20 July 2009

Urgent action needed to encourage studying in Australia says expert

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A leading Australian university vice-chancellor said Australia risks squandering its $15.5 billion higher education industry within 10 years unless the Federal Government takes urgent action.

Studying in Australia

A leading university vice-chancellor has called for urgent action to secure the high education export industry and protect foreign students studying in Australia.

Currently Australia attracts many foreign students, who are able to complete their higher education and study in Australia on an Australian Student Visa.

The vice-chancellor of Sydney University, Michael Spence, told the Sydney Morning Herald that continuing reports of racist violence, shonky private colleges providing dubious diplomas and visa abuses were damaging the good reputation of Australia's education industry.

However, Dr Spence said new and emerging global competitors posed a greater and longer-term threat. China, the main source of our international students, would increasingly educate its young people at home and look to England, Canada and the United States.

Sydney University and Macquarie University have the highest reliance on Chinese students, both in absolute numbers and proportionate terms, closely followed by Adelaide and Wollongong, according to Australian Education International figures. At Sydney University more than 40 per cent of international students are Chinese.

The big universities such as Sydney, NSW, Melbourne, Monash and Macquarie each have more than 10,000 international students on campus, paying on average between $20,000 and $30,000 a year.

This guarantees $200 million to $300 million a year for each university - in some cases over 20 per cent of total revenue.

Many universities use this money to cross-subsidise other services like less popular degree programs, PhD scholarships and research.

"This is an enormous resource for Australia which we cannot afford to squander," Dr Spence said. "These are concerns I have spoken [about] with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister … They understand the importance of this sector to the Australian economy and Australian innovation, especially now."

Dr Spence said: "As the universities of east and south-east Asia become more internationally competitive, Australia is going to have to work hard to ensure it remains an attractive destination."

Dr Spence said Australia has a reputation for a high-quality education in a safe environment and that Australia needs to ensure education provision remains high quality and studying in Australia remains a safe and attractive option for international students.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with Australian visas and immigration

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