Australia unveils draft international education strategy

09 April, 2015


Australia’s Minister for Education and Training Christopher Pyne has released a Draft National Strategy for International Education for industry consultation, aiming to create sustainable growth in the sector by focussing on national reputation policies, internationalisation measures and maintaining a competitive offer to international students.



The Australian government's Draft National Strategy for International Education


The long-awaited national strategy, the first of its kind for Australia, builds on the recommendations of the Chaney Report of 2013, and brings together key government portfolios including Education, Foreign Affairs, Trade, Immigration, Industry and Science.

“International education is a AUS$16.3 billion [US$12.5 billion] export industry that supports 130,000 jobs nationally,” said Minister Pyne. “International education is one of Australia’s greatest under-the-radar success stories. It has been estimated that over the next decade international education could double in value to the Australian economy, creating tens of thousands of local jobs.”

The draft strategy outlines a number of strategic actions and government pledges to meet six goals.

Under the ‘getting the fundamentals right’ theme, the stated goal is to create a world-class education system, with measures including: embracing academic freedom to achieve excellence, investment in research and its infrastructure – with acknowledgment that Australia has one of the lowest levels of private sector/higher education collaboration in the OECD; more benchmarking information; and reducing red tape burden while ensuring quality assurance.

Universities Australia welcomed the research commitments. “The ability to produce high-quality collaborative research is critical for cementing our position as one of the best higher education systems in the world,” said Chief Executive, Belinda Robinson.

The ‘reaching out to the world’ section covers three goals, relating to building international partnerships, fostering an international outlook and attracting international talent. These include measures to expand beyond Australia’s traditional relationships in Asia – with Latin America and the Gulf region highlighted, a boost in government-to-government engagement, support for exchange programmes and scholarships, and rejuvenating language study in the Australian curriculum.

Within the ‘attracting international talent’ goal, the work of agents is acknowledged. “Education agents play an important role and are often the first point of contact between students and Australian education institutions. They are influential in a student’s choice of study destination and often act as a trusted advocate.”

The government states it will support research into the development of an industry-driven quality assurance system for agents linked to an accreditation mechanism, as well as undertake an annual survey of agents “to better understand the impact of Australia’s marketing activities”.

The ‘staying competitive’ theme identifies two goals: ensuring a positive student experience; and embracing opportunities to grow international education. Strategic actions to support international students include a commitment to ensure the visa regime remains competitive, identifying work experience opportunities, improving English language proficiency throughout study, improving access to health services, transport concessions and affordable accommodation, and increasing the community engagement of students.

With regards to work, the government states, “International students view work experience as an essential element of studying abroad,” and commits support for continuing post-study work arrangements as well as building awareness of student eligibility among employers. It also acknowledges that cost of accommodation is one of the lowest satisfaction ratings for international students in Australia with the large majority using the private sector rental market, and says it will investigate a ratings model and benchmark costs against competitor destinations.  

“The inclusion of a goal specifically focussed on improving the quality of the educational and living experience for international students is strongly supported by Universities Australia,” said Robinson. “In particular we need to ensure international students have access to affordable accommodation, receive transport concessions equal to domestic students and have genuine opportunities to undertake relevant work experience.”

In his foreword to the strategy, Minister Pyne said Australia could not lost sight of intensifying competition in international education, and in the executive summary it was acknowledged that the USA’s increasing acceptance of the use of agents for recruitment provided growing competition for Australia.

Sue Blundell, Executive Director of peak body English Australia, welcomed the release of the strategy along with the creation of a Ministerial Coordinating Council. “It will ensure that international education receives the high-level focus it needs within government, [and] it will ensure a coordinated, cross-portfolio approach to policy development and strategy.”

The feedback period on the draft strategy is open until May 29. Consultation on Austrade’s market development strategy, Australian International Education 2025, will also inform the development of national strategy.

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