The commodity question
For all its changes, however, there are many things about
Australian international education that are very familiar to
international students, says Bijay Sapkota, national presi-dent
of the Council of International Students Australia.
“There are still a lot of challenges,” he says. “A lot of
international students go through a difficult time, especi-ally
around mental health problems, depression, workplace
exploitation and other issues that do not get addressed.”
The problems that Sapkota’s predecessor, Nina Khairina,
identified back in 2015 remain, and although he says many
people are trying to solve these issues, “perceptions per-sist
that providers treat students as a source of income.”
Beneath the successes, widening gaps are also starting
to appear. “There are a number of universities that haven’t
even recovered to their peaks in 2010,” Jon Chew says.
Through business management consultancy Nous
Group, of which he is a principal, Chew’s market analysis
has highlighted a pronounced “two-speed economy”
within Australia’s booming international education
industry, both at an institutional and regional level. Within
the university sector, a handful of top universities are
26 | THE PIE REVIEW | ISSUE #19
Higher education growth has
been concentrated mainly
within the postgraduate level,
with numbers fast approaching
experiencing record growth and driving total country
numbers up, while other universities are experiencing
modest growth, flatlining or declining.
Chew says this isn’t entirely unexpected, most other
industries wouldn’t expect all market players to grow at
the same rate, but it does raise questions.
Dual speed dials
“If you dig deeper for the reasons for the differences in
growth rates and the concentration and polarisation that’s
resulting from that, there are some important concerns
there,” he notes.
Higher education growth has been concentrated within
the postgraduate level, and the country is fast approaching
a point where those numbers will be equal to undergra-duate
Chew is clear that nothing untoward appears to be hap-pening
within the industry, but reflects on other instances,
such as in the domestic vocational loans scheme, where
market incentives were exploited to create a bubble.
“No one was really keeping an eye on things to say, ‘are
these rapid developments the sorts of thing we want to
see?’” he continues, adding that for its updated regulatory
frameworks, Australia lacks a “market steward” to respond
to new threats or abrupt changes.
ELT edged out?
Questions are also being asked of SSVF, which some within
the industry charge has been negatively impacting some
countries, particularly below the higher education level.
English Australia chief executive Brett Blacker points
to declining visa grant rates for students looking to study
English language programs (known as ELICOS) only –
If you dig deeper
for the reasons for the
differences there are some
important concerns there