As Australia’s new wave of legislative and policy changes
continues to roll in, on the surface, the country is a picture-perfect
example of an international education industry on its
way to monumental success. Experiencing across-the-board
growth year on year, Australia should be well placed to finish
this decade in a much better position than the last. But, as
Anton Crace reports, beneath the waves, rip tides threaten to
ISSUE #19 | THE PIE REVIEW | 25
pull parts of its industry back out to sea.
IN 2015, THE last time The PIE Review
covered Australia, the country’s international
education industry was in a transitional period.
After drops from 2010-2012, influenced by a ‘perfect storm’
of restrictive visa conditions, a high Australian dollar, and
attacks on students, the country appeared to stabilise.
A small increase in 2013, followed by a mammoth 11.9
per cent jump in enrolments in 2014, contributed to noti-ceable
buoyancy in attitudes across sectors. Positivity was
so high, many were cautiously optimistic Australia could
hit new records.
They didn’t have to wait long to find out. By the end of
2015, Australian international education had set a new
best, a feat it repeated in 2016 and 2017, to end the year
with 624,001 students and a value of AUD$32.2 billion.
2018 year-to-April figures see the country set to do it
again, already 12 per cent above the same period last year.
But the sky is not as cloud-free as it might seem. Three
years after building the platform for success, gaps between
providers, states and source markets have appeared and
are widening, while concerns that the country is over-reliant
on a handful of countries – China and India in parti-cular
– are front of mind.
Know your product
“The regulatory framework, be it student visas, the ESOS
act, or in the teaching and learning space, is more transpa-
rent than some other countries,” says IEAA chief executive
Phil Honeywood, commenting on the factors which have
contributed to Australia’s move from stability to success.
Consistently high academic rankings, responsiveness
to changes in skills needs, and new regulatory and visa
frameworks, he notes, have helped build a two-pronged
approach of good reputation and good governance.
The Australia of 2018 is almost unrecognisable from three
years ago. 2016 saw the launch of the National Strategy for
International Education 2025, outlining a three-pillared,
whole-industry approach to promoting the country.
In the same year, the implementation of the Simplified
Student Visa Framework levelled the playing field among
institutions by providing access to streamlined visa
processing, based on an institution’s reputation and the
likelihood of a student violating the terms of their visa by
But there’s more to Australia’s success than just changes
to the backend systems. Honeywood says the country’s
understanding of education as an industry, an often criti-cised
point elsewhere, has meant providers are ramping
up their marketing efforts.
“The tenacity by self-governed universities, more
entrepreneurial public TAFEs, and private colleges in
really seeing international education as an industry has
driven numbers up, compared to other study destinations
which took some time,” he says.