The strategy to encourage more overseas students to study in Australia

I was the chief of the Students’ committee, formed by Indian Consulate in 2009. We studied the students issues, held consultation sessions and came out with a strategy document. The strategy proposed then is still relevant and can  be followed with some modification.

I have continued to have a keen interest this area due to various reasons, but making money myself has not been one of the motives.

Recently, Federal Govt has announced some changes to the Visa rules to encourage overseas students to come to Australia, thus boosting an $18 billion industry, but these changes will help only University sector. The key points in these changes include faster visa processing, less strict requirement in regards to financial support and 2-4 years work visa to work in any area, after completing a bachelor or higher level course from a University.

Premier of NSW, Mr Barry O’Farrell and Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu have asked for some changes in the rules and regulations to revive the vocational education and training sector which is almost moribund now. The events of 2009 and the bad press it generated has compromised this sector massively. NSW and Victoria earn $6.5 billions and $5.8 billions from international education respectively, but this is in jeopardy due to 64 % and 90.1% decline of students in the vocational education and training sector from China and India respectively in recent years.

The whole international education sector needs a boost but we should not allow the weaknesses of previous years to happen again.

There is a case for a support to Vocational education & training sector, provided the courses considered for this support are carefully defined and approved. It should be a “course” which should be the criterion, not the place from where it has been achieved. The quality of the training and a tight control on the delivery of such training to ensure similar levels and standards when compared with a University courses will be the key here.

There is no harm if overseas students have the qualifications which Australia needs, but we should make it clear that none has an automatic right to have permanent residence visa, just because they have a qualification from Australia.

We should encourage only genuine students and never permit visa rorting, which was common until recently. Compliance with Visa rules and conditions must be enforced ruthlessly. Dependent spouses, who are not students, should not be given permission for unlimited work, to prevent sham marriages.

I am outlining the strategy with some modification from our original document.

The key points are;

1. Safety and Security 

Brief Details:

Several cases of robbery & bashings of  Students which gave a very bad publicity. 

Proposed Action Plan 

  • Market Australia as a safe place when compared with other countries, using the experience of long term residents/citizens.
  • Educate students to REPORT the incidents to NSW Police. Reporting does not affect their VISA.
  • Councils to arrange a better lighting around Railway stations, car parks and  alleys etc in the key areas with higher students population
  • Local councils to install CCTV for surveillance of crimes in the key areas with higher students population
  • Liaison with NSW Police re under-cover policing, more visibility and patrolling in hot-spots
  • Education of the students  to be street-smart and be aware of their  surroundings
  • Employers have a duty of care and must arrange them to be dropped off at their apartments if it is beyond 10 PM
  • Explore and educate the issues involving “Work-cover” matters in case of injury/assaults 
  • Some transport concession, which is already available all over Australia except NSW and Vic. It would encourage more use of public transport which might also reduce the assaults/robberies of students.

2. Accommodation for Students: 

Brief Details:

No assistance on arrival. Many students forced to share crowded apartments and Poor treatment by rental agents 

Proposed Action Plan 

  • Education providers should take responsibility for a minimum 6 months accommodation which can be organised at the market rate. Fees can include the rent for such accommodation.  
  • Lobby with Immigration regarding  this requirement [Visa must not be issued unless accommodation confirmed]

 3. Quality of training:  

Brief details:  

Many students are exposed to poor quality of training by educational service providers & shady, shonky or bogus institutions. 

Proposed action plan: 

  • Accreditation authorities/bodies to audit the quality of training randomly and frequently
  • Effective and proper actions on proved cases
  • Anonymous surveys from the current students re the quality issues
  • Effective and prompt action by DEEWR/ACPET re alternate placement in schools/institutions or refund of the tuition fees if the educational provider goes out of business  

4. Exploitation of  students:  

Brief details:  

Students are exposed to exploitation of all kinds & bullying in part time employment or by educational service providers. They get below-award wages in many cases.  

Proposed action plan:  

  • To advise & educate students about their RIGHTS in Australia
  • To educate them re the appropriate agencies to deal with such matters
  • To encourage/facilitate genuine students’ associations which are largely run by students themselves, not business people with hidden agenda and purposes. 
  • To lobby for establishing an  overseas Students’ Ombudsman

 5. Overseas Students’ Ombudsman:

  • This body will help students when they have issues with education providers or with employers.

