EDUCATING employers on the benefits of hiring international students and helping Australian degree holders stay on by doubling bonus points for migration will help boost Australia’s position in an increasingly competitive international education market, says the IEAC. Maheen Irani reports.
Educating employers about the value of recruiting international student graduates and a doubling of bonus points available to prospective migrants with an Australian qualification will make Australia a more attractive study destination, says the International Education Advisory Council.
Detailed in the Australia – Educating Globally report prepared by the IEAC, these were among the 35 recommendations put forward to the Federal Government as it prepares a five year strategy for international education in an increasingly competitive market.
Founder of the Australian Federation of International Students, Wesa Chau, said a whole of government approach to educating employers on the value of recruiting graduates both domestic and international “should have been in practice long ago”.
“Graduate international students find themselves in situations where local businesses are not willing to recruit them because they are on a bridging visa,” she said.
As a result, students suffer what Ms Chau calls a long “career gap”.
Faced with a lengthy wait for the approval of their temporary or permanent residency visas, student inadvertently fall back on jobs they had as a student, such as waiting tables, cleaning, and driving cabs, she said.
Ms Chau, who now heads up Cultural Intelligence, an organisation that specialises in cross-cultural training, orientation and consultancy, said businesses have everything to gain by recruiting international student graduates.
“Australia is now trying to benefit from the Asia Century, which requires good cultural understanding of Asian countries. Approximately 80 per cent of international students are from an Asian country, educated in Australia and have a good understanding of at least one Asian country,” she said.
“The benefit in recruiting graduate international students is strong.”
Ms Chau was also in support of the proposed doubling of bonus point to prospective migrants with an Australian qualification.
“Assuming international students will have a stronger knowledge of the Australian culture if they study at an Australian education institution, bonus points for skilled migration will provide a stronger pool of talents who will remain in Australia and contribute to the Australian society,” she said.
International Education Association of Australia’s Phil Honeywood believes Australia’s visa policies are attractive to prospective students.
Australia offers post-study work rights that the UK no longer offers and the US never has, Mr Honeywood said.
Australia is currently ranked the third most popular destination for international students, Melbourne being the fourth most preferred city for foreign students behind Paris, London and Boston.
An analysis of strategic trends in international education conducted by the Boston Consulting Group show living costs for international students in Australia have jumped by 166 per cent over the past decade, contributing to the drop in market share and income generated by the International education sector.
Three years ago, the education sector contributed more then $18 billion to the Australian economy , but that has dwindled to $13 billion this year.
Universities Australia’s chief executive Belinda Robinson said Melbourne would be ranked number one if affordability was removed as a criterion.
“While it may be a little more expensive to live and study in Australia, the quality of living, employment opportunities, student mix and the quality of universities makes Australia a very appealing place for those seeking to study abroad,” she said.
Ms Robinson believes recent government initiatives including visa reforms would “certainly assist in arresting the decline in international enrolments”.
The Minister for Tertiary Education Chris Bowen has previously said the Government welcomed the IEAC’s report and indicated he expects to accept many of its recommendations.