Thursday 20 January 2011

International students from diverse backgrounds


International student crisis requires real action

A research paper released today has highlighted a chaotic policy environment and the absence of a coordinated national strategy to address racism as significant contributing factors in the sharp decline of what was Australia’s rapidly growing international student sector.

Commissioned by the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission and Universities Australia, the International Student Futures in Australia paper examines the recent decline in Australia’s international student sector and the effectiveness of the subsequent responses to it.

Authors, Professor Andrew Jakubowicz and Dr Devaki Monani from the University of Technology Sydney state that, by 2009, education was Australia’s third largest export industry, estimated to be generating $18 billion in revenue and 188,000 direct jobs. Yet, more recently, the rapidly growing international student sector, a significant component of this industry, has started to unwind.

They attribute this decline to factors such as the number of highly publicised incidents of violence against students, inadequate government responses, and changes in visa conditions and the rising value of the Australian dollar. As a result, over the last year, student numbers have dropped rapidly, putting both private tertiary institutions and Australian universities under increased financial stress.

Jakubowicz and Monani emphasise the need for social planning which is based on rigorous research. They argue that “poorly researched policy, under-theorised analyses, disconnected responses, and uncoordinated strategic perspectives have produced a somewhat chaotic approach”.

The paper emphasizes that with more than 600,000 international students in Australia, there are many benefits to international relations if students have good experiences in Australia (as most do).

The authors see an understanding and appreciation of human rights as an important part of this picture. Race Discrimination Commissioner, Graeme Innes agrees.

“International students are resident in Australia for three years or more, and treated as Australian residents in official statistics, but there is no clear understanding of their entitlements,” said Commissioner Innes. “The entitlements of international students residing in Australia, including their right to safety, decent work and non-discrimination, should be clearly understood by all.”

The International Student Futures in Australia paper is available online at: