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A fright but let’s keep our lessons from history prevalent

Monday, November 6 2017

A few media stories over the last few weeks made my heart miss a beat.

I read with alarm the stories from Canberra that some international students had been treated badly by a group of youths, and that it had happened before.

Not a massive story on its own but our reaction to this type of unrest must be both tactical and rapid. Our priority must be to give international students both quality education but also a safe and supportive environment.

We can of course hope that this incident was isolated.

Many of us remember back in 2008 when stories started to appear about the mistreatment of some students. Those few stories then became an avalanche of problems and stinging criticism from overseas.

We can’t change history but we must learn from it and of course we all have a role to play.

I do appreciate the reaction from many in government and the education industry  was rapid.

We for one are committed to working with international student groups, government and our colleagues in other Peak bodies to continue the focus on the important topic of student welfare and safety.

While talking international, it will be interesting to watch progress over the ditch in coming months.

New Zealand has had tremendous success in building their approach to international education, growing the industry to what is now recognised as a $4.5B (NZ) part of the economy.

The new government of course has us all interested in what future strategies might entail.

Labour’s new education Minister Chris Hipkins stated in the run up to the election that the target was to reduce net migration by up to 30,000, through the removal or replacement of certain work rights, primarily targeting international students in low-level qualifications.

We ourselves learnt recently that any suggestion  of tightening of visa rules has an immediate impact on recruitment. International media, agents and students themselves react by looking for opportunities to study elsewhere.

The current visa simplification review by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will be the next test for us.

While changes in New Zealand may present some opportunities, I am more interested in ensuring we have our own back yard in order. Clumsy polices, media rhetoric and of course poor practice will make it difficult.

In implementing enhancements to the National Code and ELICOS Standards 2018 as well as some reductions in the TPS levy, we will hopefully remember to put our international students’ experience of Australia first.

My reflections here are a call out to our Council for International Education.It is a real bonus that we now have a bipartite Council of Ministers and industry experts.

Among the many other distractions in international education, I do hope they are focussed on the student journey and how to ensure students receive the world class tuition they sign on for and also the warm welcome and support they all need.

Rod Camm
Chief Executive Officer


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