By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

Australia has been prominent in our news coverage in recent days, and it appears the international education sector has been established as a political battle line in the forthcoming general election in the country.

Frustrated at a lack of progress in implementing previous proposals to protect and grow the international education sector, a range of peak bodies representing various sectors, including Acpet and English Australia, joined forces to issue a communiqué and action plan late last week.

With a clearly agitated tone, the executive summary to the action plan said the industry “lacks focused government support”, despite being one of the country’s most successful exports.

In the lead-up to the election, the action plan called on all political parties to commit to measures to increase Australia’s competitiveness and embrace a proportionate regulation system.

“The time for reviews and studies has passed. Too many already clog the desks and in-boxes of industry decision makers, with good recommendations remaining unimplemented. It is time for firm commitments and strong action from the federal government, opposition and all political parties,” said the statement.

The action plan had some immediate impact, with the opposition Education Spokesman, Christopher Pyne, stating that if elected, his party would extend post-study work rights to vocational and private colleges – a key demand of the peak bodies.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, Pyne said, “If we are fortunate enough to be elected, we intend to try and quickly repair the international student market, to try and build that industry again.” He added that the present administration had dropped good public policy in favour of political decisions.

Another story over the last week highlighted the need for Australia to retain a competitive package of benefits such as post-study work rights, as a report from HSBC suggested that the country was the most expensive destination for overseas undergraduate studies.

Educators in Australia, particularly those in the vocational sector, which continues to see a drop in commencements while others recover, will be hoping that other political parties match Pyne’s promise.

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