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ITECA calls for an Australian International Education Commission

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia has called for a new Australian International Education Commission and additional collaboration across the country’s sector, in its submission to the Australian government on a new international education strategy.

Students who have been in Australia since March 2020 and with qualifications that are in areas of need should have access to additional work rights, ITECA proposed. Photo: Unsplash

A new Australian International Education Commission would support the recovery of the country's $40 billion international education sector

A specialist commission would bring together “administrative, and selected regulatory functions, associated with the provision by Australian businesses and public institutions of education to overseas students”, ITECA suggested.

The commission should modernise and streamline the data collection and analysis tools and mechanisms in respect of overseas students.

“The need for a coordinated approach is overwhelming”

Marketing international education would be better under a single approach that is “founded upon Australia inherent competitive advantages and the attractiveness of individual regions”.

Other recommendations the body has put to the government include revising post-study work arrangements and investment be made to modernise the existing IT reporting infrastructure to be “fit for purpose”.

The federal government announced a consultation on its Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-2030 earlier this year.

Students who were in Australia at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and have remained onshore should be able to apply for broader post-study work arrangements if their qualifications “are in an area of skills need”.

The cohort of students should also have the option of residency, ITECA added.

“The ad-hoc framework created to respond to the Covid-19 crisis served to highlight the major challenge, which had existed for some time, with Australia’s approach to international education,” Troy Williams, ITECA chief executive, said.

“The simple fact is that across government there are too many departments, agencies and associated bodies that ostensibly share a commitment to supporting the international sector but do so in disparate and disconnected ways.”

A new Australian International Education Commission would support the recovery of the country’s $40 billion international education sector, he continued.

“This would bring together administrative, and selected regulatory functions, associated with the provision by Australian businesses and public institutions of education to overseas students,” Williams said.

As Australia’s peak body for independent providers in the higher education, vocational education, training and skills sectors, ITECA added that the “need for a coordinated approach is overwhelming”.

“Although Australia has set the example globally in managing the Covid-19 pandemic, this has resulted in a serious decline in students from overseas coming to Australia,” Williams continued.

In the year to March 29, 2021, onshore international student visa holders in Australia have dropped by almost 176,000, and compared to the same time a year earlier, the sector experienced a fall of more than 111,000 international student enrolments by the end of March 2021, ITECA noted.

“Competing nations have developed study options and visa policy settings that… make Australia a less attractive place to study”

“The market for international students is more intense and competing nations have developed study options and visa policy settings that, from the perspective of students, make Australia a less attractive place to study relative to competitor nations,” Williams said.

The development of a “next-generation” strategy comes at a time of crisis for the country’s international education sector, the body noted.

The strategy “provides the opportunity to better align the work of the departments and agencies with their disparate agendas”, it added.

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