Speaking to The PIE, Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia and the convener of the Expert Members of the Council for International Education that played an intrinsic role in the development of the 10-year strategy, said seven federal ministers signed off on the new plan.
“In the presence of seven federal ministers, we were delighted to launch Australia’s National Strategy for International Education 2021 – 2030 at Parliament House last Thursday,” he said.
The National Council for International Education is a globally unique governance model as it brings together 11 non-ministerial expert members and all relevant portfolio ministers to approve an annual report to the prime minister, Honeywood noted.
“This year the Council meeting had even more importance as it required all seven ministers to sign off on the new 10-year strategy. Under the title of Connected, Creative and Caring, stakeholders will hopefully take ownership of this strategy and see it as a blueprint for implementing key sector priorities,” he stated.
The “long-awaited” student visa flexibility package, announced by immigration minister Alex Hawke giving an additional year to post-study work entitlements, has “been welcomed by students and education agents”, he continued. Students stranded offshore while their 485 visa period was “ticking over”, will also be permitted to apply for a second temporary graduate visa for the first time.
However, he cautioned that, “as we so often find with international education, the sudden appearance of the Covid-19 Omicron variant has now postponed the previously announced opening of our national borders from December 1 to December 15″.
Students have told The PIE that the delay will cost them significant amounts of money, with one saying they will lose some AUD$2,000 as a result cancelled travel plans.
“We are all hoping that our incredibly patient students will still be able to return, subject to flights availability, to quarantine free status study destination in Australia as soon as possible,” Honeywood noted.
Andrew Barkla, CEO of IDP Education, noted that the organisation’s New Horizons research revealed that employment opportunities were the number one driver for international students.
“Curtin already provides excellent opportunities for international students to study offshore”
“These policy changes will not only attract more international students to Australia, but will also fast-track Australia’s economic recovery as they address the nation’s critical skills shortage,” he told The PIE.
“While diversification is an important feature of a successful long-term strategy, we also need to listen to our customers. Our research found that 79% of students are only considering overseas on-campus options with some variance by country of origin.
“Now that Australia has a clear roadmap for returning students, including practical outcomes, I believe it can rebound as one of the most competitive study locations in the world – provided it consults with the sector and addresses real student needs,” highlighted Barkla.
Curtin University vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne emphasised that the strategy “acknowledges the enormous contribution of international students to enriching the higher education experience for all students in Australia”.
“Curtin University embraces the opportunities provided by a diverse global-facing sector and looks forward to working with all levels of government to ensure we continue to be recognised as a provider of top quality experience and education,” Hayne told The PIE.
“Curtin already provides excellent opportunities for international students to study offshore, either online or through our global campuses in Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, and Mauritius, and welcomes the federal government’s focus on further boosting these opportunities,” she mentioned.
Chief executive of StudyAdelaide Karyn Kent said there “is a lot to like” about the new strategy.
“StudyAdelaide’s focus is on the promotion of Adelaide as a study destination, and welcoming and supporting international students while they are here and so we’re very much aligned with the new strategy especially the student-centric initiatives around student wellbeing.”
She said that StudyAdelaide was “delighted that international education has been recognised as an integral part of meeting Australia’s skills needs”.
“We have witnessed firsthand the appetite to employ international students through our partnership with Regional Development Australia and our ongoing program to successfully connect students with employers in regional centres like Murray Bridge and Mount Gambier,” she informed.
“We’re very much aligned with the new strategy especially the student-centric initiatives around student wellbeing”
“The changes to the visa settings are another win for students – and employers alike – we’ve already seen the immediate and very favourable response from students across the globe,” she said.
Group of Eight chief executive Vicki Thomson highlighted that, “It must be recognised that we operate in a highly competitive global environment in which Australia is not the only country seeking to rebuild our economy post the pandemic.
“We must provide education and research in response to student demand as well as government policy,” she added.