Trade deal gives Australia access to China's universities

27, November, 2014

Australia and China have announced a free trade agreement that will give Australian universities privileged access to the Chinese university sector, a move that has been cautiously welcomed by agents waiting to see the full details of the agreement.

Signing the Free Trade Agreement: China's Minister for Commerce, Gao Hucheng, and President Xi, with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot and Andrew Robb, the Minister for Trade and Investment. Source - Department of Trade and Investment, Australia

The China Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) was announced at the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing.

A statement on Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website states that Australia and China have committed to discussing how to: facilitate student and teacher exchanges between both countries; and increase marketing and recruitment opportunities for Australian education providers in China.

It also states that within a year, all Cricos-registered higher education institutions will be listed on an official Chinese Ministry of Education website. In another part of the deal, Australia has agreed to grant 5,000 working holiday visas per year to China.

“Australian universities will at last be able to market degree offerings directly to Chinese students,” said Laurie Pearcey, Director of China Strategy and Development at UNSW Australia, writing in The Conversation. “This agreement will give Australian providers direct access to the largest source of full-fee-paying international students.”

He added, “As the student market becomes increasingly competitive with aggressive marketing from North America and Europe, Australia will be the only country in the world to enjoy this special access. If this extends to front line student counselling and direct advertising, Australian institutions will enjoy an enormous competitive advantage.”

Jon Santangelo, Communications Manager at Beijing-based agency association Bossa, said the association and its members were awaiting further details on the arrangement, but so far the deal has been welcomed by members. Australian universities would still need local partners to reach beyond campuses and reinforce brands despite the access, he said.

Austar, a Chinese agency which sends approximately 500 exchange students per year and specialises in marketing Australia deemed the trade deal as a positive for the study abroad industry. “The international education of Australia will occupy a bigger market,” said Alice Pan, Manager at the agency.

Lily Wu, an Australia specialist at Oxbridge agency, which has sent around 200 students to Australia this year, said the deal would catch some agencies’ attention because Australia will have new influence in promoting itself as a study destination, but was confident this would not affect agency business. “Students may try the DIY method or find an agency anyway,” she said.

Another agent commented, “This new deal will increase marketing and recruitment opportunities for Australian providers in China, but at this early stage, we don’t foresee recruitment agencies encountering a negative impact as a result of Australian universities having more privileges to recruit directly through partnership/joint courses with Chinese universities.”

Santangelo explained, “Foreign institutions are not permitted to recruit students without official permission. Perhaps this deal will make it legal for all Australian universities to do so. Right now, Bossa and Chinese agencies can only speculate the implications of this new FTA and how it will affect the education market. Next year should be more foretelling.”

A joint statement issued by Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and Minister for Trade and Investment, Andrew Robb, said, “The landmark China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) will unlock substantial new benefits for Australians for years to come.

“ChAFTA will add billions to the economy, create jobs and drive higher living standards for Australians. Australian businesses will have unprecedented access to the world’s second largest economy. It greatly enhances our competitive position in key areas such as agriculture, resources and energy, manufacturing exports, services and investment.”

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