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Queensland vies for greater student share by “creating disruption”

Queensland educators have been urged to prepare for and contribute to global innovation in the education sector during the International Education and Training Summit on the Gold Coast.

Queensland, AustraliaLeaders from across Australia's international education industry including English Australia and CISA address the closing plenary of TIQ's inaugural International Education and Training Summit. Photo: The PIE News

“Regions can grow and provide initiatives and real opportunities"

The inaugural event was the first iteration of Trade and Investment Queensland’s five-year commitment to elevate the region’s international education industry.

Throughout the one day summit (#IETSummit2017)delegates were reminded of the latest upsets within the education space, such as the emergence of MOOCs, and encouraged to embrace the changing needs and learning styles of students.

“In order to remain competitive, [Queensland] shouldn’t just embrace disruption, we must create it,” trade and investment minister Curtis Pitt told delegates.

Pitt added the state government would continue to support innovation partnerships throughout Queensland, reiterating the commitment to A$25.3m in funding over five years to push the state’s market share of Australia’s international students to 20%.

“In order to remain competitive, [Queensland] shouldn’t just embrace disruption, we must create it”

Former Lonely Planet executive director Gus Balbontin, however, warned delegates success could be a “double-edged sword” in which an over reliance on previously successful methods could prevent providers from seeing new opportunities in the future.

“Momentum can be a monster,” he said. “[It can be] very difficult to shift and change.”

Balbontin said the education sector should take note of the successes and failures of the media sector after digitisation drastically changed reader patterns over the last decade.

Student learning patterns, he argued, are also changing and providers must embrace and adapt, rather than use those changes to reinforce traditional teaching methods.

“[Lonely Planet] used our first website to sell books. We tried to solve our problem,” he said, pointing to rival company TripAdvisor which embraced online media and eventually surpassed Lonely Planet’s net worth.

Rob Lawrence, director of Prospect Research and Marketing, challenged delegates to consider opportunities in addition to technology and to shift their focus to building up international education in regional areas.

Queensland hosts over 100,000 international students, representing the third largest destination for international students in Australia behind New South Wales and Victoria, and while it has the highest proportion of students outside of a capital city than other states, over two-thirds still choose Brisbane as their study destination.

“Cities have more choices. More choices can mean more disruption,” Lawrence said, before adding the perceived benefits of popular study cities, such as higher jobs opportunities, could actually present a false dichotomy where demand is not met by level of opportunity.

“Regions can grow and provide initiatives and real opportunities,” he countered.

Delegates also aired their concerns, particularly around providing relevant training for students’ future employment needs.

“Students are looking to update their lives, but we are at a point where we don’t know what they need in the future”

“Students turn up at our doors…. and they are looking to update their lives, but we are at a point where we don’t know what they need in the future,” said Kathleen Newcombe, chief executive of Sarina Russo Group.

Newcombe compared the higher levels of spending on non-accredited courses to accredited courses, saying there was a growing trend towards micro-credentials rather than traditional full-length degrees and qualifications.

“I don’t think [the future of education] is about a stop-start approach. It’s about looking at what’s happening globally, and seeing those amazing things around us. We said Harvard was never going to enter the MOOC space. Now they’re on EdX,” she said.

TAFE Queensland director Janelle Chapman agreed with Newcombe’s comments and said that skills training could provide a vital role in ensuring international students were equipped to meet future needs.

“If we train people with a little kit bag that they change for their own needs across the globe, then we’re meeting the needs of anyone who needs that training,” she said.

The IET Summit was organised by Trade and Investment Queensland as part of Queensland’s IET Strategy 2026. Further summits are expected over the coming years.

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