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What is Australia’s strategy for international education over the next decade?

February 4, 2022

With borders opening and international students coming back to Australia, there are plans in place for the international education sector to recover from the decline in enrolments and onshore student numbers. International education is not only a key contributor to the Australian economy, but also facilitates meaningful cross-cultural exchanges, creates influential alumni networks and provides residency pathways for highly skilled graduates. 

Australia is renowned for being an attractive place for international students – with strong incentives including a world-class education system and institutions, liveable cities, a multicultural society, student protection mechanisms and strong graduate outcomes. These aspects lend to the overall effectiveness of the Australian Strategy for International Education 2021-2030

What is the roadmap to recovery?

The Government has invested more than $37 million to support the recovery of the sector, including regulatory fee relief and an Innovation Development Fund for English language providers. Let's go through the four main categories of action in the Strategy for International Education for the next 10 years.

1. Diversification 

In the past, Australia’s international education sector has relied on attracting high numbers of students from a small number of countries. COVID-19 has shown this is unsustainable, and the Strategy indicates the need to diversify student cohorts and course offerings. 

Achieving an ‘optimal make-up’

The Strategy states the Government will be working to achieve an optimal mix of student cohorts and source countries. The benefits of this include:

  • further growth for Australia’s international student market by expanding our high-quality education offerings to online and offshore markets at different price points
  • supporting Australia’s economy by diversifying courses in which students enrol in line with Australia’s skills needs
  • mitigating against market shocks
  • supporting providers to actively manage risk
  • a better learning experience for domestic and international students by exposing them to different ways of thinking and learning
  • providing students and the communities they live with the skills to communicate and interact with people and societies from all backgrounds
  • fostering greater cultural awareness
  • enabling long-term global partnerships at the students, community and provider level.

Levels of diversity

The diversity of student cohorts can be considered at a range of different levels, including at

  • the sector
  • the institution, campus or location
  • field of education
  • course or classroom.

At each of these levels, there may be opportunities to improve the student experience through policy incentives which encourage greater diversification. 

Online learning

The Strategy identifies the opportunity to grow our international student market by expanding our high-quality education offerings to offshore and online markets. The sector's quick pivot to online learning in the past couple of years means that there has been learnings and growth in digital offerings that the sector can use. And, with the global online e-learning market predicted to grow to more than US$370 billion by 2026, the sector should take advantage of digital and online education.

The Strategy states that digital offerings must be positioned to complement onshore and hybrid models offshore. Successful online education also requires a shift in the entire student experience by interweaving innovative pedagogy and technology.  

2. Meeting Australia’s skills needs

The Strategy calls for a stronger alignment between Australian skills needs and courses that international students enrol in to support our businesses, industries and economy. 

The National Skills Commission (NSC) has identified Australia’s skills needs in emerging fields that will drive future growth, which include:

  • data and digital specialists
  • health professions
  • engineers, especially those in energy. 

Research collaboration, micro-credentials and other short courses will be increasingly relevant here. 

Additionally, there are opportunities to diversify research fields to attract international students to study and conduct research in different areas of research. Australia can further target international research students in key fields (such as artificial intelligence and digitisation) to align with Australia’s economic and skilled workforce needs. 

3. Students at the centre

The Strategy stresses the importance of the student experience – feeling welcomed, valued and included in Australia ensures international students build crucial connections and closer people-to-people links. 

The Government will continue to work with industry to provide enriching experiences off campus, including internships, employer networks and graduate opportunities to help international students make the most of their Australian education. 

The Government will also be continuing to support partnerships and programs that build relationships between Australian education providers and students internationally.

One of the most important aspects when thinking about the ‘student experience’ is mental health. International students are consistently identified as being vulnerable to developing mental health and wellbeing issues. The Government will be working with the sector on these issues.

4. Growth and global competitiveness 

The Government will be undertaking a targeted review to examine how the ESOS Act regulatory framework can support the Strategy’s implementation, while also continuing to protect Australia’s reputation for providing a quality education. 

The Strategy also states Australia should seek to attract new cohorts of students who may not wish or be able to travel to Australia but want to benefit from an Australian education, as well as post-study work opportunities in Australia. 

The Government will continue to work with overseas governments and institutional networks to leverage partnerships with offshore institutions to develop a stronger in-country presence in partner countries. 

How will Australia’s success in international education be measured?

Measures of success in the Strategy include: 

  • Growth in the number of students enrolled in offshore and transnational education and training delivered by Australian providers. To be measured as year on year growth through the Higher Education Information Management System and Tertiary Collection of Student Information. 
  • Growth in proportion of international students employed or enrolled in further study after graduation. To be measured as year on year growth through the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) Graduate Outcomes Survey.
  • Growth in the proportion of international students who are satisfied or very satisfied with studying and living in Australia. To be measured as year on year growth through the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT) Student Experience Survey.

Did you know?

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Learn how we can help your training organisation here, or chat with us to see how we can work with you to reach your training management goals here

Want to learn more about the future of education and training? Check out these articles: 

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