THE Federal Government wants to ensure “the best possible” student experience in its first national strategy for the growing international education sector, now Australia’s largest services export. Amber Ziye Wang reports.
The Federal Government has vowed to further develop support for international students via new policy arrangements and services to help students reach their full potential, enabling growth and innovation in the international education sector — an industry it says “offers an unprecedented opportunity for Australia”.
The employability of graduates and the quality of student experiences are key to successfully implementing the sector’s blueprint for the next decade, according to its National Strategy for International Education 2025, which sets out a ten year plan for developing Australia’s role as a global leader in education, training and research.
The strategy is a first for Australia and was launched by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Julie Bishop, and the Minister for Tourism and International Education, Senator Richard Colbeck, in Launceston, Tasmania on Saturday, April 30.
“The strategy will lead to greater engagement, greater business and diplomatic activity,” Ms Bishop said.
“As part of our improvement processes, we will listen to international students to ensure that their needs are met,” the report reads. “We will focus on developing employability and opportunities for work integrated learning, enhancing the nexus between education and employment. “
To support the implementation of the strategy, the Australian Government as part of the 2016‑17 Budget has also committed $12 million over four years.
“Australia will deliver support that meets or exceeds international student needs, build capacity for international student employment, encourage a strong international student voice and continually improve our performance based on student feedback,” the report read.
The Government has also recognised the importance of innovation and the embracement of new technologies in achieving its goals to further Australia in an increasingly globalised and competitive industry.
“Although traditional forms of education will remain in high demand, there are new and emerging forms of education where there are significant opportunities for both students and providers,” according to the report, which cited online learning as a growing component in the sector.
Genuine and transformative partnerships both at home and abroad are also critical to the success and competitiveness of Australian international education, the strategy says, highlighting the role of recent free trade agreements with countries including China, South Korea and Japan in increasing the flow of students.
The report identified significant potential and opportunities from an increasing demand for world-class education services, particularly from Australia’s major Asian partners.
“India, for example, has indicated that it seeks to train around 400 million people by 2022. Given the scale of this demand, there is great potential for Australian training providers to play a significant role in helping India to meet this target,” the report reads.
“China presents similar opportunities for Australia, with current student numbers representing only a fraction of the potential. The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement places us well to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Other key themes under the National Strategy include:
- employability – to provide greater opportunities for work, integrated learning and internships for international students
- thematic forums – to progress key issues important to the sector
- data collection and analysis – to inform better policy and practice
- country strategies – for targeted offshore engagement
- highlighting the benefits of international education – to wider communities, including regional
- alumni networks – for ongoing connection with Australia
- borderless education – to identify opportunities for growth
- consortia and partnerships – to compete on a global scale
International education is now Australia’s largest services export and third largest export overall behind iron ore and coal. Last year alone, the sector injected $19 billion into the national economy and supported 130,000 jobs.