Report: Australian universities urged to prioritize international education for national security and foreign policy interests

The report emphasizes that Australia should proactively build relationships and formulate strategies to be involved in the success stories of emerging countries such as Bangladesh, Kenya, Egypt, and Ghana.

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A report commissioned by the vice-chancellors’ association and delivered by the Lygon Group, an international education consultancy, emphasizes that international education serves as a crucial element of Australia’s national security and foreign policy interests.

The report suggests that future markets for international students are likely to expand into Africa and Southeast Asia, in addition to the current popular destinations of China and India.

 

Preserving Australia’s reputation
Universities Australia has stressed that any alterations to Australia’s international education policy should be guided by the goal of preserving the country’s global reputation, fostering economic prosperity, and promoting social progress.

The report emphasizes that Australia should proactively build relationships and formulate strategies to be involved in the success stories of emerging countries such as Bangladesh, Kenya, Egypt, and Ghana.

The report highlights the importance of avoiding barriers to cooperation with Chinese researchers and points out that the current decline in Australia-China research collaboration is primarily driven by the concerns and hesitations of researchers. It warns that such a decline could lead to a diminished research relationship with China, a global technology and innovation powerhouse.

“Australia should not repeat the mistakes of the US. It should reassure academics that they will not be targeted unfairly on the basis of their connections to [China],” said the report.

Research and soft power
When the report was unveiled last month, Catriona Jackson, who was then the chief executive of Universities Australia, remarked in a statement that “the sector plays an important role in shaping global responses to global problems through research and soft power.”

Jackson cautioned against making changes to the current “settings” on international education, as the federal government is considering alterations to immigration rules to reduce the overall immigration rate, which includes potential changes to education visas.

Lygon Group emphasizes a deficiency in Australia’s understanding of its international education sector, particularly its close connection with global research capabilities.

It suggests that the emphasis on the economic advantages of international education is increasingly overshadowing its role in upholding and advancing Australia’s interests amid the dynamic changes in Asia.

The report added that in the future, it is essential to actively support Australia’s education and research soft power as a foundation for national security and foreign policy interests. The report also emphasizes the need for a continuous supply of international PhD students to maintain Australia’s status as a research powerhouse.

2050 trends

The Lygon Group anticipates trends up to 2050, projecting a potential decline in students from China due to population changes, coupled with a rise in prospective students from parts of Africa and southeast Asia. 

The report suggests that by 2050, the global international education sector will see a shift away from domination by traditional Western, English-speaking nations.

The consultancy suggests that Australia should strengthen its ties with the Pacific by expanding scholarships and increasing exchange programs that send students to nations in the Pacific region.

 

ITECA’s advice

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia is advising the Australian government to formulate a new strategy for international education in response to changes in geopolitical relations, technological advancements, and shifting student preferences.

ITECA represents independent providers in the skills training, higher education, and international education sectors.

Troy Williams, ITECA Chief Executive, has stated that ITECA has advised the Minister for Education about the need for the Australian government to formulate a new international education strategy, with the recommendation taking into account the post-pandemic environment and the Australian government’s new migration strategy.

ITECA acknowledges the Australian Strategy for International Education 2021–30 as a robust framework but emphasizes the need for an update to align with the changing dynamics of the global marketplace for international education in the post-pandemic era.

Tightening student visa approval
Australia’s net overseas migration, particularly in the realm of international student visas, has reportedly reached a turning point, with data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggesting a decline in student approvals exceeding 90,000 for the current financial year.

The government’s tightening of visa approvals is cited as the primary reason for this reduction, with concerns over integrity issues, including fraudulent documents and non-genuine claims.


Data from the Department of Home Affairs shows that the number of visas granted to international students decreased to 139,132 in the first half of the financial year, with nearly 20 percent of applications being rejected.

According to Phil Honeywood, CEO of the International Education Association of Australia, the decline in the number of international student visas is linked to the government’s efforts to tighten visa approvals for applicants primarily seeking work rights rather than genuine study purposes.

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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