6. Health Cover, other appropriate insurance matters and  emergency insurance:  

Brief details:  

Lack of proper/current Insurances and coverage by some students, particularly when they are on bridging Visa.

Proposed Action plan:  

  • Pre arrival Information package in the country of origin
  • Proper medical insurance must be a condition for the Visa and such cover must be current at all times during the stay in Australia 

7.  Social issues: 

Brief details: poor communication, insufficient participation in local community events & meetings and poor public behaviour in many cases 

Proposed action plan 

  • Communication/education through community Radio, TV, newspapers and website.
  • Encourage participation of students in community events
  • Know what is expected in every situation.
  • Encouraging and promoting “when in Rome, do as Romans do” policy for our students
  • rules/regulations, Australian ways, expected behaviour and rights/obligations [There is now sufficient information in these matters in various websites] 

8. International education as a separate ministry:

  • There is sufficient justification for a separate ministry due to the fact that it is a big earner for the economy and needs special attention.

9. International students’ advisory body:

  • comprising of some international students, community representatives, education providers and Govt representatives. This will help deal with issues in regards to bad press and advise Govt with policy recommendations.

10. Marketing:

  • targeted marketing in the key markets ie China and India
  • addressing the concerns re safety and quality of education
  • countering the bad publicity about so called “racism”, using community leaders of high repute in the key markets.

Boost in this sector will be great, but we do not need the repetition of past mistakes which literally killed the whole sector. 

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/11th Oct, 2011

dryadusingh@gmail.com

www.facebook.com/dryadusingh

www.twitter.com/dryadusingh

4 thoughts on “The strategy to encourage more overseas students to study in Australia

  1. Dr Singh, Good blog but I have a slightly different take:

    We need to stop reminding Indian media and Indians generally that there were security concerns in Australia. I have realized that the media understands that the situation in Australia does not differ too much to what is in UK or US or NZ… Hence the media has not been focussing on security. We have done our bit here in OZ to fix the loopholes and shortcomings (to some extent at least) and this should be a continuing thing. While we do promote OZ as a destination for Indian students, we need not focus on security issues. Reminding the parents on what happened in 2009 is unnecessarily pulling us down.

    The focus should be on:

    Post Knight review, the visas for Indians will be easier next year. Certainly for Universities. NSW and Victoria are also pushing for easier visas for Vocational institutions and Private providers but IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. The Knight report makes specific reference to his meeting with Minister Kapil Sibal and the comment from him was that vocational students have no reasons to travel overseas spending so much money… Read the report and it is quite detailed. However the relaxation coming for the University students is a big development and this needs to be highlighted even more. We need quality students and they are welcome.

    Post Study Work visas being introduced is a huge development. This is the first time that there will be one such visa that is not reliant on the occupation category but the “University” degree. This means that a student from India can study whichever degree that suits him and then have 2-4 years of post study work and during this period he can get a work permit (457) or PR if he meets the other requirements. Hence all are being welcomed to work for some time or thereafter. And though again partial to Universities, it is in line with recommendations from the Indian Government. This is also at the time when UK due to political compulsions ending the Post Study Work from next year. We do value the international students this way.

    All current students are likely to also be included under transitional arrangements and this will mean that there will be many who are hanging on and unable to meet the requirements for PR may be now eligible for some work rights. However once again University students will get it and not vocational students.

    All this at the time when UK is in a mess with its own scams and politically devised strategies.

    All three recent world rankings of Universities indicate that overall Aussie Universities are better ranked than rest of the world. 60% of Aussie Universities are in top 400 in the world while there are none from India here.

    Australia honestly is now the best destination for Indian students. This needs to be marketed well in all ways. Work is ongoing… The problem is that the federal structure gives too much freedom to state governments and sometimes they work on cross purposes to the Canberra strategies…

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    • Thanks Ravi. I see a lot of points in your comments. I agree we need quality students, not just any student. Work visa for 2-4 yrs is indeed a huge plus, and will encourage students to choose Australia over others.Thanks again.

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      • The arguments put forward by the NSW premier asking for vocational students to also get Post Study Work and streamlined visas is totally out of place and mere show for popularity knowing that Canberra is not going to accept.

        Where NSW could have contributed was by extending transport concessions to international students when it is these who pay more to study here… International students in all states apart from NSW and Victoria get the same treatment as domestic students as far as traveling concessions are concerned. It is only here that they are treated as a cash-cow… unfortunate.

        This is where I see your efforts as needed.

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