry from Jakarta, Ralph from Dubai and Patti from Bangkok – feature in the campaign.
Jerry organised students to help pick fruit that was left in the orchards due to labour shortages, Ralph works in aged care, while Patti works as a mental health counsellor teaches community dance classes.
A 2021 survey that IEAA carried out with Education New Zealand found that attitudes towards international students by Australian and New Zealand citizens changed during the pandemic.
The greatest change in attitudes was in relation to practical hardships associated with living away from home and social isolation, it found.
However, it concluded more structured peer-to-peer support should be introduced by institutions in order to allow domestic students to learn about the experiences of international students “through their studies or other contact with their institution”.
It is not uncommon for industry leaders in study destinations to be faced with challenges around international students being perceived as taking opportunities from domestic students – and this is a perception that the campaign is seeking to clarify.
“Often there’s pushback in Australia from domestic students about too many international students being in the lecture theatre,” Honeywood recently told The PIE.
“Our IEAA public relations campaign will educate and inform the wider Australian community on everything international education does for Australia.”
In focus groups ahead of the launch, a perception was still that “international students took their children’s jobs, took their children’s university places, which is not reality”, he added.
The Help Australia Thrive theme promotes that “these young people are actually helping Australia be better off socially, economically, in so many different ways”.
“Some in the sector say that that campaign is probably 20 years overdue, but we’ve invested AUS$0.5m as an association and hopefully will get some momentum.”
IEAA is also hoping to promote the idea of overseas studies to Australian students. Over 380,000 Australians studied abroad between 2009 and 2019 and one in four undergraduate students undertook studies overseas in 2019.
“Every student, whether coming to study or leaving to learn from the world, helps Australia thrive,” the association added.