THE Victorian TAFE budget cuts sends a strong message to prospective international students that Victoria is closed for business and opportunity for learning, says City of Monash Deputy Mayor Jieh-Yung Lo. He examines its impact on the international student sector.
The TAFE budget cuts announced in May 2012 by the Victorian Government has demonstrated a high level of short-sightedness for the Victorian economy. It was estimated that at least $300 million has been cut, forcing TAFE providers to re-evaluate their course offerings. Furthermore, the removal of courses and programs is expected to make entry into universities even more difficult, adding further pressure for universities themselves to fill the gap.
These cuts effectively reduce revenue by about a third, and puts course options and service provision in deep jeopardy. By making a decision on these cuts, the Baillieu Government has sent a strong message to prospective international students that Victoria is closed for business and opportunity for learning.
…the Baillieu Government has sent a strong message to prospective international students that Victoria is closed for business and opportunity for learning.
TAFE in Victoria has a proud history of providing high quality skilling, training and education. It offers a diversity of courses, fills skill shortage gaps and creates a culture of lifelong skills development and stronger pathways to high education. These skills are vital to respond to the changing needs of Victoria’s industry and workforce and contributing to the growth of workforce participation and productivity.
It seems the Victorian Government is not alone. The New South Wales Government is cutting $80 million and a Queensland Government review of vocational education and training recommended closing 38 campuses with an overall cut of $78.8 million. To politicise this observation, it seems there’s a growing trend amongst Coalition state governments to downplay the importance of education and skills development.
To take the politics out of it and bring it back to policy, this is not a smart policy move. Have these state governments thought about the impact these cuts may have on Australia’s reputation as an education and skills provider? In an already very competitive global education market, these cuts will lead to Australia dropping its game and leaving the higher education sector in the cold when it comes to a potential study choice for international students.
In an already very competitive global education market, these cuts will lead to Australia dropping its game and leaving the higher education sector in the cold when it comes to a potential study choice for international students.
The recent trade missions to China and India led by Premier Ted Baillieu have provided a clear indication of the demand and interest shown by overseas institutions in Australia’s TAFE system. The international education sector is Australia’s third largest source of export income. Our TAFE and private VET system is recognised as a world leader in vocational education and training. There continues to be a high level of interest from many developing countries, especially those from Asia, in learning from our experiences in order to build domestic capacity.
Australia’s international education reputation has suffered a few major blows already. These included the poor reputation of some private providers, student safety and the exploitation of links between education and migration. Now we witness more difficulties and circumstances in the reduction of our reputation as an education provider. When will we learn?
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The slashing of TAFE programs and courses means slashing the future of hundreds and thousands of local Victorians and international students. A large number of students heavily rely on TAFE as an entry point into higher education. Many international students will have to consider how the potential rise in costs and fees affects their financial situation. The lack of funding would also mean potential reduction in services and support provided by institutions to international students. These services range from careers advice to housing and settlement. Our state government is cutting the basic necessities from one of our largest source of export income. Funding to support our international students are already scarce. Will the state government provide extra funds from other parts of the budget to fill this needy gap?
We have had lots of media attention on the impacts of these cuts to local students but so little focus on international students. I urge all international students to speak up, either with your friends, your institution or even your state members of parliament representatives and tell us how these cuts affect your education and lifestyle.
I urge all international students to speak up, either with your friends, your institution or even your state members of parliament representatives and tell us how these cuts affect your education and lifestyle.
Our governments should be working towards developing an international education sector that is positioned for a sustainable future. Instead, Victoria has decided to move backwards to make matters worse for our students and the higher education sector. I fear the negative impacts that these cuts will have on our international student community. No matter what happens, the Victorian Government will have to deal with the long term consequences. This is not good policy making at all.
Jieh-Yung Lo is a writer and the Deputy Mayor of the City of Monash. Follow him on Twitter @jiehyunglo.