PHOTO: STUDY GOLD COAST
Having fewer international students creates a “ripple effect” outside
institutions, as they support jobs in many sectors such as hospitality.
model has created
an explicit reliance
on international fees
for universities “
28 | THE PIE REVIEW | ISSUE #19
Power and the passion
Solving these problems isn’t easy. “The very reasons our
institutions have done so well is they’ve been tenacious,”
“We can’t, on the one hand, tell our institutions they
should be prepared to go forth and multiply… and then
say, ‘oh, by the way, you’re doing too well, you’re ruining it
Chew agrees and says the actual problem is “one step
removed” from where the focus has been.
“The problem is that the funding model that we’ve got has
created an explicit reliance on international fees for universi-ties
to operate as universities in Australia,” he says.
Complicated problems, but stakeholders are passionate
about working through them. Regular consultations with go-vernment,
business and industry to tweak policy are having
results, and conversations are underway to address other
niggles, particularly within the visa system.
Blacker says EA is looking to help DoHA officers un-derstand
ELICOS students, while other discussions are
underway to reduce visa rejections for African students and
increase diversity in the student cohort.
Sapkota, meanwhile, says CISA is focused on addressing
two critical issues throughout 2018 and 2019: workplace
exploitation and an increased student voice in grassroots
institutional governance.“These issues will remain consis-tent
unless international students are well represented in the
grassroots level,” he says. “That’s the main battle.”
Don’t dream it’s over
Most within the industry are quick to point out Australia is
far from in dire straits.
“Australia’s global reputation in international education
will hold us in good stead,” says Blacker, adding he believes
current growth rates will likely scale back into the single
digits over time, rather than into the negative.
Interestingly, Australians are becoming less concerned
by competition from the US and UK, due to the uncertainty
over how politics will impact their education industries.
Instead, Canada and increasingly Ireland are viewed as
Chief executive of EduCo International Group, Joff Allen,
argues Australia is ready to accept its place as a leader in
“The American universities see Australia as the leader
in being able to create international student strategies that
meet their goals,” he says.
“They’re sponges for trying to learn about how a small
country in the southern hemisphere has built such a robust
international student sector.”
The disparity also impacts the sector’s ability to operate.
Outside the international space, a funding freeze in Decem-ber
2017 caught many universities by surprise and has been
the key lobbying point for Universities Australia.
Unpacking the complexities of that debate is difficult, but
on the surface, UA, the Regional Universities Network, and
the Group of Eight argue the freeze will limit the number of
domestic students entering universities, while the govern-ment
claims that universities need to improve their budget
The impact of domestic funding on the international
education industry is not immediately apparent, but a
concurrent limit on the level of research costs covered by
the government means that most universities subsidise their
research through tuition fees.
Ignoring the debate over efficiencies, universities in Aus-tralia
have become reliant on international student revenue
to cover research gaps, and increasingly, operational and
Rod Camm, chief executive of private vocational educa-tion
peak body ACPET, meanwhile, puts it directly.
“The thing about having a good international sector is you
need a strong domestic one. That’s the platform,” he says.