Why the international sector can’t ignore domestic students
The public conversation about international education in Australia has rarely been one which welcomes international students – even the media articles which last year highlighted appalling student exploitation and triggered the Operation Inglenook investigation into migration fraud, was more focussed on the players involved in the fraud than the impact on the students.
And the last few weeks have seen a slew of new media stories – with a tone which might crudely be described as “Australia has too many international students, universities are all earning billions from them, and thank goodness a fix is coming.”
If you think that’s unfair – then here is a list of some recent articles and some extracts from them:
- ‘It won’t be China, India any more’: Universities urged to pivot to new student market
- ‘Prune the tree’: Halting new colleges considered amid student visa crackdown
- Indian students rejected as Australia cracks down on ‘ghost colleges’
- Universities eye offshore fix for foreign student surge
- This Sydney university has made billions from international students. Here’s what it’s doing with it
It might seem strange to now turn to the experiences of a mature age student from rural Queensland who joined me on the podcast this week, to explain why the international education sector needs to be focussed on the needs and experiences of domestic students – particularly in regional Australia – to help shift community attitudes and ensure better outcomes for all students (international and domestic).
Aurelia Eves is a 50 year old woman with a passion for learning and for her local community. She can’t find work there in her chosen fields of expertise and hence had been working as a fly-in fly-out lab technician in a mine site. A job that involves 12 hour days on your feet working 7 or 14 days straight – becomes a much more difficult proposition as a person ages and hence Aurelia’s interest in returning to university to learn software coding.
Finding suitable study choices and having the financial support to complete her studies were not easy – and in fact Aurelia needed to sell her house to fund the final year of her studies.
If you listen to my interview with her – you’ll learn a lot about the challenges rural students face, especially those who are not recent school leavers – and what she thinks are the solutions.
As the government contemplates the recommendations of the Universities Accord Panel it will be trying to balance a range of potentially competing and even conflicting demands. Getting our higher education system right for students like Aurelia is vital – making it work for our many international students is also important.
Let’s hope the conversations and debates we have in the sector this year don’t pit one group of students against another – but that we can come together collectively to argue for the best solutions for all students.