As an international student looking to study abroad, you have several countries to choose from. The nature of the education industry and the way it has evolved form an important context for your planning and decision making. Consider some facts and issues.
Students from the developing and middle-income countries contribute to huge educational industries in the developed courtiers. Recent data shows that, with 19% of the world’s mobile students, the USA is the largest provider of international education. UK comes next with 9%, and Australia is the third largest global education providers serving 6 per cent of the mobile students globally.
For an individual student considering different country options, perhaps the size of education providing countries is not as important as the quality of its education. This is not surprising as surveys in the destination countries have repeatedly shown that, many students from non-western source countries decide to leave for higher quality education. So quality matters.
So where does Australia stand in the quality and responsiveness, beyond the third largest size? Australia’s higher education system consists of 169 higher education providers, including 43 universities. Small colleges are also an important addition to the education industry, bringing diversity and affordable higher education opportunities to international students. In 2015, about a half million students chose to come to Australia.
Australia’s international education industry is growing rapidly. This industry is currently one of Australia’s top service exports, valued at over $19 billion in 2015 (including fees and associated expenditure). On 21 November 2016, The Australian reported:
“International education’s value to the nation has surged past $20 billion, confirming the industry’s status as Australia’s third-biggest earner and easily the largest services export”.
With its new international education Strategy 2025 launched in February 2016, Australian Government has put even more strategic thoughts into the industry. In the words of Australia’s education minister Richard Colbeck, “international education offers an unprecedented opportunity for Australia to capitalise on increasing global demand for education services”[i].
Australian government appears quite ambitious in advancing its international education industry. Recognizing Australia’s tough competition with the USA and the UK, the Strategy aims to strengthen the quality and improve overall students experience to attract more international students in Australia.
Along with scale and volume, Australia appears to have maintained a satisfactory level of quality in the delivery of education. Annual student survey commissioned by the Australian Government shows that international students’ experience with Australian education is very positive. 93% of students surveyed in 2014 indicated they chose Australia for quality, reputation and safety reasons. In addition, a key attraction to international students is the right to work while they study.
However, many cases of international students feeling unhappy to have been reported in the national media. Some have even reported international students being exploited in the workplace. Underpayment is a hot topic among international students in classrooms in Australian universities and colleges.
A former student and journalist writes in Australia’s highly rated national daily Sydney Morning Herald:
“When international students arrive in Australia, they are shocked by the high living costs. They do not get a student discount on public transport like local students. It’s normal for them to look for casual work – but they lack local experience – and almost every job requires this”.
Media reports that exploitation of international students has become a systemic problem in Australia.
These problems are indeed always a reality in the international education industry and are by no means not unique to Australia. The interest in Australia is growing as attempts to enhance the international student experience have further intensified. In fact, following Brexit and Trump’s rise, international students’ interests in Australia has grown further. So the question is not so much about whether Australia will get enough students as it is about whether it continues to live up to the expectations of the rising number of international students.
[i] Foreword, National Strategy for International Education 205