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More students choose to study in Australia by Dr D. ALISTAIR

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT AN INCREASING NUMBER OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ARE CHOOSING AUSTRALIA TO CONTINUE THEIR STUDIES?

An Interview with:The Hon. Dr David Alistair Kemp MP
Former Minister of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs

The increasing number of international students choosing Australia as their preferred study destination appears to be driven by variety of factors, including:
  • greater recognition of Australia as a provider of high quality education and training offering programs of increasing importance and relevance in today’s world (eg environmental education, tourism and hospitality and business studies);
  • Australian institutions using leading-edge technologies and learning programs which promote flexible and innovative approaches to teaching and research;
  • a comprehensive, nationally consistent yet flexible framework of all qualifications in the secondary school, vocational education and training and higher education sectors - the Australian Qualifications Framework - which is backed by Australian governments and recognised across Australia; and
  • sensitivity to the needs of international students and provision of a range of support services at Australian institutions to help them deal with the practicalities of living in Australia and completing their studies.
In addition Australia offers a number of advantages as a study destinations for international students, such as: personal safety and multicultural society; competitive tuition fees and cost of living; favourable climate; the opportunity to work while studying; and geographic proximity to Oceania and South East Asia.

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENT LEVELS OF EDUCATION OPEN TO INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS?

The Australian education system is divided broadly into four sectors: schools, vocational education and training, higher education and English language training. International students are enrolled in all these sectors.

SCHOOL EDUCATION

The Australian schools system consists of government and privately owned and operated schools. All schools are monitored by the Australian Government to maintain a high standard of education which is delivered in a variety of settings ranging from large busy cities to small rural and coastal towns.

Australian schools provide a sound foundation for further study, offer a wide range of subjects, have highly trained teachers, use state-of-the-art technology to enhance learning in all areas of the curriculum, and encourage both English language learning.
There are l3 years of schooling in Australia starting with one year of kindergarten or preparatory year followed by a total of l2 years of primary and secondary school. In most Australian States/Territories secondary school starts in Year 7. Schooling in Australia is compulsory until Year 10.

VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING

Vocational education and training in Australia is offered by Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges and private providers, such as private business colleges and industry training centres.

There is a national network of these institutions across Australia which deliver flexible, nationally consistent, competency-based training which is responsive to the needs of industry and individuals. TAFE and private colleges offer a wide variety of training ranging from operator and trade training to technical centres.

Vocational education and training provides students with the specific skills required by employers, recognises students’ prior learning and provides education pathways and articulation into university degree courses.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Australian universities offer both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in a wide range of professional and academic disciplines including arts, sciences, environmental education, computing, engineering, health sciences, business, economics, law and agriculture.

Australian universities have long enjoyed an international reputation for excellence. The quality of scholarship and research across the higher education sector has been of paramount importance.

Australian universities have internationalised their campuses by actively encouraging student and staff exchange programs, developing international curricula and promoting research collaboration.

Australian university research centres jointly funded by the Australian Government and industry are internationally recognised.

FOUNDATION STUDIES

Foundation studies courses are available to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in undergraduate studies at Australian universities. Most foundation studies courses are for one academic year and offer subjects directly related to the students preferred university course. A university place is reserved for foundation studies students subject to achieving satisfactory grades.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRAINING

The English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) colleges provide English language training for international students.

An accreditation process ensures that ELICOS colleges offer high quality facilities and resources and appropriately qualified instructors for the teaching of English to international students. An increasing number of ELICOS colleges have state-of-the-art facilities, such as computer assisted learning.

A wide variety of English language training courses is offered by ELICOS colleges from General English to English for Academic Purposes which prepare students for further study at school, vocational education and training institutions or university.

HOW DO YOU THINK FEES IN AUSTRALIA COMPARE WITH THOSE IN COMPETING COUNTRIES (IE THE UK AND US)?

The cost of studying in Australia compares favourably with that in the other key destination countries for international students.
The Australian Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs recently commissioned a study to compare the costs of higher education courses for international students in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Canada and the US. The study found that in terms of total costs (which include tuition fees and living expenses) the US and UK are consistently more expensive than Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Australia’s total costs place it broadly in the middle of the field.

PROJECTED FIGURES ISSUED BY IDP STATE THAT BY 2010 THERE WILL BE 250,000 STUDENTS TRAVELLING TO AUSTRALIA EACH YEAR. DO YOU FEEL THAT THIS IS TOO AMBITIOUS A FIGURE OR GIVEN AUSTRALIA’S RUNAWAY SUCCESS WITH INTERNATIONAL STUDENT RECRUITMENT THAT THIS WILL BE EASILY ACHIEVED?

The projected figure of 250,000 international students by the year 2010 is achieveable. The latest projections by the Australian International Education Foundation (AIEF) estimate that there will be approximately l90,000 international students in Australia by the year 2001.

SO THE INFLUX OF FOREIGN STUDENTS MUST BE HAVING A SIGNIFICANT EFFECT ON THE AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY?

