Australia’s International Student Market: Q&A with Senator Chris Evans

Australia’s minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Chris Evans speaks to Australia China Connections about the international education sector and his recent visit to China.

Since my first visit to China in 2010 we have radically transformed the international education sector.
We have introduced a new quality regime for all Australian education providers and reformed our student visa system.
During my most recent visit to Beijing just a few months ago, it was obvious that our changes have assured potential students and the Chinese Government that Australia has quality education providers and a fair visa system.
Australia has been reaffirmed as a world class study destination.
What influence has the Knight review had on the Chinese international student market?
The Knight Review reforms were widely welcomed by providers, agents and students in China, especially the opportunity to access post study work opportunities before returning home.
It is too early to see the impact the Knight Review has had on Chinese international student data, as streamlined visa processing was only implemented at the end of March.
Australian universities however, have the opportunity to use the reforms to attract high quality undergraduate and postgraduate Chinese students and for more Chinese students to take up the opportunity to study in Australia.

What are Australia’s future priorities for China in the education sphere?melbourne_university_1741_tower_trees_web_
Australia and China share a strong history of education engagement stretching back 40 years.
Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom are starting to compete for engagement with China and we recognise that we need to work strategically to position Australia as a partner of choice for high quality education and research.
We need to continue our strong reputation for excellence in education and research and our implementation of tertiary education reforms will ensure excellence in education and training into the future.
It is also vital that we continue to provide Chinese students with a high quality experience in Australia, both in terms of academic experience and life outside of study.
Our reforms to the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act will further strengthen quality assurance and regulatory requirements for education providers, increase consumer protection for international students and ensure the highest levels of student wellbeing through the International Students Strategy for Australia.
In addition, the Australian Government has estabilshed an International Education Advisory Council to provide advice on the development of a five year strategy for international education. Chaired by  Michael Chaney AO with eminent representatives from Australia’s business and education sectors, the Council has released a discussion paper for public consultation.
The Government is determined to ensure that safety and services for students are central to their experience at high quality Australian education providers.
Australia is a safe and welcoming place for international students. Over the past four decades, Chinese students have come to study in Australia and taken back to their home countries a strong affection for Australia.
We also need to encourage more Australian students to study in China. There is tremendous benefit for students and the greater economy linked to overseas study – it helps build country-to-country networks and friendships that last a lifetime.

The ongoing challenges for Australia?
Australia has always been one of the most popular study destinations for Chinese students.
Over the past decade, China has been the number one source of international students studying in Australia – there were more than 160,000 Chinese student enrolments in Australia last year and the number of Chinese students studying abroad is only expected to increase.
As demand for education services continues to change, we will introduce new fields of study and delivery methods, as well as maintain our strong reputation as being a safe and reliable source of higher education.
This will involve the continuing development of strong research collaborations, education partnerships and exchange programs between education and research institutions in Australia and China.
We will also continually develop our policy framework to ensure we remain ahead of Australia’s competitor countries as the number one choice as an international education provider.
What are China’s priorities for its Higher Education sector, and what does that mean for Australia?
China and Australia face common challenges such as increasing the commercialisation of research by universities and better linking university research priorities to the needs of rapidly evolving industry sectors.
Over the last 10 years, the Chinese higher education sector has grown rapidly and the Chinese Government is now focused on ensuring the quality of their system and improving creativity and innovation in China’s universities.
During my recent trip to China, my counterpart, Minister Yuan Guiren and I announced an Australia China University Leaders Forum, to be held in Australia in late November.
This forum will give participants an opportunity to discuss the challenges both countries face and to focus on the future of partnerships between Australia and China.

How does your Science and Research portfolio work with engagement in China?
The Australian Government recognises the central role of research-led innovation in providing future sustainable prosperity.
It was a deliberate decision to bring together science and research with tertiary education and skills into one portfolio – we know that investing in the education of Australians and supporting innovation are the best ways we can secure higher productivity and higher living standards.
It is the best way to meet the challenges of today and build the economy of tomorrow.
Many of our major international education partners, especially China, are also our key international research collaboration partners.
In providing a well-coordinated approach to education, research and science, we are fostering long-lasting links between Australian and overseas research and education agencies, students and scientists.
These networks will strengthen Australia’s access to international science knowledge for generations to come.
Australia’s long-term outlook for the international student market?
Demand for overseas study is expected to continue to grow, especially from Asian countries.
With a strong record of delivering high quality education services to international students over more than two decades, Australia is ideally placed to respond positively to that continuing demand in the 21st century.
Future Unlimited, the new brand created for Australia’s international education sector, will form part of our response.

Future Unlimited
recognises that prospective students want to secure a better future as a result of their international education. It will promote the quality, innovation and international perspective of Australia’s institutions, the global relevance of an Australian education and its ability to deliver career and life opportunities.
Australia has, and will continue to be, a preferred destination for international students.
Our reforms will ensure Australia remains an attractive study option.
Australia is well positioned to take advantage of the soaring number of students seeking to study overseas in the future, and the Australian Government is committed to ensuring Australia’s international education sector remains ahead of our competitors.
We are committed to providing a safe and enjoyable study experience that will ensure the number of international students chosing Australia as their destination of choice continues into the future. 

Knight Review Stage Twoacpetjpc02_web
In September 2011, the Australian government announced it had accepted all 41 recommendations put forward in Michael Knight’s Strategic Review of the Student Visa Programme. In March 2012, the government began implementaion of stage two of the Knight Review Changes. These include:

Streamlined Visa Processing
From March 2012, student visa applications are accepted with a Confirmation of Enrolment (CoE) from a participating Australian university at Bachelor, Master or Doctoral degree level. These applications are assessed as a lower migration risk and reduce the evidentiary requirements for students applying for a student visa.

More Flexible Work Conditions
From March 28, student visa holders can work 40 hours per fortnight during any fortnight while their course is in session. Higher Degree by Research student visa holders are no longer limited by the number of hours they can work once their course has commenced.

English Language Study
English language study for Schools Sector Subclass 571 visa holders increases to 50 weeks for Assessment level 3 and above.  New Student Guardian subclass 580 visa introduced for unlimited ELICOS study on a part-time basis (lass than 20 hours per week).

VET Schools
Subclass 571 Visa holders no longer required to provide evidence of an English language profficiency test.

Student Visa Integrity
Still to be passed through Parliament is the proposal to abolish the automatic cancellation of student visas and the mandatory cancellation of student visas for unsatisfactory attendance, progress and working outside of stipulated hours. The change would allow for the department to determine cancellation of visas on a case-by-case basis.

Agent Monitoring
It is also proposed that the names of education agents recruiting international students to Australia be listed on the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science, Research and Tertiary Education’s PRISMS site.
For more information visit:
*Pictures courtesy The University of Melbourne and ACPET


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