The opening of Australian education and training institutions to international students has provided substantial financial returns for Australia:
  • the growth in international students has increased from only a few thousand in the early eighties to over l40,000 in 1996. In 1997 the number of international students is expected to be over 150,00
  • expenditure by international students in Australia grew significantly to over $3 billion in 1006 and is expected to reach $3.4 billion in l997. This represents an increase of 24 and 11 percent respectively over the previous year.
  • the AIEF has forecast that by 2001 expenditure by international students should reach $4.6 billion.
Exposure to the international marketplace has reaped many additional benefits for Australia through the internationalisation of its education and training industry. It has led to:
  • the development and integration of international skills in Australian education and training systems;
  • the provision by Australian institutions of broader and more internationally focussed curricula;
  • increased international exchanges of teachers and researchers;
  • the development of innovative mechanisms for the offshore delivery of education and training services.
  • the creation of offshore education and training opportunities for Australian institutions in partnership with industry; and
  • co-operative ventures at the government level and between government and education and training providers.
HOW GREAT AN EFFECT HAS THE ASIA ECONOMIC CRISIS HAD ON STUDENT RECRUITMENT FROM ASIA? WHAT DO YOU EXPECT THE EFFECTS TO BE LONG TERM?

It is too soon to forecast what the Asian financial crisis will have on international student recruitment from Asia. Early data show mixed results - visa issues in Malaysia and Indonesia have shown no signs of decline whereas visa issues in Thailand and South Korea have declined substantially.

In some of Australia’s major international student markets where there has been rapid movement in currencies Australia has become financially more attractive than three other key destination countries - Candad, the US and UK.

HOW CONFIDENT IS THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION IN CANBERRA IN RECRUITING STUDENTS FROM CHINA?

The number of Chinese students in Australia in 1996 was 3,527 which represented an increase of about 6 per cent from 1995 with the strongest growth occurring in the number of secondary school students.
The AIEF has predicted that the number of Chinese students in Australia will continue to increase steadily. The strong economic growth in China with increases in disposable incomes will bring education in Australia within reach of an increasing number of families. The flow-on effect of joint ventures should result in an increase in the number of students going to Australia to continue Australian courses started in China.

DO YOU THINK THAT THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT COULD BE DOING MORE TO EXPLOIT THIS MASSIVE MARKET?

The Australian Government through the AIEF is already implementing a number of strategies to facilitate the export of education and training services to China. The AIEF is:
  • continuing to work with the Chinese Government to address constraints on the provision of education services;
  • encouraging a measured application of student visa assessments and efficient processing;
  • identifying and informing the Australian education and training industry about relevant business opportunities in China;
  • implementing a series of activities which improve the recognition of Australian education and training services;
  • providing opportunities for the Australian education and training industry to develop industry/education linkages;
  • facilitating a national dialogue about quality assurance for institutions and students; and
  • raising Australia’s profile in targeted provinces and schools in China.
DO YOU THINK MORE MONEY SHOULD BE EXPENDED ON GLOBAL MARKETING?

The AIEF promotes Australian education and training qualifications and the quality, range and relevance of the services offered by Australian education and training providers so that they will be recognised globally. This includes responsibility for the overseas network of nine Australian Education Centres located throughout Asia and in France and related student information services.

IT SEEMS THAT YOU ARE NOT ONLY RETAINING YOUR SHARE OF THE EXISTING DEVELOPED MARKETS (MALAYSIA, SINGAPORE, HONG KONG, INDONESIA) BUT INCREASING YOUR SHARE YEAR ON YEAR. DO YOU THINK THAT AS A RESULT OF THIS YOU MAY HAVE NEGLECTED THE DEVELOPING MARKETS (CHINA, INDIA, TAIWAN, LATIN AMERICA AND EUROPE)?

No. The AIEF is actively pursuing opportunities for the Australian education and training industry in the developing markets of China, India, Taiwan, Latin America and Europe.
For example:
  • the AIEF through its representative offices is employing a number of strategies to improve Australia’s share of the China, India and Taiwan markets;
  • the AIEF’s regional structure in Western Europe has been positioned to obtain maximum access to the key Western Europe markets of France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and Austria. The AIEF’s activities in Western Europe are aimed at ensuring that Australian institutions are able to obtain access to potential markets through marketing programs including, participation in exhibitions, media programs targeted at student and education publications, strategies to develop alliances with key education media journalists and outreach programs to a number of European institutions. The main focus of AIEF’s promotional activities in Europe is on the English language training market, particularly study tourism, niche markets including tourism and hospitality and expanding opportunities for the higher education sector;
  • The AIEF together with the National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition (NOOSR) is undertaking market research in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Venezuela. The research will assess markets in these countries for Australian education and training services.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SAY TO THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS ROUND THE WORLD WHO ARE READING THIS AND CONSIDERING STUDYING IN AUSTRALIA?

I would say that:
  • Australia has a world class education and training system which can fulfil your intellectual, artistic and career potential;
  • Australia offers high quality advanced technology education in a multicultural environment; and
  • Australians are open, friendly people who welcome international visitors.
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